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Sanchez's injury leaves Jets in QB bind

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The Canadian Press
8/26/2013 11:13:54 PM
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Geno Smith appears not ready for prime time, and Mark Sanchez might not be ready for the opener.

Now what for the New York Jets? Well, they have less than two weeks to solve their big quarterback question before they face Tampa Bay on Sept. 8 in the regular-season opener.

"We said from Day 1 that there was no timetable on us announcing a starting quarterback," coach Rex Ryan said Monday.

And, there's no rush, of course -- except when you consider that the preseason is nearly over and the Jets still have no clarity on the situation.

Smith was given an opportunity to possibly seize the starting job last Saturday against the Giants, but came up with a dismal performance that included three interceptions and taking a safety when he stepped out of the back of the end zone.

Sanchez, who appeared in great shape to win the competition, is now recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in garbage time against the Giants -- and could keep him out for the start of the season.

It is conceivable, of course, that the Jets could keep everyone -- the media, fans and opponents -- guessing until the Friday before their game against the Buccaneers.

"We'll probably have our decision before that," Ryan said. "But as we said, we're not going to rush the decision until we're completely comfortable with that decision. And, we'll stay with that.

"Hey, I don't know what else to say about it."

Ryan is probably a bit surprised he's even still talking about the competition at this point. After all, it was deemed an "open competition" that would be decided when one of the quarterbacks had elevated himself above the other.

But, it has been so tightly contested that there was no clear opening, an opportunity for most observers to say, "That's the guy."

Until Saturday night.

That's when Smith showed his inexperience in his first NFL start with some jitters, mistakes and missteps through three-plus quarters.

"It (was) pretty uneven," Smith said. "I had some ups and downs. It's all a part of the learning curve."

It's a curve that could continue through Thursday's game against Philadelphia and into Week 1 against Tampa Bay. Ryan said the Jets haven't yet determined who's playing against the Eagles, but Sanchez will certainly not.

Many fans and media assumed Sanchez, with a solid camp and preseason performance, had clinched the starting job after Smith's performance. But then, Ryan wanted to see more of Sanchez, who went into the game and had his right shoulder crunched by Marvin Austin after completing a pass with less than 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Sanchez is day to day with the injury, which neither he nor Ryan would detail. Sanchez is staying positive, though, about potentially being ready for the season opener.

"That's the goal," Sanchez said. "Every injury is different. It's all subjective at this point, and I'm going to do everything I possibly can. That's all I can promise."

Sanchez refused to speculate about possibly losing the starting job, which he has held since coming into the league in 2009, because of the injury. He also wouldn't go into what type of rehabilitation process he faces.

"Emotionally, you're just upset, and that's really where your head's at," he said. "You're just upset to be hurt. You never want to be hurt. You work too hard to get hurt and it's just a bummer. So, you just rebound, rehab your butt off and get back as soon as possible."

And, if he's not ready to go against Tampa Bay, the starter could be Smith -- by default. One thing's for sure: It won't be either Greg McElroy or Matt Simms, who has had an impressive camp while competing for the No. 3 job.

Smith has shown some promise this preseason, and come a long way with improving his footwork and picking up Marty Mornhinweg's offence. The Jets claimed they needed much more film on Smith to better evaluate him after he sat out a game with a sprained ankle, and they certainly got it against the Giants.

"With Geno, there was the good, the bad and the ugly," Ryan said.

The good was the two scoring drives he led in the 24-21 overtime win, including a 22-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. The bad was the interceptions, although Ryan credited Justin Tuck for making a "great play" on one of them. As for the ugly, that was the safety when Smith lost track of his surroundings on the field.

Despite all of that, Smith insisted that if the decision came that he would be the Week 1 starter, he'd be ready to lead the Jets.

"Yes, I am," he said. "I've been working hard, extremely hard this off-season. I'm preparing myself to be a starter Week 1 and if I'm given the chance, I'll be prepared for it."

Sanchez, meanwhile, wouldn't say whether he thought he had won the starting job before his injury.

"I feel like I've put together a great camp and it's been my best camp," he said. "That decision is going to be up to the coaches. So, we'll see."

----

NOTES: WR Santonio Holmes, taken off the physically unable to perform list last Friday, participated in positional drills as he works his way back from a foot injury suffered in Week 4 last season. ... CB Antonio Cromartie (hip) rode a stationary bike, along with Sanchez, CB Dee Milliner (calf) and NT Kenrick Ellis (back), during the 30-minute window of practice the media could watch.

Mark Sanchez (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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