The Jets' quarterback battle between Sanchez and Tim Tebow has been one of the most compelling storylines of the 2012 NFL offseason. Unless you've been living under a rock, it's been impossible to escape the 24/7 coverage given to "Team Tebow" and all of the different ways Tony Sparano and Rex Ryan plan to use the former Denver Bronco.
Against the Super Bowl champion Giants, both quarterbacks would have their work cut out for them. Eli Manning and the Giants' offense didn't have the best day, but the defense—led by Jason Pierre-Paul and that ridiculously talented defensive line—kept the Jets from scoring in the first half.
The final score, 26-3 in favor of the Giants, may not matter to Jets coaches, but the play of their two quarterbacks and the ineptitude of their offense has to worry them. The Jets' first-team offense has yet to score a touchdown this preseason.
The last thing the Jets' brass wants is for fans to start calling for Tebow, and that could happen earlier and more often if this trend continues. Tebow may not have played particularly well, but he was the better man on Saturday night.
Mark Sanchez 9/11, 59 Yards (5.4 Avg), 1 INT, 51.1 Rating
Overall, it's nearly impossible to pass judgement on Sanchez as Santonio Holmes and Chaz Schilens sat out with injuries. However, even taking that into account, one couldn't help but notice that Sanchez lacked command of the offense on Saturday night.
As he first took the field, Sanchez looked confused and went back (numerous times) to check on elements of the play. Later, following an already long stoppage, Sanchez was forced to call time out, leaving both Sparano and Ryan perturbed at their quarterback.
Even when he knew the play, Sanchez didn't look much better and was under assault most of the night by the Giants' fearsome front. Right tackle Wayne Hunter looked terrible, although he may have been doing a dead-on impersonation of a subway turnstile. As bad as Hunter was, some of the blame for those sacks must rest with Sanchez.
On the play above, Sanchez had three seconds to find an open receiver on 3rd-and-3. Sanchez tried to step up in the pocket, but Jason Pierre-Paul ran through Hunter and pulled the quarterback down. While, yes, Hunter should have been better on that play, Sanchez needs to feel that pressure and get rid of the ball to the open man on the bottom of the shot.
Sanchez also threw a pick-six late in the second quarter.
It was a perfect play by Giants' rookie Jayron Hosley who undercut Patrick Turner, and once Hosley caught the ball, he was gone. Sanchez admitted later on the telecast that he "probably underthrew" the ball, but the still shot above tells the story. Had Sanchez put the ball in front of Turner, it likely would have been a first down.
New offense, backup receivers, poor protection and tough defense are all fine excuses for Sanchez' performance. In the end though, the excuses may be running out with Tebow breathing down his neck.
Sanchez needs to be better than he was against the Giants, period.
Tim Tebow 5/11, 69 Yards (5.3 Avg), 56.3 Rating
Like Sanchez, Tebow did not get a lot of help from his teammates.
Big drops from Stephen Hill and Josh Baker kept Tebow's completion percentage low even though he hit some impressive throws. Also like Sanchez, Tebow did not have the protection he would have wanted from his offensive line.
Tebow started strong, with two straight completions to wide receivers and two corresponding first downs. Had that type of performance continued, he may have made Monday awfully exciting for the New York media.
Arguably his best throw, moments later, set the Jets up for their first points of the night.
The throw, to Stephen Hill along the sideline, showcased some arm strength that most critics refuse to admit Tebow has. For all of his faults, throws like this keep coaches up at night, wondering if they can get more of the same out of the former option QB.
Tebow also put the worst of his game on display.
Although Tebow has reportedly "refined his mechanics" this offseason, his trademark wind up still got him into trouble as the play above demonstrates. In addition to that ball which was tipped (into serious danger of being intercepted) Tebow was also sacked repeatedly, unable to get the ball away.
Quarterbacks need to have a quicker release in today's NFL and Tebow doesn't have it.
Somewhat maddeningly, Tebow had more embarrassing moments than Sanchez, but he also made more impressive throws. He looked good, at times, extending the play with his legs and also keeping his eyes down field. Tebow also picked up a first down on a six-yard scramble.
Most importantly, Tebow looked more comfortable in the offense, with none of Sanchez' miscues.
This isn't to say that Tebow won the job or even intensified any controversy on Saturday night. Sanchez just didn't put him away and the Jets coaches can't be happy with their starter's performance.
Clearly, neither one of these men is going to have much help this season. So, if the Jets hope to return to the playoffs, they need better play out of the quarterback position than was on display against the Giants.
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."
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