Jets Making the Wrong Choice Starting Mark Sanchez vs. Lions

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IAugust 6, 2013

Mark Sanchez (right) is the incumbent, but the Jets need to find out what they have in rookie Geno Smith (left).
Mark Sanchez (right) is the incumbent, but the Jets need to find out what they have in rookie Geno Smith (left).Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets released their first depth chart of the preseason Monday night and listed a tie between quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.

By Tuesday afternoon, they had already sorted things out, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Head coach Rex Ryan announced Sanchez would start during the Jets' first preseason game against the Detroit Lions, but Smith would also get some reps with the first-team offense.

Clearly, the Jets' plan is to bring Smith along as slowly as possible. There's some merit to that, but the team could be missing out on an opportunity to see how he functions against a top-flight NFL defense.

"Well again, it’s been (an) even competition, we’ve been rotating days and things like that. Certainly, (Sanchez is) the incumbent," said Ryan. "We’ll see how it goes from here. It seemed the natural thing to do."

Sanchez won't be able to right all the wrongs in one preseason game, but he will get the first crack at proving himself as the Jets quarterback.

The last memory we have of him is a dreadful 17-for-35 performance (48.7 percent) against the Bills in which he threw an interception and achieved a 55.1 passer rating. Games like that were par for the course for Sanchez last year; he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in eight games, and had lower than a 55.1 passer rating in six games.

For now, the Jets are choosing to put those memories behind them, but it won't take more than one interception, or even one bad drive, for that 2012 PTSD to kick in.

This is far from the end of the line, though, and as mentioned above Smith will get an opportunity to play with the Jets' starting offense as well.

Sure, that will help Smith get some playing experience with the first-string offense, but it may or may not be against the Lions' first-team defense. The wise move, at least in the short-term, might have been to give Smith the start so that he could work against the best defenders the Lions have to offer.

Who knows how long Detroit will keep its starters on the field, but it may not be for more than two or three drives—it's the preseason, after all.

On that note, the preseason Week 1 starter is not nearly as important as the regular season Week 1 starter, and that's even less important than the Week 17 starter.

Smith and Sanchez are engaged in a competition that will play out over the course of the preseason, but we've seen what Sanchez can do against a top defense for the past two years, and it hasn't been pretty. Giving Smith the start in a game that doesn't matter seems like a great way to find out where he stands as the preseason progresses.


Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.