How Much Ground Would Geno Smith Lose on Mark Sanchez If He Misses Any Time?

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How Much Ground Would Geno Smith Lose on Mark Sanchez If He Misses Any Time?

The battle at quarterback between Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith has been the dominant storyline of training camp for the New York Jets.

That story has taken a dramatic turn, and it appears that the competition may be ending in a manner that few had expected.

Smith, who sprained his ankle in the team's preseason opener, had a day of practice on Wednesday that can best be described as a train wreck.

As the Associated Press reported via USA Today, Smith was absolutely abysmal on the practice field, throwing four interceptions in a performance that head coach Rex Ryan characterized as "brutal."

That was Geno's worst day. Obviously, the ankle is part of it, but way too many picks. He did not look comfortable today. Obviously, he has to come back from it, and he will come back from it. But it was a bad day.

Smith, for his part, wasn't hiding behind either his gimpy ankle or the unseasonably cold weather in Cortland, New York. He also made no excuses for his performance, telling the AP "I've been going out there and giving it my all, and I think I've done a good job of just pushing through this week."

However, Ryan wasn't hearing it, calling his quarterback's comments "bravado."

Guys, you see it out there. He's not able to move like he normally does. He's not able to drive the ball like he normally does with his velocity. That doesn't mean he still can't get out there. He's competing. He's been out there every day. But is he 100%? I would say that he's not 100%.

Smith's injury also clouds the second-round pick's availability for Saturday's preseason game with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ryan told Seth Walder of the New York Daily News that it's a "possibility" the former West Virginia star will sit the game out.

Setting aside for a moment the fact a preseason game between the Jets and Jaguars may set the quarterback position back 30 years, the next question becomes what this all means for the quarterback competition in the Big Apple.

Unfortunately, that's not much clearer than Smith's status for Saturday.

Neither player has really separated from the pack in practice, although Wednesday's implosion certainly didn't help Smith's cause. That makes how the pair performs in preseason contests all the more important.

Smith fared pretty well against the Lions before injuring the ankle, completing 6-of-7 passes for 47 yards in a performance that likely was enough to get him the start against the Jaguars.

However, if Smith can't go, then Sanchez would start his second straight exhibition game, and that could open the door for the fifth-year pro to put a little distance between himself and the rookie.

Well, either that or make Smith look like gangbusters by default.

A quick glance at Sanchez's stat line from the Detroit game (10-of-13, 125 yards) would seem to indicate that he played well.

However, if you saw the highlights or watched the game, then you saw this:

Sanchez nearly had another ball picked off by Detroit safety Glover Quin, which no doubt had both Ryan and Jets fans flashing back to Sanchez's turnover-filled disaster of a 2012 season.

If Sanchez starts against Jacksonville and continues to turn the ball over, then Smith could win the starting job without even playing a down. However, if Sanchez is effective, then things are going to get interesting quickly.

If the latter scenario unfolds, then there's going to be tremendous pressure on Smith to get out there for the third preseason game, the all-important "dress rehearsal" against the New York Giants.

If Smith can't play in that game, or if the ankle were to cause the sort of showing we saw from him on Wednesday, then that would all but certainly mean Sanchez would be under center against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1.

(Cue Jets fans picturing Sanchez playing against Darrelle Revis with their heads in the microwave.)

With that said though, even in a worst-case scenario, Smith's ascension to the starting job would probably only be delayed. Sanchez may well begin the season as the starter, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone (not named Sanchez) who thinks he'll end it there as well.

Granted, right now this is all purely speculative. Smith could end up playing Saturday. Even if he doesn't, Ryan made it clear to Walder on Tuesday that he's not close to naming a starting signal-caller just yet.

Again, I think it’s too early to say . . . just to say, is this guy leading, or whatever? The competition is not complete. We’ll go through the competition, and I’m confident the right decision will be made.

The problem with that, of course, is that if Smith can't play (or can't play effectively) because of his ankle, then the competition could be decided by default.

Make no mistake, at some point in 2013 Geno Smith is going to start at quarterback for the New York Jets.

However, if this injury costs Smith valuable game action, it may turn out that, much to the chagrin of many fans of Gang Green, it doesn't happen for a while.

 

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