Sanchez has had his chance at winning the job this offseason and over the past four seasons. Now, Manish Mehta of the Daily News is reporting that Smith will get his first NFL start against the Giants in the team's third preseason game.
The third preseason game is often regarded as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, with the first-string offense and defense playing through the first half and coming back into the game at the beginning of the second half.
If Smith can go that long without throwing an interception, he should probably win the Jets' starting job.
Sanchez has had his moments in preseason, but just like in his entire career, those good moments have been followed or preceded by Sanchez doing Sanchez-y things—namely, throwing costly interceptions.
Head coach Rex Ryan has begged for better ball security in his press conferences for months, and with good reason. After all, Sanchez turned the ball over an NFL-high 52 times in the past two seasons. In that same time span, the Jets are 5-2 when limiting themselves to one turnover on offense per game.
They are 9-16 in their other games.
"I'd rather him not turn the ball over once," Ryan said during OTAs. "[Sanchez] did a lot of great things [in practice], and then those negative things, at the end of the day, that's what gets you beat. And so we got to do a better job of eliminating those turnovers."
Sanchez has yet to deliver on that ball security.
The Giants won't make it easy on Smith. They have a great pressure scheme, specifically with their four-man rush, and that group of defensive linemen will certainly have the rookie under duress at some point.
He's going to have to respond by either hanging in the pocket and delivering accurate throws under pressure, or getting the ball out quickly to his first read if possible.
Much like with the interceptions, it won't be hard to be better than Sanchez was at throwing under pressure last year. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he was the least accurate quarterback in the NFL when under pressure.
As for those interceptions are concerned, the Giants grabbed 21 of them last year (third-most in the NFL), so being safe with the football won't necessarily be easy.
That being said, it's still the most important thing Smith can do.
We haven't yet seen enough of Smith to declare him the starter, but we don't need to see much to get the idea that he is better for the Jets' hopes of winning than Sanchez is.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or via team news releases.