He may have the best-selling rookie jersey in the NFL, so far, but before he has even taken a snap, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, the fifth overall pick of the NFL draft, will have to earn his way onto the field against a veteran who is dying to get his chance to prove himself.
When training camp opens, new head coach Rex Ryan will have a big decision on his hands but the answer to his problem could ultimately affect his team's plans for a successful run at the Super Bowl.
Ryan came to New York with a plan and a vision, and it is simply to mold the Jets' offensive and defensive philosophies after those in Baltimore.
With the talent the Jets have and a new stadium to be completed before the 2011 season, Ryan's decision comes down to either starting a career backup in Kellen Clemens or follow what he did with Joe Flacco last season and start Sanchez on opening day.
Clemens is getting almost no respect in this situation and enters camp motivated and determined to grab the job from the rookie, who is slated by many to take the opening snap in Houston come September.
Many fans believe that grabbing Sanchez was the wrong decision by front office personnel, as they saw it basically as a move to sell PSL's for the new stadium, while others see him as the franchise quarterback the Jets have been missing since Joe Namath.
Sanchez only started 16 games at USC, throwing 34 touchdown passes last season. But a lot of his success was due to an almost perfect pass protection and NFL caliber receivers against mediocre defenses in the Pac 10. Although the system he will learn under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is almost similar to the one run at Southern California.
Ryan was a huge proponent of Flacco starting for the Ravens' last season, and he won the job almost by default, as both Kyle Boller and Troy Smith nursed injuries.
If Sanchez does indeed wow his coaches and win the job, he will do it using high football intelligence and winning over his teammates, which according to many reports he is doing already.
The real key to this quarterback competition will come down to who can show the best leadership and respond to adversity under pressure.
Clemens has been in New York longer and has taken his share of NFL hits, but Sanchez is showing poise and maturity beyond his years. But he will soon learn that the talent at this level is leaps and bounds over that of which he faced on the west coast.
As the question of who will start continues to linger into the preseason and ultimately the regular season, the focus of a deep and talented Jets team that has the potential to challenge for the AFC crown will shift to arguably the most scrutinized position in team sports.
There are a lot of quarterback battles in the NFL this season, but none affect a contender more than the New York Jets. And the sooner this situation is resolved the better.
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