If this was Week 1 of the NFL season, the Jets would start Mark Sanchez, according to a team source who says the incumbent starter is ahead in the quarterback competition.
Sanchez is slated to start the Jets first preseason game in Detroit on Friday night but he’s also ahead in the quarterback battle as of right now and would appear the likely starter if things continue to hold steady throughout training camp. The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he cannot comment publicly on personnel matters, is familiar with the Jets’ decision process and said that Sanchez appears to be “the leader right now by a slight margin.”
“Right now, Sanchez has a lead. It isn’t a huge lead and internally, I can tell you that the lead has gotten smaller and tighter,” the source told Metro. “But he is ahead right now. He’s shown a command of the offense and is making better decisions. He isn’t as flashy as Smith, he doesn’t make your eyes pop out like the rookie does but he commands things better.
“With that being said, Smith has done a tremendous job of closing the gap. A month ago, it wasn’t a contest, but he still hasn’t overtaken Sanchez. It has gotten closer and tighter.”
Sanchez answered “you'd have to ask the coaches” when asked Wednesday who was in the lead in the competition.
On Tuesday, head coach Rex Ryan announced that Sanchez was named the starter for the first preseason game. The man once nicknamed “The Sanchise” found out about the news in the quarterback meeting Tuesday afternoon.
He referred to his being named the starter as “the natural thing.”
“I feel like I’m putting together a good camp,” Sanchez said. “I think I earned the right to start this first game, and we’ll see how it goes from there. I’ve got to keep playing well to stay on the field and that’s the plan.”
On the depth chart released earlier this week, Sanchez and Smith are listed as sharing the No. 1 slot. Sanchez enters his fifth season with the team and he has always been the consensus starter on Week 1. Last year he went through a difficult season, throwing more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (13).
The Jets took Smith in the second round after his stock plummeted in the days leading up to this past spring’s NFL Draft. The league source told Metro “the Jets consider him a first-round talent that fell to them in the second round.” Despite Sanchez being ahead in the quarterback battle, the source said, “Geno is being groomed to replace Mark. It is a battle that in the end, at some point this year, Sanchez will likely lose.”
Sanchez told reporters on Wednesday he doesn’t know how long he will play on Friday. Typically, starters remain in the game for only the first quarter at most.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for updates from training camp.