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Sanchez, Smith Set to Duel in Cortland

Posted Jul 15, 2013

Mark or Geno?  Geno or Mark?  Sanchize reclaims New York or Mr. Smith takes charge in Gotham?

Much has been made of Smith’s absence at a Sanchez-led informal camp during this dark period, but even the latter told NFL Network that “it isn’t a big deal” the former didn’t make it to Southern California.  The true story won’t pick up until training camp and the narrative will be possible for all to see.

Next week, the Jets QB competition will resume on the lush fields of SUNY Cortland.  While there has been plenty of speculation, there is no clear leader at the moment. 

“I think it’ll be clear when that time comes,” Rex Ryan said during the team’s June minicamp.   “You usually probably play a game or so and we’ll see what happens when you get into live competition.  I think it’s probably the best way to judge a guy anyway.”

“These things normally have a way or working themselves out,” added offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

With a training camp battle on his hands for the first time since he was a rookie, Sanchez doesn’t have any plans of holding a clipboard come September.

“I think maybe there was some kind of notion that I’d be so upset they would draft a quarterback — that whole deal — that I’d just turn it in,” he said this offseason.  “That’s crazy. It’s crazy talk.”

“I feel he has a confidence about him,” added Ryan of Sanchez.  “I feel his confidence.  I don’t know how much left him, but I think it’s safe to say maybe some of his confidence was shaken a little bit last year.  But I think he’s feeling good about himself.”

It appeared that the Jets had their quarterback of the future when Sanchez flourished in the 2010 postseason, completing 60.7% of his passes with 5 TDs and 1 INT as New York’s AFC representative advanced to its second consecutive conference championship game.  But he has committed an NFL-high 52 turnovers since and Sanchez — a career 55% passer — continued to be plagued by accuracy problems as he bottomed out at 53.8% in 2012.

Now working with his third coordinator in three years, Sanchez has embraced Mornhinweg and his West Coast attack.

“It fits my strengths,” he said.  “It has the ability to move the pocket. It has the ability to get completions (and) take shots downfield. I think it’s suited for a quarterback of my skillset and somebody who’s not going to run a 4.3 or a 4.5, but can move a little bit… I think there’s real potential in this system and it’s something similar to what we did in college.”

Smith, whom the Jets were delighted to find in the second round with the No. 39 overall selection, operated out of a shotgun spread attack at West Virginia.  In the West Coast, he will move to under center and precise timing and skillful feet will be required. 

“When his footwork is good — success follows him like no other quarterback I’ve ever coached,” said QB coach David Lee of Smith last month.  “It happens every day. He double hitches on the posts it makes him late instead of a single hitch. Those things are killing him. We’ve installed so much, so many plays. And then there’s new plays and what’s that footwork?

The Green & White are high on Smith and it is easy to see why.  In 39 starts with the Mountaineers, Smith completed 67.4% of his passes for 11,662 yards with 98 TDs and only 21 INTs. 

“The measurables are there.  He’s a big man, he’s got some speed and he’s got a big arm,” Mornhinweg said on a “Jets Talk LIVE” appearance.  “However the other things in many ways are more important.  It appears that he has really good instincts and awareness and feel of the game.  He also understands timing as well and then he does have some athletic ability where if he’s forced to move — he can move.  And if he’s forced to chew up some yards, he can do that.”

The 6’3”, 221-pound Smith was the fastest of any quarterback at the Combine, posting a 4.56 time in the 40-yard dash.   Mornhinweg worked on some pistol and wildcat plays with Smith in the spring and the rookie looks to be natural throwing the ball on the move.

“I like to think that my game is based within the pocket. I do things within the pocket, but I can use my athletic abilities outside of it,” Smith said.  “I think that’s a part of being an all-around player and I think it helps me out a lot.”

If Smith out-performs Sanchez in camp, the Jets won’t hesitate to give the rookie the rock.  The team needs better production from the quarterback position and Smith will get a long look.

“He’s built the right way and I believe this — there are only certain types of players who can play in New York and I think he’s one of them,” Mornhinweg told a group of season ticket holders in March.

Sanchez has already had success in New York, but is victory still within his grasp?   Smith is a professional unknown and yet perhaps he can be the next NFL rookie passer to take the league by storm.

The time is coming.  The answer is near.

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