In a scrimmage in which the two men fighting for the starting quarterback spot were supposed to be the stars of the show, it was the guy competing for the third-string position, Greg McElroy, who shined the brightest.
After four consecutive scoreless three-play drives in the "first half" of tonight's Green & White Scrimmage at SUNY Cortland, it was McElroy and the third-team offense that finally broke through against the second defense with the first score.
The threes came out firing with McElroy quickly finding rookie TE Chris Pantale for a 7-yard completion, followed by an 8-yard pass caught over the middle by rookie Zach Rogers. The offense had a small hiccup on the next play when a screen pass was bottled up by CB Donnie Fletcher in the backfield. But on the next play McElroy jolted the crowd of 6,101 when he completed a beautiful back-shoulder pass to leaping WR Ryan Spadola for the 48-yard touchdown.
"Coach told me when you have off corner, attack his leverage, try to get his hips turned, and once you get by him, put the bursts on and once the balls in the air, make a play on it." Spadola said. "McElroy did a great job putting the ball in the perfect location where only I could make the catch. I just reached out, brought the ball into my chest and held onto it as tight as I could."
Spadola has impressed early on in camp, turning heads during Thursday's practice when he made a leaping grab on a Geno Smith pass for a big gain during the team's two-minute drills.
The McElroy-led third team then hit the field shortly after the 10-minute "halftime" and showed that the performance on its first drive was no fluke. On the first play, McElroy took a three-step drop and connected with receiver Vidal Hazleton on a quick slant, a short play that the athletic Hazleton promptly turned into a 70-yard score down the right half of the field.
After two drives Greg McElroy had completed all five of his passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
"Coach Mornhinweg made a fantastic call, and we were able to execute it," McElroy said. "It was really nice, a great job by Vidal by him turning a short completion into a long touchdown."
"It was a play out of trips," Hazleton said. "It was kind of like you either can fake the screen or fake the block into a pump, and they bit on the screen, so it left me wide open."
Head coach Rex Ryan was impressed by McElroy's play, opening with a compliment to the quarterback when he addressed the media after the scrimmage under a setting Cortland sun.
"Obviously, McElroy," Rex said, "I don't know what that QBR is but it was pretty impressive. He stepped up and made some nice throws. You give McElroy time, he's going to hit it, and sure enough he did"
In two series, both beginning on the opposing team's 30-yard line, McElroy led the offense to 140 total yards and two touchdowns. The Jets have an off day Sunday following tonight's scrimmage and will be back out on the practice field Monday morning to resume training camp.