It was not the start new Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg envisioned. On the Green & White's opening possession of the preseason, Lions rookie DE Ziggy Ansah took back an errant screen pass from Mark Sanchez into the end zone.
"You have to move on," Mornhinweg told me this week. "It was one of the very last things I ever dreamt about happening on the first series of the preseason. Oh man, I'll tell you. Steve Young (and I'm kidding a little bit) used to throw a pick on the first series of every first preseason game to get it out of the way. So hopefully all that type of stuff is completely out of the way."
Sanchez shook it off, hitting 10 of 13 for 125 yards with a touchdown to Jeff Cumberland to culminate his night. It was the second of time in less than a week that Sanchez did not let an early interception ruin his evening.
During the Green & White Scrimmage, the fifth-year QB was intercepted by Antonio Cromartie and then ended August 3 in Central, NY with a gorgeous 57-yard connection to Stephen Hill.
"I've been proud of him on two different occasions," Mornhinweg said. "The Green & White (Scrimmage) didn't quite go like he didn't wanted it to —like any of us wanted it to — with him in there early and he rebounded with just a beautiful scoring play there. Then he throws a pick-six and he rebounds right away with a tremendous scoring drive. We overcame a penalty and a beautiful pass to Jeff there."
But Mornhinweg, who has mentored five Pro Bowl QBs in his career, is looking for more from Sanchez. He wants Sanchez to consistently play at a high level and that means avoiding turnovers at all costs.
"I told him already and we're going in to meet here about the ballgame, 'Ok no more of these rebounding things. I'm proud of you for doing that, but let's play at a high level on a consistent basis rather than us going up and down here.'"
In his first professional action, rookie Geno Smith appeared in four series before exiting with a tweaked right ankle.
"It was almost sort of a non-evaluation. I liked a couple of throws he made and he was right on a couple of things, but let's not statistics trick us any," Mornhinweg said of the rookie who completed six of seven for 47 yards. "Not much happened for him there and on the one series that was my fault. I wanted to see a couple of things and it did him no good. I'd rather us just turn him loose and go see him play."
Smith, who is practicing this week with the right ankle heavily taped, will continue to benefit from game action. As of Tuesday, Rex Ryan had not declared a starter for Saturday's summer matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium.
"Some of the playing time he gets in preseason games is critical because there's no substitute for experience," Mornhinweg said.
No different than Sanchez, the targets are high for the rookie.
"We'll see. He has a great challenge in front of him," Mornhinweg said of Smith. "He is a very bright guy, a very skilled guy and I want to see him play at a high level. It's just that simple."