The Jets offense automatically was at a disadvantage during tonight's Green & White Scrimmage at Cortland Stadium on the SUNY Cortland campus.
The disadvantage: O-line starters Wayne Hunter, Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore all were missing.
Hunter was nursing a back injury, Mangold is in London supporting his sister, Holley, at the Olympics, and Moore spent the evening in Canton, Ohio, for the Hall of Fame enshrinement of former Jets great Curtis Martin.
With the trio not present, the Jets offense struggled mightily to gain yardage early.
"It presents a good challenge," quarterback Mark Sanchez said, "but for us it was something these young guys were excited about. You always want to have your starters there to kind of get a look at what kind of team you have, but also you need to know what those guys behind you are all about."
In the scrimmage's opening half, the offense attempted to create momentum but couldn't accomplish much, especially on the ground. RB Shonn Greene was held in check while fellow RB Joe McKnight fumbled. Backup quarterback Tim Tebow had a few runs that resulted in positive yardage but also mishandled a pair of snaps. For the most part, the first half was dominated by the Green & White defense.
"Early on I thought we had some good drives going and weren't able to capitalize," Tebow said. "We had a fumble going in there, had a pretty good drive going. I didn't get too many passes off today. I felt like when I threw them, I threw them pretty accurately. I felt like we made some pretty good plays overall as an offense. We were going against a really good defense, but overall I think it was a good day. We had fun out there."
When the second part of the scrimmage began, the offense appeared to develop a rhythm. The first team put together an impressive drive against the first defense, ending with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to RB Bilal Powell.
Fourth-string quarterback Matt Simms entered the scrimmage several moments later and had instant success. The rookie, who finished his college ball with two seasons at Tennessee, finished the scrimmage 2-of-2 for 44 yards and one touchdown and was praised by head coach Rex Ryan for his performance.
"You get a guy like Matt, really has taken very few reps, all of the sudden you throw him in a live situation, and what's impressive is not only the physical part jumps out at you, but it's the mental part," Ryan said. " And that's what you look for in some of the guys that are battling for a third spot and all that kind of stuff. That's exactly what you look for."
Sanchez finished the day 11-of-16 for 89 yards and one touchdown. Tebow was 0-for-3 passing as was third-string quarterback Greg McElroy.
Tebow said he hopes to improve his rhythm and timing in the passing game during the coming days and weeks.
"I feel pretty well, just as far as my knowledge of the offense and executing it and seeing the right reads out there today," he said. "I know we didn't put up the points that we wanted to and get it in the end zone. As far as the three passes I threw, I felt pretty good about those and felt pretty good about the decisions. Probably would have liked to have thrown one of them a little quicker, but I felt pretty good about it."
With the preseason opener less than one week away, Saturday was a beneficial experience for not only the Jets offense but also for the team and for the 9,420 fans in attendance. "We had a lot of great, passionate fans out here," Tebow said. "It's great to be surrounded by great fans. I feel like they just supported all of the New York Jets out here today and we think it's good for our team."