Updated 5:15 p.m. ET
The spotlight on Saturday night will be brighter than it's been yet for Geno Smith, who will open the game under center for the Jets in our annual preseason matchup with the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
"We'll start Geno this week," head coach Rex Ryan said at his afternoon news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center today after the Jets' final full practice of the week inside the fieldhouse. "Mark [Sanchez] will play also."
"We want to see him play. Hopefully, he'll get the chance to turn it loose and let his natural abilities show up, and his natural style," coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said this afternoon. "I think and I almost know that he's worked so hard that he's there mentally.
"The worst thing that can happen to any player is that they're playing with hesitation because they don't quite know, and we want our players to play with that thought that they're unafraid to make a mistake. That frees them up to play fast and whatever mistakes that they make, we'll correct them on the run and move on to the next play or the next series ASAP. So, that's what I want to see out of Geno. Let's go and turn it loose. And I think he's there. He's worked so hard that he may very well be able to do that."
It will be Smith's first start in a Jets uniform. He quarterbacked the offense for three second-quarter series and the start of a fourth series in the third quarter at Detroit before injuring his ankle on a scramble. He didn't miss any practice time but struggled during the next week of practices and sat out last Saturday's preseason home opener against Jacksonville. This past week he's had stronger practices as his ankle has returned to close to 100 percent.
Sanchez has started both preseason games and has put together some solid numbers. He's completed 23 of 36 passes (63.9%) for 294 yards — second-most yardage in the NFL after two full preseason weeks — two touchdowns and two interceptions. He's engineered four TDs and a field goal in his 13 series. But there were the two bad picks and the squandered end-of-half opportunity vs. the Jaguars.
Smith is 6-for-7 for 47 yards and his three-plus drives have covered 13 plays and 44 yards and produced no points.
The quarterbacks did not talk with reporters today but Wednesday both addressed the starting situation against the Giants.
"It does matter," Smith said about getting the starting nod. "If I get a chance to play, if I get a chance to start, it's going to be big for me. I've been working extremely hard and I just want to go out there and play well."
"I've got to be ready to play," Sanchez said about a backup role. "No matter what happens, I'll be ready to play."
Ryan did not say how long he expected each QB to play in this third preseason game, which the starters traditionally play in for three quarters. He also declined again to be pinned down on when we would know who the starter will be for the season opener against Tampa Bay and beyond, saying that the decision could even be made after the fourth preseason game against Philadelphia on Aug. 29.
"Right now is not the appropriate time to name a starter because it's incomplete," Ryan said. "We'll see what happens after this game. Do we make a decision immediately or do we wait? Again the main thing is that it's the right decision at the right time."
Ryan confirmed that we have added fifth-year free agent WR Mohamed Massaquoi to the roster. Massaquoi played for Jacksonville against the Jets on Saturday night and had two receptions for 15 yards, then was released by the Jaguars on Monday. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent with the Cleveland Browns, for whom he caught 118 passes for 1,745 yards (14.8-yard avg.) and seven TDs.
"That's a young man we really liked when he was coming out. We really liked him," Ryan said. "I know he's spent time with Cleveland, spent time with my brother [Rob Ryan]."
The Jets also added two other players recently, acquiring C Scott Wedige on waivers from Arizona and signing WR Marcus Rucker. The roster room was made by releasing TE Mike Shanahan and WR Titus Ryan today, combined with the Injured Reserve move for FB Lex Hilliard. Massaquoi will wear uniform No. 86, Wedige will wear 57 and Rucker 89.
Antonio Cromartie on Wednesday's violent collision with WR Stephen Hill: "I was just treating it like a game situation. It wasn't anything intentional. For one, I'm going to protect myself when he lowers his head, I'm not going to get run over. At the same time we have to make sure take care of each other. Me and Stephen talked about it after the practice and we both agree it's football, we know it's a contact sport, but we have to make sure we look out for each other."