The New York Jets quarterback race between incumbent Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith could be over before it even begins. Smith, sidelined for Saturday’s game with an ankle sprain, watched Sanchez further solidify his place atop the team’s depth chart with a solid outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On the opening drive, Sanchez marched the Jets 59 yards on six plays capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland.
On the ensuing defensive possession, Rex Ryan’s unit appeared ill-prepared for Blaine Gabbert’s hurry-up offense as Jacksonville raced 80 yards on seven plays punctuated by a five yard touchdown toss to Allen Reisner. Sanchez would bounce back and lead the Jets down to the Jaguars 22-yard line where backup placekicker Billy Cundiff booted a 30-yard field goal to give Gang Green a three-point advantage.
The turnover bug that help derail the Jets’ playoff chances a season ago, reared its ugly head inside the red zone with just under 5:00 minutes remaining in the first quarter. On a 3rd-and-3 from just outside the three-yard line, Sanchez dropped back and slung an ill-advised pass in the direction of tight end Kellen Winslow as defensive back Marcus Trufant stepped in for the interception.
The MetLife Stadium faithful voiced their displeasure as yet another poor sequence was to follow for No. 6. The Jets got a fortuitous bounce when Jacksonville punt returner T Palmer muffed a punt at his own three-yard line with 1:07 remaining in the first half.
Despite terrific field position, New York’s offensive stalled and Sanchez sailed a pass high and out of bounds on 3rd-and-6 as time expired. Ryan and the coaching staff passed up a chance for a chip-shot field goal allowing Sanchez to squander a golden opportunity to end the first half on a high note.
The Jets’ veteran gunslinger would get back on the wagon, as the offensive unit converted touchdowns on the final two drives of the third quarter extending the lead to 27-13. New York’s ground game, which was virtually nonexistent last week against Detroit, enjoyed a resurgence on Saturday producing a 176 yards on 40 carries including a pair of Kahlil Bell touchdown scampers.
Sanchez completed 13-of-23 pass attempts for 169 yards with one touchdown and an interception. While Ryan and company contend the quarterback competition is still ongoing, Smith’s lack of preseason action could ultimately cost him a shot at the starting gig.
The Jets play the New York Giants next Saturday, August 24 at 7pm.