Sanchez feeling the heat of a true QB battle

Mark Sanchez | New York Jets

Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith continue to battle it out in Cortland and it will be imperative for Sanchez to handle the pressure in order to secure the New York Jets starting spot. Sanchez's third QB competition continues to dim as Smith has shown signs of eclipsing the incumbent.

As training camp progresses the pressure on Mark Sanchez grows with the continued maturation of rookie quarteback Geno Smith. The rookie has opened eyes so far, amping up the fan's reaction to any misstep taken by Sanchez.

"I mean there's always going to be adversity, there's always going to be things that are working against you and you just fight through them and keep playing, control what you can," said Sanchez. "You can't worry about other people's opinions and things like that."

Coming into camp it seemed that Sanchez might have had the inside track on Smith but reports of Smith playing mistake-free football, something Sanchez has failed to do, looks to have turned the tide. Regardless, a leader still hasn't emerged from the competition.

"I don't know, Sanchez stated. "Ask the coaches. I feel good though. I feel confident and I feel like I'm playing really well."

Sanchez's surefire confidence to "definitely" be the starter in May has slightly eroded over time as he is now giving indiscretion to his actual thoughts on the evaluation process. The the fifth year QB isn't exuding the same unwavering air of confidence fans have come to expect off the field.

"Every throw, every handoff," said Sanchez concerning the watchful eye of management on the competition. "Everything is under scrutiny, there is a ton of pressure but that's the way you like it. That's why you play the position and it makes it fun."

The media is covering the competition just as closely as Jets' management. NFL network analyst, Brian Baldinger, recently unveiled a story lamenting the poor work conditioning of Smith saying that the QB looked slow, "embarrassingly" slow. Ryan has vehemently denied the question of Smith's poor conditioning.

"My arm feels good," declared Sanchez. "I feel strong," said Sanchez. Coach (David) Lee has us conditioning like crazy, so I feel like I'm in good shape."

Smith and Sanchez have continued to split reps with the first team on offense but Smith seems to have the edge when it comes to running the Wildcat. Ryan stated that the formation is "here to stay" and that they would run more of the Wildcat than they did last year.

Sanchez continues to face the issue of an increased emphasis on the Wildcat offense after going through a similar situation last training camp with QB Tim Tebow. The formation typically allows for a quicker and more versatile QB to take the majority of the snaps. Smith has had some experience running a read option at West Virginia but it isn't something Sanchez has dismissed, saying he could do it.

"I know Coach (David) Lee's passion about it," noted Sanchez. "I know him and Marty (Mornhinweg) have a good thing going there with the wildcat stuff," said Sanchez. "They both run a little bit of that in their past so hopefully it's something that can help the club."

Lee originally coached the Miami Dolphins in 2008 when the original Wildcat wave took the league by storm. After coaching the Buffalo Bills in 2012 he was hired by the Jets for the 2013 season, his third AFC East team.

"I think my fundamentals and my footwork with Coach Lee have been, he's just pounding that into your head about your footwork and making sure that'll match up with the timing of these route," said Sanchez. "That's a huge emphasis in this system."

Improved footwork could go a long way to improving Sanchez as a passer. Critics have pointed to the messy footwork of Sanchez as a major reason for his inability to handle pressure and for his tendency to produce turnovers.

Those are the kinds of things that management will be keeping a close eye on.

"I mean at the end of the day, sure you want your numbers to be high but there's always specific circumstances that lead to whatever stats there," said Sanchez. "You don't want to make excuses but you know exactly why certain things happen the way they do."

Excuses for poor play won't leave him on the field for long.

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