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August 2, 2013

 

Rex calls QB race close

Rookie Smith climbing up in camp battle

JetsJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith (7) goes deep during the Jets camp at SUNY Cortland.

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

The battle for the starting quarterback job continues, but hasn’t one person already made bigger strides after the first week of camp at SUNY Cortland?
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan says fifth-year veteran Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith are very close, so doesn’t that mean Smith has been better overall through the first full week of workouts?
Sanchez looked good Thursday completing 10-of-16 passing attempts for two touchdowns. He threw one interception and was sacked once in his second straight day with the first unit.
Smith was 5-for-10 with one touchdown and he was sacked twice. Smith still showed his big arm with a nice 50-yard heave to wide receiver Ryan Spadola during the two-minute drill, but struggled in the goal-line drill. That was where one sack came along with throwing the ball away once before hitting Konrad Reuland for a touchdown.
The goal-line drill was where Sanchez showed his experience. He completed 2-for-3 tosses, the one misfire a strong throw to Braylon Edwards.
The Sanchez-Smith showdown will certainly be in the spotlight when the Jets’ Green and White Scrimmage takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex main field.
“It gets tough down there because it gets compacted and things but I thought Mark did a great job, especially on the ‘got-to-have-its,’” head coach Rex Ryan said of the job Sanchez did during the goal-line drills. “Like after the two-minute (drill) when we did the ‘got-to-have-its’ he makes a great throw, two times rolling. Now the defense helped him out when they never had the personnel on the field. If you play with nine on the field, bad things happen.”
Ryan was referring to Sanchez going against a defense that inadvertently was two-men short for a stretch of time.
“I thought Geno was impressive at the end,” he added of second-round draft pick Smith. “That last play, when you’ve got to have it, he scrambles and keeps his vision down the field and finds the guy open at the end. So that was impressive. Both guys I thought had a good day today.”
Smith will be with the first team at today’s practice and former Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff — now working for ESPN 98.7 FM radio during the season — brought up one of the best questions in Ryan’s post-practice press conference.
WESTHOFF ASKED ABOUT the position battles for Saturday’s Green and White Scrimmage where the usual format is ones-vs-ones, twos-vs-twos, etc. Would there be more of a mix?
“Absolutely,” Ryan replied. “This year, unlike others in the past, you’re looking at replacing maybe six or seven new starters on defense. You’re looking at, at least two new guards and some other things on offense. So, there’s definite competition and there’s competition for the starting groups for sure. There’s also competition for who’s on the 53 (53-man roster) and who’s on the practice squad.
“I’ve never been around a team where you really can’t tell,” he continued. “It’s certainly not in pen, but I’m not so sure it’s in pencil yet either. That’s going to really add to this competition and even make the Green and White Scrimmage maybe a little more interesting than it’s been in the past.”
While the quarterbacks still draw most of the attention, there are other battles going on. The Jet have two veterans in Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman, along with rookie Brian Winters from Kent State all looking for the starting nod. Colon comes from Pittsburgh where he was drafted after attending Hofstra while Peterman spent the last seven of his eight pro years in Detroit.
Winters took a lot more snaps with Colon on the other side Thursday as Peterman was on the sidelines with a shoulder problem.
“I love Winters to death, man,” Colon said. “He reminds me of a young Willie Colon. He’s scrappy, doesn’t know his elbow from his tail, but he goes out there and fights, and that’s how I was when I was younger. I didn’t know anything. I just wanted to go out there and play football. He kind of wakes up the little kid in me because he’s wide-eyed and he just likes to hit, so he has an extreme amount of potential and I know he’s going to get better. He’s going to be a ballplayer for us.”
Coming to the Jets is really a homecoming for Colon, who grew up in the Bronx and played at Cardinal Hayes High School.
“I’m happy to be home, one,” he said. “I’m blessed to have a job, two. Three, I think this team has been through a lot. It’s kind of been through the gauntlet, so to speak. I think it’s time for us to kind of, if anything, take the other route and get extremely close, and take on the world.
“It’s football at the end of the day,” he added about being a new Jet. “I have a great offensive line coach (Mike Devlin). I’m playing with two pro-bowlers, in (Nick) Mangold and Brick (D’Brickashaw Ferguson). I have a great coach in Rex Ryan. It seemed like a no-brainer to me when I got here. For me, I just want to be the spark, bring my ruggedness, bring my leadership and play football.”
WITH SO MANY competitions going on, there has to be a few guys starting to standout.
“There’s great competition I think on both sides of the ball,” Ryan said. “A lot of positives on both sides and then some coachable things on both sides also. So, it’s a good thing. You learn from it, you get the tape, you get in the classroom and the idea is to get better and we’ll see how much better we get in the days that follow.”
Some new backs also got Ryan’s attention.
“I thought our blitz pickup was much better with the backs than it’s been. We had a couple of huge blocks, one by the rookie from Wake Forest (Tommy Bohanon), ACC team, not as good as Clemson,” said Ryan jokingly. “And then the Maurice Jones-Drew guy (Chad Spann), the little guy. He’s not small, he’s just short. He blasted somebody today on a blitz pickup, so that was encouraging. Spann? Spann is his name. But it reminded me of the shot that (Maurice Jones-Drew) had on Shawn Merriman that time. It was like ‘Whoa!’ It was one of those types of hits. That was good to see. Obviously I expect it, you’ve got a great running backs coach with Anthony Lynn. You expect guys to improve and certainly that seems to be the case.
“We haven’t gone through a live scrimmage, but (wide receiver Vidal) Hazelton I think he seems to be popping up to me,” he added. “He’s a very competitive guy, good blocker, has done well competing for the football and things. Like I said, when we’re doing it for real, we’ll probably get a better idea. But I’ve been impressed with a lot of guys, I really have. Dalton Freeman is a young man we picked up as a free agent who seems to be picking things up really well and that’s a tough position. When you’re a center in this league, that is a tough position especially picking up, moving your line this way, that way. (Nick) Mangold does it so easily, but you forget how talented Mangold is and how smart he is, but I’ve been impressed with how Dalton has handled himself.”

 

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