Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith?
New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan says no one’s close to locking down the team’s quarterback job.
So, for those expecting the Jets to figure out their quarterback situation by the end of next week's minicamp, you'll have to wait a while longer.
"I don't think we're close to that right now," Ryan said Wednesday after the team's final session of organized team activities open to the media.
"Obviously, the process is, I don't have to make that move," Ryan added. "Until we feel 100 percent comfortable with that decision, then we'll just leave it to the competition."
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg recently suggested he hoped a front-runner would emerge early, but Ryan is content with letting it play out into training camp, which begins in late-July. Sanchez is the incumbent trying to revive his career, and Smith is the hotshot rookie who many believe is the future of the franchise.
"It's way too early to say," Ryan said. "Some days, this guy looks good, and some days this guy looks good."
The Jets have insisted the quarterback competition is open to all quarterbacks on the roster, including Greg McElroy and Matt Simms. But the reality, of course, is that it will come down to Sanchez or Smith, especially with David Garrard having recently retired.
Sanchez has taken the majority of first-team snaps during sessions open to the media, but Ryan said Smith has worked with the starting offense at times throughout the other OTAs. But neither has separated himself in the competition at this point — or at least enough for Ryan to determine who will be under center when the Jets open the regular season at home against Tampa Bay on Sept. 8.
"For me to make the decision, to say the competition is over, it's going to have to be 100 percent clear to me," Ryan said. "And if it's not, then we're going to keep competing until whenever."
And, whenever could be sometime in August, up in Cortland, N.Y., where the Jets hold training camp.
"It's nothing big or scary," Sanchez said of the competition. "I'm just being myself and doing my very best — and that'll be good enough."
Both quarterbacks struggled Wednesday with several wide receivers out nursing injuries. That has led to some lack of rhythm between quarterback and wide receiver.
Santonio Holmes, out since early last season with a foot injury, is still rehabilitating and Ryan indicated that there's a chance he could start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Stephen Hill, coming off an injury-filled rookie season, sat out with fluid and swelling in his surgically repaired knee after diving for a pass in a previous practice.
Jeremy Kerley had what Ryan called a "heel issue," while Clyde Gates tweaked a hamstring. That means undrafted free agents such as Joseph Collins, Zach Rogers, Thomas Mayo and Vidal Hazelton — guys who might not make the team out of training camp — have been the primary targets lately for Sanchez and Smith.
"Well, I mean, that's brutal," Ryan said. "If we had to play, there would be major concerns. ... But, again, obviously you're going to look a lot different when your top four guys are out there than you would right now."
Despite all that, Sanchez insists he just has to work with "the guys nobody has heard of" who are there on the field, and he has seen some promising things from the group. Sanchez also reiterated that he's having his best offseason as a pro, feeling more comfortable each day in Mornhinweg's system.
"I feel like this is the kind of coordinator and system that puts you in a good spot," Sanchez said.
One of the biggest talking points this spring has been cutting down on the turnovers, something that has plagued Sanchez the last two seasons with 52 during that span.
Mornhinweg has urged Sanchez to throw the ball away when he's in trouble, which seems to be a simple concept, but one that the quarterback is still learning. He did it a few times Wednesday as the defense clearly had the better day in practice.
"That is encouraging to me," Ryan said. "An incompletion is not the worst thing that can happen to you, as you know."
Meanwhile, Smith has impressed Ryan with his arm strength — "he can throw it with anybody" — and his ability to digest the playbook at such an early point in the offseason.
"Sometimes, you want to see when a young man comes in, is it too big for him?" Ryan said. "I don't think it's too big for him."
Smith has continued to say the right things in his first few weeks in the NFL, repeating that he has lots of work to do and that he and Sanchez are getting along great.
So, will he win the starting job?
"We'll see," he said with a big smile.
He's also not concerned about whether he'll have enough time to establish himself as the starter by Week 1.
"There's no timeline on that," Smith said. "It's just about maximizing the reps I have out here on the practice field. Whether or not I will be ready or not totally depends on that day and we're far from that. I can't even set my mind on it. I'm just focused on what I have here now."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.
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