EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Mark Sanchez might have left the door open a bit for Geno Smith with another up-and-down performance for the New York Jets.
Blaine Gabbert, meanwhile, might have settled the Jacksonville Jaguars' quarterback competition — as long as his thumb is OK.
Sanchez led the Jets on five scoring drives through three quarters in a 37-13 victory over the Jaguars on Saturday night. Trying to fend off Smith to keep his starting job, Sanchez threw a touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland, but also had an interception at the goal line that cost New York a scoring opportunity.
Smith sat out with a sprained ankle, suffered in the preseason opener last Friday at Detroit, leaving Sanchez to play the bulk of the game. Sanchez finished 13 of 23 for 169 yards for the Jets (1-1) before being replaced by Matt Simms in the fourth quarter.
Gabbert led the Jaguars (0-2) on two scoring drives and staked his claim to the Jaguars' starting job before leaving with a sprained thumb in the second quarter. Gabbert, competing with Chad Henne, was 13 of 16 for 165 yards and a touchdown to Allen Reisner before the injury.
Gabbert appeared to bang his throwing hand on one of the defensive players' helmets. He was replaced by Henne, but the Jaguars announced that Gabbert was coming out of the game regardless of the injury.
Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 9 yards and had a 20-yard catch in his first game action since suffering a foot injury last October. Justin Blackmon, who opened camp on the physically unable to perform list following groin surgery this summer, had three catches for 37 yards in his preseason debut.
Kahlil Bell had touchdown runs of 5 yards and 1 yard in the third quarter for the Jets, and Bilal Powell had a game-high 68 yards on seven carries. Chris Ivory, who missed most of training camp with hamstring issues, ran for 13 yards on six rushes in his first preseason action.
Both teams came into the game with unsettled quarterback situations, and the Jets will have an interesting week after Sanchez had some good moments and some others that likely reminded them of previous years' inconsistencies.
Smith watched the game from the sideline, resting his right ankle. Smith was cleared by team trainers to practice but walked with a noticeable limp early in the week during training camp at SUNY Cortland, and acknowledged that the ankle was sore.
Smith, the team's second-round draft pick, was intercepted four times in Wednesday's practice, including three in 11-on-11 drills, prompting coach Rex Ryan to call his performance "brutal." If he's healthy, he will likely get lots of action in the team's game next Saturday against the Giants — unless the Jets decide on Sanchez as the starter to open the season.
The Jets got off to a fast start in this one, with Sanchez leading the team on a six-play, 59-yard drive that was capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass to Cumberland.
Gabbert got the Jaguars right back on their first offensive possession, marching Jacksonville 80 yards down the field in seven plays and hitting Reisner for a 5-yard scoring pass.
After Billy Cundiff's 30-yard field goal for the Jets, Gabbert carved up New York's starting defense again using an effective no-huddle. The 18-play drive stalled, however, at the 5 and the Jaguars settled for Josh Scobee's 23-yard field goal.
Sanchez had an impressive drive of his own on the Jets' next possession, but ruined it with a throw for Kellen Winslow Jr. from the Jaguars 3 that was intercepted in the end zone by Marcus Trufant. The sparse crowd at MetLife Stadium booed Sanchez loudly, just moments after cheering him for grounding a pass near the goal line rather than taking a risky chance and turning the ball over.
Trailing 13-10, the Jets had another chance to score just before the half as they got the ball at the Jaguars 3 after Konrad Reuland recovered a muffed punt by Tobais Palmer. On third-and-goal from the 6, Sanchez scrambled and overthrew Clyde Gates in the end zone as time expired — prompting more boos from the MetLife crowd.
Jets defensive back Mike Edwards capped the scoring when he fell on the football in the end zone for a touchdown with 2:44 left in the game after Mike Kafka couldn't handle Jason Spitz's wayward snap.