FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It'll be Tebow Time for the New York Jets if Mark Sanchez goes down with an injury.
Coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday that Tim Tebow would be the starting quarterback this season if Sanchez was sidelined for any significant amount of time instead of turning to a more conventional-style signal caller such as third-stringer Greg McElroy — which some fans and media have speculated might be the case.
"I think Tebow would expand his role," Ryan said. "We feel good about what Tim can do."
Tebow is listed as the No. 2 quarterback, so it would seem obvious that he would be the guy to fill in. But the fact the Jets plan to use Tebow in specific packages raised some questions over whether he would remain in that role if Sanchez were hurt.
"We don't speculate what the situation is," McElroy said. "Obviously, Tim's a fantastic player and I think he would do a great job in that role, but we don't want to worry about a situation like that. Mark is our starter and we're going to follow him the best way we know how, and that's really what we're going to focus on.
"If something were to happen down the road, God forbid, we'll figure it out then."
While Ryan didn't specifically address what the game plan would be, it would appear that the Jets would change up their offense a bit to play into Tebow's strengths — as Denver did last season when he took over for Kyle Orton — rather than have him play in New York's normal offense that's set up for Sanchez.
Neither Sanchez nor Tebow will play in the team's preseason finale Thursday night at Philadelphia, but McElroy is expected to take the bulk of the snaps with fourth-stringer Matt Simms also seeing some action. McElroy, a seventh-round pick out of Alabama last year, has seen limited action in the preseason as Sanchez and Tebow have gotten most of the playing time.
He went 4 of 6 for 49 yards in the exhibition opener against Cincinnati, which was his first game action since dislocating his right thumb while playing against Philadelphia last preseason.
"It's been a while since I've been out there for an extended amount of time, so I'm excited," McElroy said.
Ryan has been impressed by McElroy's development since this time a year ago.
"I think he has shown a stronger arm," Ryan said. "Clearly, we always knew he's a smart guy. I think he has a good grasp of our system."
And, McElroy will be in charge of an offense on Thursday that has failed to get into the end zone all preseason. The Jets have gone three preseason games without a touchdown, matching the 1977 Atlanta Falcons for offensive ineptitude.
So, if McElroy gets the Jets in on his first drive, might there be a bit of a quarterback controversy, after all — or at least a chance to give Sanchez and Tebow a little grief?
"Not at all," McElroy said, laughing. "This is a team effort. ... If we can score some points, we're obviously going to try to do that."
NOTES: Newly acquired RT Jason Smith practiced with the Jets for the first time after being traded from the Rams for Wayne Hunter. Ryan said Smith — at 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds — is "five years younger and a little more athletic" than the 31-year-old Hunter, who is 6-5 and 318. Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, will be the backup to Austin Howard at right tackle and appreciates having a chance at a fresh start with the Jets. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Smith said of the change of scenery, "and someone thought I was beautiful." Smith will likely play about 10 snaps Thursday night. ... Ryan said FB John Conner will play some against the Eagles "because quite honestly, we haven't used the fullback." Rookie DL Quinton Coples will also see action, but WR Stephen Hill, the team's second-round pick, might not because he "has had so many reps."
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