The big news from camp yesterday, was twofold. First that Sanchez had done enough to alternate his first team reps with Kellen Clemens, and secondly that Kellen Clemens will be the starter for the game this week against the Rams.
It’s painfully obvious that Clemens is slipping in the competition, and that Mark Sanchez is starting to use the most of the opportunities given him, not an unexpected turn of events due to Sanchez’s dedication and abilities, something with which Rod Boone of Newsday seems to agree.
The plan will be in effect until further notice, and the duo learned of the coach’s decision when offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told the two quarterbacks Friday night. Still, Clemens will get the starting nod in the Jets’ first preseason game against the Rams at Giants Stadium on Friday night.
But his grip on the depth chart’s top spot is slipping.
Sanchez ran the first-team offense extremely efficiently, completing 10 of 19 passes with two touchdowns and an interception. He was nearly flawless during a 55-yard, two-minute drill that was punctuated with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Chansi Stuckey.
Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News has Ryan’s words on the subject:
“For the competition, they’ve both earned that right to compete,” Ryan said. “They’re both going to get snaps with the ones. Again, like we’ve said the whole time, we’ll make that decision to start whomever gives us the best chance to win.”
Still, it was clear to everyone at the training camp on the campus of SUNY-Cortland that Sanchez took a big step Saturday toward his ultimate future as Jets starter.
“I think you would have to start warming up to him a little bit, because he has made some throws,” Ryan said of Sanchez earning the confidence of his teammates and coaches. “He is poised. I think he is learning the offense. I’m feeling the confidence in him.”
So far in practice, TE Dustin Keller has been impressed with what he’s seen.
Sanchez “did a really good job,” tight end Dustin Keller said. “He made the right checks. He made really good reads, especially for a first-year guy. Being able to read the defenses the way he did, it’s amazing.”
Even Bart Scott, who has had some words for Sanchez in practice, was more encouraging off the field,
”The rook doesn’t make the same mistake twice,” linebacker Bart Scott said. ”He throws a solid ball and he gets the ball out of his hands quick.”
As did Revis and Damien Woody.
”He’s being a captain, he’s being a leader,” Revis said. ”He’s out there saying stuff to those guys: ‘Let’s get this first down. Let’s move the ball,’ things like that to get the offense ready to go and play.”
Right tackle Damien Woody also liked what he saw in the huddle from Sanchez.
”The thing that really stands out is he’s kind of figuring things out against our defense,” he said. ”You’ve got to understand, our defense is one of the most complicated schemes that you will ever see in the National Football League, and he’s doing a heck of a job of identifying what’s going on and making things happen. I’m sure with each day, he’s getting more comfortable with the offense.”
With Clemens playing uneven football at times, he’s not done enough to pull away from Sanchez, and now that Sanchez has some time with the first team offense, he’s starting to make his times with those players count. It’s hard for a rookie to take on the mantle of leadership, and QB has to be even harder. If Sanchez can continue to thread the needle on the borderline between cockiness and leadership, he’ll do well. He just needs to be respectful to the veterans who are trying to win a championship this year and might be concerned about having a rookie lead them.