This is a series covering position battles in training camp and projecting the roster and depth chart for the New York Jets this season. The first installment will cover the quarterbacks.
They drafted West Virginia QB Geno Smith with the 39th pick in this year’s draft, and he is certainly the quarterback of the future. At the present, however, he is in a neck-and-neck battle with incumbent starter Mark Sanchez to take the field on opening day against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However, they are not the only QBs in camp for New York, so let’s take a look at who’s fighting for a roster spot.
Players in Camp: Greg McElroy, Mark Sanchez, Matt Simms, Geno Smith
Projected Opening Day Depth Chart: Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Greg McElroy
While Smith and Sanchez are embroiled in the battle that grabs the headlines, McElroy and Simms are fighting for a roster spot. I project the Jets will carry three quarterbacks, as most teams do, meaning that only one of the two can make the roster.
McElroy was the Jets’ seventh-round pick in 2011, and in a game and a half of action last season, he completed 19 of 31 passes for 214 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Not exactly awe-inspiring numbers, but they look better compared against Simms, who has never attempted an NFL pass. McElroy is very intelligent and the team did invest a draft pick in him, so he is the favorite to hold down the third string role.
The interest of course, comes with Sanchez and Smith.
Sanchez regressed badly last season, throwing 18 interceptions and fumbling 14 times. He was by far the biggest reason why the Jets tied for the league lead in turnovers. When you combine those numbers with his 54.3 percent completion percentage, you are left with a quarterback who has no business starting for a pro team.
The memories of him playing in back-to-back AFC Championship games are fading rapidly, and Sanchez is likely entering his last season in New York.
On the other hand, Smith was considered by many to be the best quarterback in this year’s draft, but he slid to the second round due to questions about his consistency and maturity.
Smith had a Jekyll and Hyde senior season at WVU, and no one is sure which player the Jets will get. During the Mountaineers’ 5-0 start, Smith completed an absurd 81.4 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,994 yards, 24 TDs and 0 INTs. During West Virginia’s subsequent five-game losing streak, Smith completed just 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,365, 11 TDs and five INTs.
Obviously that is a huge difference, and the Jets need Smith to be the accurate and reliable quarterback he was in the beginning of the season.
If he is going to win the starting job, he must prove that he can consistently read defenses and make accurate throws. New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg‘s West Coast offense requires quick decisions and precision passing, and while Smith as shown those abilities, he must prove he can repeatedly do it at the professional level.
Smith’s inexperience is likely to cost him the chance to start immediately, and much to the chagrin of Jets fans, Sanchez will likely be under center on September 8. Head Coach Rex Ryan needs to win this season to save his job, and he is going to push for Sanchez to start because right now, Sanchez gives the team the best chance of winning.
Smith will almost certainly take over at some point in the season, but that is likely not to be until at least five or six games into the year. Some believe that Mornhinweg’s offense can help resurrect Sanchez’s career, even though he will almost certainly be looking for a new team after this season.
For now, however, he remains a Jet, and he will be the starter for at least the beginning of the season.