Jets Win 37-13, but Sanchez Fails to Lock Up Starting Job


Fueled by a strong running game, the Jets comfortably defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 37-13 on Saturday night. But despite an excellent start, and with Geno Smith sidelined with an ankle injury, Mark Sanchez failed to take command of the Jets quarterback competition.

Sanchez started the game red-hot, completing all of his attempts, including a 23 yard touchdown strike to tight end Jeff Cumberland on the team’s opening drive.  The Jets’ fans were cheering and everything was going according to plan for Sanchez, who looked like the clear favorite to be the Jets starting quarterback after the first quarter. However, the cheers soon turned to boos when Sanchez’s previous inconsistencies lingered; he was intercepted in the end-zone, on a poor pass intended for Kellen Winslow, destroying what looked like another impressive drive for the Jets offense.

“It was a tight lane,” Sanchez said after the game. “Looking back on it, probably watching film, I might want to wait for Stephen [Hill] on the outside. I think assessing the throw, I should’ve put it out in front of Kellen [Winslow] a little more and gave him a chance to make a better play on that one. So we’ll clean that up.”

If that was Sanchez’s only error it might have been overlooked, but with the Jets inside the 5 yard line and 6 seconds remaining in the first half, Sanchez held onto the ball for too long and ran out the clock; thwarting any attempt the Jets had at a field goal attempt — a rookie mistake that drew a second chorus of boos from a frustrated Jets crowd.

Head coach Rex Ryan took the blame for the play, as he told the media,  “I’ll take the responsibility on that one. I knew it was going to be tight if we have a shot.” But a veteran quarterback such as Sanchez needs to be more aware of the situation.  Sanchez assured the media that it “won’t happen again” and that he “knows better than that,” but Jets fans have heard that too many times during his 5-year career.

Aside from his mistakes, Sanchez looked sharp. He led the Jets on five scoring drives totaling 27 points during his three quarters of action. Rex Ryan told the media that the team is “not willing to name a starting quarterback right now,” and the competition will continue in the third week of pre-season; presumably so the Jets can take a look at Geno Smith with the first team offense.

A major contributor to the Jets win on Saturday night was the running game. The Jets rushed for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns on 40 carries — an excellent average of 4.4 yards per carry. Bilal Powell led the team in rushing with 68 yards on 7 carries, including a very well executed 37 yard run in the first quarter. He also took control of the team’s new wildcat package, which he ran flawlessly throughout the game.

“I was really pleased with Bilal Powell,” Ryan said, “I’ve always been. I thought he had a big day.”

Chris Ivory, returning from a hamstring injury, also saw his first action in a Jets’ uniform with 6 carries for 13 yards. The Jets plan on bringing Ivory back slowly after his injury, and Saturday’s game only provided a glimpse of things to come.

“I know we all want to see the new toy we have back there, and it’s a good-looking one, but we were just being smart with him,” Rex Ryan said. “We didn’t want to overdo it with him. He’s a big, powerful man, and we wanted to get him going a little bit.”

On the other side of the ball the first team defense couldn’t control a poor Jacksonville offense. Blaine Gabbert, utilizing the hurry-up offense, led the Jaguars on two scoring drives to open the game.

“Our defensive intensity in the first half I thought is not to New York Jets standards certainly, the poor tackling,” Rex Ryan said. “You can tell when the intensity is there. You’re going to tackle. You’re going to run to the ball. You’re going to do all those things that epitomize the New York Jets defense. And quite honestly we struggled with that, there’s no question about it.”

Middle linebacker David Harris looked particularly poor; he missed several tackles and was consistently a step behind in coverage. Blaine Gabbert also victimized Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner, throwing in his direction several times including 35 yard deep pass to open the game for Jacksonville. Like most of the Jets defense, Milliner was noticeably caught off-guard by the hurry up offense that Jacksonville used, however, he is going to need to learn and adapt quickly or it will be a long season for the rookie. Veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie berated Milliner during the game, and told the media after that the team “expect more from him”.

“For him it’s a learning experience,” Cromartie said. “For this game, it’s the second preseason game for him and we expect more from him than we saw tonight. That’s something that he needs to learn from and he has to come out with a great attitude and get ready for the next week when we get ready to play guys like Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.”

The defense picked up it’s intensity in the second half, as they shut out the Jaguars, but the ease with which a poor Jacksonville offense moved the ball down the field in the first quarter is certainly alarming considering they have to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots twice every season.

The Jets will now continue their training camp practices at home in Florham Park, NJ. They will face the New York Giants at Metlife stadium next weekend in their third pre-season game.

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