The good news for Mark Sanchez is that he will be first up at quarterback Friday night, ahead of rookie Geno Smith. The better news for Sanchez may be that the Jets' first exhibition game is in Detroit, away from a New York fanbase anxious for Smith to grab the starting job.
Sanchez was booed lustily during the Jets' Saturday night scrimmage, prompting cornerback Antonio Cromartie to come to his defense.
"You don't come out here and boo anybody," Cromartie said, adding that the fan reaction was "bull".
Sanchez later expressed some appreciation for Cromartie's comments, according to the New York Daily News' Manish Menta: "You heard what Cromartie said. Cromartie was pissed. Cromartie’s like, 'What are you talking about? You’re going to come here and boo? For what? Then don’t come.' A lot of guys feel like that.”
Of course, Sanchez did himself no favors during the scrimmage, stumbling over his own feet for a sack early en route to a 6-for-11 night passing. Smith, statistically, was not that much better while working with the first-team offense. He finished 9-for-16 for 77 yards.
Jets coach Rex Ryan left the exact playing time expectations for both Sanchez and Smith in Friday's game rather open-ended. He said during his Tuesday press conference that he may try to get Smith some run with the first offense, too.
Ryan has alternated Sanchez and Smith as the No. 1 QB early in camp -- hence Smith's position there for the team's intra-squad scrimmage. Should Ryan stick to that plan, Smith would be in line for a start in the Jets' preseason home opener, Aug. 17 vs. Jacksonville. That would put Sanchez in line to come off the bench against the Jaguars, with Greg McElroy and Matt Simms likely following him later in that game.
A possible benefit of Smith receiving the start that day, and not Friday against Detroit, is that he may dodge the Lions' explosive pass rush, led by Ndamukong Suh and rookie Ziggy Ansah. Sanchez would see most or all of the action against Detroit's projected starters there. The Jets' QB race does seem to be trending toward Smith, despite Ryan's announcement that Sanchez would open Friday's game under center. This could be one of the better opportunities the embattled Sanchez has to stem the tide.