CORTLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mark Sanchez isn’t keeping any stats on how he and Geno Smith are performing in training camp.
He’ll leave the play-by-play and tale of the tape to everyone else. Sanchez insists he’s focused only on his own progress, and so far, likes what he’s doing for the New York Jets in training camp.
“I’m not going to speak for Geno or the coaches, but, I’ll speak for myself,” Sanchez said Friday. “I feel like I’m having a great camp. My arm feels good, my legs feel good, I feel strong, I feel accurate. I feel like I’m in command.
“So I’ve just got to keep playing.”
Sanchez, entering his fifth season, is in a tightly contested competition with Smith, who has certainly held his own through the first seven practices at SUNY Cortland.
It’s making for a tough decision by Rex Ryan and his staff — but there’s still plenty of time for either Sanchez or Smith to pull ahead.
“It’s up to the coaches,” Smith said, echoing Sanchez’s comments. “I just evaluate myself and I don’t worry about that other stuff. I feel like at this point, I’m at least close to where I should be.
“Am I perfect? No. But am I making good strides? Yes. As long as I stay on that track, I’ll be fine.”
Both Sanchez and Smith had solid practices Friday in their few opportunities to pass in a run-heavy session. Each threw a touchdown pass during goal-line situations — the Jets’ first practice this summer that included tackling.
The two quarterbacks will be the main attraction Saturday night during the team’s scrimmage, which includes game-like situations. Smith believes the level of competition will be raised, and not just at the quarterback spot.
“You want to be the guy where when you go back and watch tape,” he said, “the coaches are praising you and saying, ‘Hey, this is the type of guy we need here. This is the type of guy who has given the maximum amount of effort and is always doing the right things.’ Every single guy is going to have that in the back of their minds.”
Sanchez and Smith won’t exactly be going against each other on the field Saturday. Ryan indicated they both will likely get time with the first-team offense, although the coach hadn’t yet gone over the setup for the scrimmage with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
Several times, Sanchez has compared this summer to his first in the NFL in 2009. That’s when he competed with Kellen Clemens for the starting job, and won it a few days before the third game of the preseason.
“You take each season individually, each camp as its own entity, really,” Sanchez said. “I think this year, we’re on pace for something special, hopefully, as a group. This next measuring stick really is the scrimmage.”
The two have alternated leading the starting offense every third practice in camp, and Sanchez insists he isn’t putting extra pressure on himself by comparing his performance to what Smith is doing while he’s on the field.
“Like the short-yardage drill, I’m not worried about, ‘OK, Geno converted this many short-yardage plays,'” he said. “I don’t really care about that. I care about, ‘OK, the group that I’m in with, whether it’s 1s or 2s, whatever, are we wining that drill? Is my group winning that drill?’
“That’s all I can control because then you get into rooting for one side or the other. You don’t want to do that. It takes up too much time. There are too much mental gymnastics going on. You have plenty of other stuff in your head.”
Meanwhile, Smith said every day — and every snap — is a test. He looks at the film every night to see what he’s done and uses it to improve daily.
“You see what you’ve done,” he said, “and you see if your footwork is excellent because that’s pretty much what it’s got to be in order for this offense to work.”
That’s because Mornhinweg’s West Coast-style offense is based on timing and precision, something both Smith and Sanchez are trying to perfect.
“If you don’t take the proper drops or don’t take the right steps and if you’re not on time, then the wide receivers are not going to be the way Marty wants it,” Smith said. “It may not always work out the way you want it to. Sometimes you’re going to have plays where you’re going to have to ad-lib or do things that aren’t really in the book, but that’s not what you want to do on a day to day basis.”
There has also been an emphasis on ball security, especially since Sanchez led the NFL with 52 turnovers during the last two seasons. So far, Smith has not thrown an interception during team drills, while Sanchez has three.
“If you look at the way the games are shaped and the way that games have been won, they’re all close but the turnover margin is something that plays a huge role in games,” Smith said. “It’s bigger than yardage, bigger than any statistical category. To limit mistakes is something that a quarterback’s always got to do. I was always taught it’s not always about the plays you make, but the plays that you don’t make.
“So, I just try not to put us in poor situations.”
While the scrimmage will give everyone an idea about how the quarterback competition is shaping up, the first true test won’t come until next Friday when the Jets play their preseason opener against Detroit.
“I don’t think you’re going to necessarily separate yourself to say, ‘Oh, here’s the starter,'” Ryan said. “I think you have to get it in the games. We’ll see.”
NOTES: Rookie C Dalton Freeman was injured on the final play of goal-line drills and carted off with what appeared to be a potentially serious leg injury. Ryan had no immediate update. … RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) didn’t practice fully again despite being in full pads. G Stephen Peterman (shoulder) also sat out. DL Sheldon Richardson (root canal) and WR Stephen Hill (illness) returned after sitting out Thursday.
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