Ryan to start Clemens vs. Rams
In the wake of a breakthrough practice for rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, Jets coach Rex Ryan named Kellen Clemens his starter on Friday against the Rams in a preseason game at the Meadowlands.
“We’re going in there knowing he’s going to start the first game,” Ryan said. “Again, Kellen is doing well. Does he wish he had a couple throws back? Sure. But I think everybody does. With Sanchez getting more reps with the ones, it’s not based on Kellen’s performance. It’s based on Mark’s performance. Kellen knows. I mentioned right away after we drafted Mark, “You knew you would have to compete against somebody.” So, it doesn’t matter who it is. To win that job, you’ve got to compete against somebody. That hasn’t changed.”
The start can’t be much consolation for Clemens, who isn’t immune from the reaction to how Sanchez’ 70-yards on 9-for-15 passing by Sanchez matched up against his own 20 yards on 5-for-7. This morning, in the first practice since, and Clemens practiced with the second team offense and Sanchez ran with the 1s.
“Coach said early on that it was going to be an open competition, so today was the first day that Mark got the reps with the ones,” Clemens said. “I went with the twos. The program going forward is we’re just switching every other practice for a while. That’s the way we’ll progress. That’s the way it’s been in every competition I’ve been a part of, so it didn’t really come as much of a surprise. We’ll just continue to work hard as an entire unit no matter who we’re with and keep getting better.”
Sanchez sounded pumped after the practice. He connected with Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey for touchdowns and, despite being intercepted by Darrelle Revis, feels like he took a step forward with the performance.
“Absolutely,” Sanchez said. “Every day needs to be a step forward when you get a chance to go with that first-team group. I thought it really showed that I was ready for it, and I took advantage of that time. I knew (once I learned) I had a chance to run with the ones, that if I didn’t make the most of (the opportunity), I’d be upset. I made sure I was as prepared as possible and treated it like a game, because you only get certain looks once, you have to take advantage of the throws, and that was what I was trying to do.”
The defense talked about the quarterback situation a little bit as well, starting with Revis, the interception machine. Is Sanchez ready to be a rookie starter?
“Yea,” Revis said. “Well, we drafted him 5th overall for a reason. Rex and (Jets general manager Mike) Tannenbaum and those guys up there are studying up on players. Seeing that he has a lot of poise, he has a lot of leadership. He comes from a top program. It’s just carrying it over to another level. He’s handling it well, he’s moving the offense. He’s being a captain. He’s being a leader. 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.
Even LB Bart Scott (who hurt his hamstring today but Ryan said it wasn’t bad) had some nice things to say about Sanchez, after a few months of loudly ribbing the No. 5 overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft.
“The rook doesn’t make the same mistake twice,” Scott said. “He throws a solid ball and he gets the ball out of his hands quick. In a West Coast offense you want to get the ball into the receiver’s hands as quick as possible so they can make something happen. I think we have a group of receivers that can get a lot of YAC. If people don’t know, that’s yards after catch. I think it’s an asset for us. It is a safe pass. It is an extension of the running game.”
Now for the caveats. While it’s exciting to see a rookie like Sanchez do well, this is just the second week of training camp so it’s a little early to annoint him the second coming of Joe Namath.
Let’s say Sanchez is named starter for the regular season, and then gets shelled in three straight games. Then the gleam is off his guaranteed $28M suit of armor, and you have Clemens on the bench and in the final year of his contract. It would undermine the effectiveness of both quarterbacks.
If Sanchez is ready to start, it will be apparent, but he needs to prove he has the toughness to stand up to the beatings he can get from NFL defensive linemen. No matter how highly you regard the Pac-10, it’s apples and oranges.
That’s my take, have at it.