Front Runner: Mark Sanchez
It's a hard pill for many Jets fans to swallow, but Mark Sanchez continues to be the front runner at quarterback entering training camp. Even after a year where Sanchez endured the embarrassment of the "butt fumble" and butt video, Rex Ryan isn't exactly jumping off the Sanchez bandwagon.
Ryan told reporters this week that he may use Geno Smith in a Tim Tebow-esque role, which may hurt the future of both the Jets and Smith. The Tebow role can be defined as a quarterback who mostly wanders the bench waiting for his limited playing time, at least, that's what he did last season.
Perhaps Ryan is still holding out hope that the same quarterback who carried the Jets to two straight trips to the AFC Championship will return to form in 2013. Of course, the Green and White can't afford to have the poor performance and lack of leadership Sanchez showed last season. His embarrassing performance in the 14-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans cost the Jets a chance at a playoff berth last season. No. 6 threw four interceptions and lost a key fumble to clinch a defeat in the Music City. Sanchez had 26 turnovers last season and 18 came via the interception. Gang Green is switching to a West Coast offense which means quick drop-backs which could help Sanchez cut down on his turnovers.
If fans remember, during the Jets' playoff runs, Sanchez found some success with slant routes to Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller. The struggling quarterback seems to want to improve with his recent Jets West camp which saw most of his receiving corps show up. All early indications are Sanchez could get the nod during Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In the Hunt: Geno Smith
Even with the recent reports of Ryan saying he wants to utilize Smith in a Tebow role; it's hard to keep such a talent on the bench. Smith is a proven passer who broke numerous records while at West Virginia and he has the accuracy Sanchez fails to display on a consistent basis. Smith will get the opportunity to start if Sanchez struggles during the season opener against the Bucs. The performance of the quarterbacks could not only mean the end of Sanchez's career but also Ryan's time as the Jets head coach.
Smith is under great scrutiny for several reasons. The Mountaineers ran most of their offensive formations out of the shotgun will be something to watch for because the Jets are switching over to the West Coast offense under new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Smith has also been accused of being immature because of his pre-draft actions and the fact that he fired his agent to join Jay-Z's Roc Nation.
The young signal-caller has been impressive since joining the Jets from his performance on the field to his meetings with the offense off the field. Smith may have slipped to the second round because of his character issues, but don't be fooled; he has the ingredients to be a star in the league for years to come.
Dark Horse: Greg McElroy
McElroy hasn't been in the spotlight this past offseason, then again he wasn't last year either and ended up starting Week 16 against the Buffalo Bills. There have been reports surfacing that Matt Sims is ahead of McElroy on the depth chart but those reports appear to be premature. No. 14 is a proven winner from his college days at Alabama University and it can be argued that he should be in the talks for the starting job.
It's obvious that the only reason he hasn't been given the opportunity is because of Ryan's affinity for Sanchez and his concern over the media's attention instead of winning football games.
Ryan is a defensive mastermind, there is no arguing that, but he should leave the offensive play calling up to Mornhinweg who has proven himself with some of the top offenses he produced while with the Philadelphia Eagles. McElroy replaced Sanchez during the Week 15 snooze fest against the Arizona Cardinals. He led the team to a 7-6 comeback victory in which he went 5-7 passing for 29 yards and a touchdown.
During McElroy's Week 16 start against the San Diego Chargers he went 14-24 through the air for 185 yards. McElroy's stats against the Chargers did not justify his performance. McElroy was constantly under pressure and was sacked 11 times, which tied a team record. McElroy may not be under consideration to start, but last season showed he can be an effective NFL quarterback when given the chance.