Mornhinweg: Sanchez 'earned' preseason start

The New York Jets offense is a work in progress for newly hired offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Friday's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions should paint a few answers to some burning questions for Gang Green as veteran Mark Sanchez gets the starting nod.

The New York Jets offense was similar to watching a horror movie last season. After Santonio Holmes got into verbal altercations with his teammates and benched during the last game of 2011, we thought it couldn't get much worse for Gang Green.

Well it did.

The offense was inconsistent and was constantly giving away the football to opposing defenses. The lowlight of the season was when Mark Sanchez ran into the backside of offensive lineman Brandon Moore which resulted in the famous "butt fumble."

In the offseason the Jets organization parted ways with offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano and hired Marty Mornhinweg. The Jets are only in the beginning stages of training camp but excitement surrounds Cortland, NY.

Position battles have led to players playing at their highest level at all times. The most watched and publicized position competition has been between the quarterbacks, but that has been the case since Geno Smith was drafted in the second round back in April's draft.

Mark Sanchez has been announced the starter of the first preseason game against the Detroit Lions on Friday.

"First thing is, he's earned it," noted Mornhinweg. "He's had an outstanding training camp, so that's the first thing. The second thing is, he's been the starter here. The first game would typically be his, but he's earned it as well, so those two things kind of go together."

Sanchez has seen his production dip over the past two seasons. He led the Jets to two straight AFC Championship games to begin his career, but has had issues with accuracy and decision making since the start of the 2011 season.

Last season Sanchez had 26 turnovers, including 18 coming via the interception. No. 6 eventually lost his starting job after being benched in the second half during an embarrassing offensive performance against the Arizona Cardinals in week 15.

Geno Smith has impressed the coaches early on, but has seen his production dip of late.

"I expected it earlier and really, he did a fantastic job," Mornhinweg said. He's got to power through it, it's just that simple."

Gang Green's offense does not have a large number of weapons in the huddle. They have been without top offensive wide receiver Santonio Holmes and recently acquired running backs, Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson.

"We don't get frustrated because that's part of the game, Mornhinweg said about being without Goodson. "I am just a touch concerned about the amount of reps going into the season with them."

Bilal Powell has taken advantage of Ivory and Goodson missing action. Powell has been a bright spot for the Jets offense and may have joined the starting running back conversation, especially with Joe McKnight coming back to camp out of shape and recently getting arrest for multiple traffic violations.

The wide receiver position is slim pickings right now. The Green and White brought back Braylon Edwards to add depth and a potential play maker to the position. The emergence of Jeremy Kerley was a nice surprise for the Jets last season. They will also be dependent of Clyde Gates if Holmes is unable to return this season. Although Holmes has been a distraction in the locker room during past seasons, an offense without the star wide receiver would not be a pretty sight.

"Santonio's in the right frame of mind," Mornhinweg said. "He's getting it all done and we'll see. We'll see. It's too early to tell. He's progressing through the program that they have planned for him. The key is to get him healthy and rocking and rolling."

One thing is for sure, Mornhinweg means business with this offense. He is coming over from the Philadelphia Eagles after having one of the top offenses for the past six seasons. He has worked with some of the best quarterbacks the NFL has to offer and the Jets hope Mornhinweg can bring that success over to the Meadowlands.

The first tune up against the Detroit Lions on Friday is one of the most anticipated preseason games in a long time. The game in Detroit should tell us if this is the same Mark Sanchez from the past two seasons and if Geno Smith can be a legitimate starter in the NFL.

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