After the first week of training camp Geno Smith had taken over the competition, showing off his arm and making few mistakes. According to most, the competition at that point was either even or Smith being ahead, depending on who you talked to. Then the Green and White Scrimmage happened on Saturday, August 8th. Geno Smith looked confident and in control after an excellent 1st drive and Sanchez struggled with missing open receivers and throwing an interception to Cromartie. As the scrimmage looked over the coaching staff gave Mark Sanchez an extra series and he threw a beautiful deep ball to Stephen Hill who ran in for the touchdown to end the day. At the time it didn’t seem like much, merely a touchdown to save face for Sanchez, but it turned out to be the throw that changed everything.
Sanchez took his momentum into the next week’s practice and was noticeably better and Smith’s play tailed off a bit. It looked like Sanchez was going to give it all back during the first preseason game when he threw a pick-6 on a screen pass but he came back to go 10-13 and lead a long touchdown drive. Smith couldn’t take control in his portion of the game. He was accurate but he was tentative and could not move the offense. Some of it was play calling, some of it was inopportune penalties, but the offense didn’t click as well as it did for Sanchez. Worse yet for Smith he sprained his ankle and had to leave after just 14 total plays.
Smith practiced on his sore ankle all week. He was much less mobile and he lost his trademark accuracy. The interceptions started to pile up as well, culminating with 4 interceptions in Wednesday’s practice. Rex Ryan called his performance “awful”. Sanchez kept his momentum and continued to play well this week. If Smith’s ankle isn’t close to 100% Sanchez will start game 2 as well and could end the competition with a good performance.
There is still time for Smith to turn the tables on Sanchez once again. Ultimately Sanchez will be judged on his decision-making in games not practices and, if he stumbles, Smith can still unseat him. Make no mistake about it, though, if Sanchez wins the job it will be a remarkable turnaround for the 5th year quarterback and he will look back at the Green and White Scrimmage to the throw that changed everything.