EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Geno Smith might have a better chance now at winning the New York Jets' quarterback competition.
And he didn't even play.
Blaine Gabbert might have made the Jacksonville Jaguars' decision a little easier in a 37-13 loss Saturday night_ as long as his banged-up thumb is OK.
The Jets and Jaguars entered their preseason game hoping to gain some clarity on their quarterback situations. Well, not so fast.
Mark Sanchez led the Jets (1-1) on five scoring drives and played three quarters while Smith sat out with a sprained right ankle. But the fifth-year veteran also had a couple of mistakes that left the competition far from settled. Smith, if healthy, will likely see lots of playing time against the Giants next Saturday and could make his case for being the starter with a big performance.
"We're not willing to name a starting quarterback right now," coach Rex Ryan said. "Will we name one before the Giants game? I don't know, but right now, we're not comfortable making that decision."
Gabbert, competing with Chad Henne, was solid until spraining his thumb. An X-ray was negative, and the Jaguars (0-2) were going to end Gabbert's night when it did anyway. But, coach Gus Bradley still wasn't sure if Gabbert's performance – 13 of 16 for 165 yards and a touchdown to Allen Reisner – sealed the job.
"We need to take a look at the film," Bradley said. "We need to watch all the quarterbacks and see how they handled themselves."
From what we saw, here are five things we learned during the Jets' victory over the Jaguars:
1. SANCHEZ ON THE SPOT: It was another frustrating up-and-down performance for Sanchez, who went 13 of 23 for 169 yards with a touchdown to Jeff Cumberland and an interception for the Jets before being replaced by Matt Simms in the fourth quarter.
He started off with a few impressive drives, but got the MetLife Stadium crowd riled up when he was intercepted in the end zone by Marcus Trufant. It was the type of play that brought back bad memories of Sanchez's struggles of the last two years, in which he led the NFL with 52 turnovers.
Just before halftime, the Jets had another chance to score. But on third-and-goal from the 6, Sanchez scrambled as the final 4 seconds ticked away and overthrew Clyde Gates in the end zone as time expired – prompting more boos. Instead of closing the door, Sanchez kept Smith very much in the conversation.
"I feel like with Geno not playing, it was going to go on until he got another shot, I'm sure," Sanchez said. "I don't really worry about it that way. I just want to go out. I felt like we were real close tonight."
2. THUMBS UP: Gabbert was the best quarterback on the field, and thoroughly outplayed Henne. Now, he just has to hope his thumb doesn't get in the way.
"You know, it's just unfortunate," Gabbert said. "But it's part of the game and we're going to see (Sunday) what the deal is and just move on."
Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, was particularly effective when the Jaguars used a no-huddle offense – appearing to quickly tire out the Jets' defense. Although Jacksonville came away with just a field goal, it had a 17-play drive that ticked more than 6 minutes off the clock.
"I thought the offense played at a nice tempo," Bradley said. "We talked about being a team that can change the tempo of the game. We did a nice job in the first half of the game."
3. POROUS DEFENSE: The expected strength of Ryan's team unexpectedly appeared less than mediocre against Jacksonville.
The Jaguars had 12 first downs on offense and gained 231 yards – in the first two quarters.
"Our defensive intensity in the first half I thought (was) not to Jets standards," Ryan said.
New York could be in some trouble, too, with linebacker Quinton Coples possibly sidelined a few weeks with an ankle injury. Coples left in the second quarter with what some media reports said was a hairline fracture. Last year's first-round draft pick led the team in sacks as a rookie, but there's a chance he could be sidelined when the regular season starts.
4. MJD is A-OK: Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew made a solid return after suffering a serious foot injury last October.
The key to Jacksonville's offense, Jones-Drew showed no signs of the injury in a brief cameo to open the game. He ran for 9 yards on three carries and had a 20-yard catch in which he showed off a vintage MJD move or two – and the Jaguars could breathe a sigh of relief.
"I felt great," he said. "I was concerned they were going to pull me out if I looked bad, but they left me in so we will see how it goes next week.
5. WILDCAT LIVES: It was a failed experiment with Tim Tebow last season, but new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the Jets were fairly effective running a few plays in a wildcat-style offense against the Jaguars.
Bilal Powell lined up four times in the formation, and took a direct snap on one and gained 12 yards to end the first quarter. He got 3 yards on second-and-2 later on the same drive.
The Jets were also happy to see Chris Ivory make his preseason debut after being sidelined with a sore hamstring. Expected to be the No. 1 back this season, he finished with 13 yards on six carries.
"I know we all want to see the new toy we have back there, and it's a good looking one," Ryan said. "But we were just being smart with him."
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