- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rookie QB Geno Smith didn't play because of a sprained ankle, leaving Saturday night to Mark Sanchez & Co. Much like he was in the preseason opener, Sanchez was sharp except for one horrendous interception. Despite a terrible night by the first-team defense, the New York Jets won 37-13 over the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium.
What it means: The burning question is, will Rex Ryan put an end to the quarterback competition? Sanchez could've made it an easy call by playing a clean game, but he was intercepted in the end zone on a third-and-goal from the 3. Ryan hates red zone interceptions. He might start Smith next week against the Giants, which would prolong the Jets' QB competition.
Oh, no, not again: For some reason, Sanchez can't avoid disaster. He came out on fire, hitting six of his first eight passes, including a 23-yard TD to Jeff Cumberland. He was actually cheered by the home crowd, but he reverted to 2012 Sanchez with the red zone pick. The crowd turned on him quickly. A week ago, he gave six points to the Lions with an interception for a touchdown. This time, he took away at least three points from the Jets. Actually, make that six. On the final play of the first half, Sanchez held the ball too long on a third-down incompletion, eliminating a field goal chance -- an inexcusable brain lock.
Surprisingly, Sanchez (13-for-23, 169 yards) played three quarters, the last of which behind the second-team line -- always a risky proposition. With Smith out and with Greg McElroy (ankle) limited to emergency duty, Ryan didn't want to use Matt Simms until the fourth quarter.
Dead zone: Sanchez's interception wasn't the only blunder in the red zone. The starting offense went 0-for-3 inside the 20. It ran five plays inside the 10 and came away with no points on those two drives.
"Brutal" defense: The first-team defense looked as bad as it ever has under Ryan, who probably would use the word "brutal" (or worse) to describe it. The Jets were ill-prepared and confused, diced up by Blaine Gabbert, who killed them with quick throws out of the hurry-up offense. The book is out on the Jets defense: pick up the tempo, get the ball to the receivers and backs and let them make plays. The Jaguars went 80 yards on seven plays for a touchdown on their first drive. On their second possession, it was 18 plays, 75 yards and a field goal.
LB David Harris, who dropped weight to improve his coverage ability, was exposed. So was rookie CB Dee Milliner, who allowed two completions and got an earful from Antonio Cromartie on the sideline. Cromartie wasn't great, either, missing an open-field tackle. Later, he made a nice tackle behind the line. Gabbert (13-for-16, 165 yards, one TD) left the game with a sprained right thumb; that saved the Jets defense more than any adjustments it made.
Coples hurt: OLB Quinton Coples suffered a right leg injury in the second quarter and limped to the locker room for a likely X-ray. He was hurt while batting down a pass in the face of QB Chad Henne. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Jets can't afford to lose Coples, whom the defensive coaches believe is the key to the defense. He was replaced by Antwan Barnes.
Here's Ivory: RB Chris Ivory, finally recovered from a hamstring injury, made his Jets debut. He didn't start, but he came in early and finished with 13 yards on six carries. No, it wasn't a great night, but he showed his potential on an 8-yard run by plowing through a couple of defenders. Ivory lacked burst on outside runs, probably because he's still working his way back into football shape. All told, the running game was much improved. The Jets rushed for 176 yards, including a 37-yard run by Bilal Powell. Backup Kahlil Bell provided a late spark, scoring two TDs.
Audition for Braylon: WR Braylon Edwards, hardly a lock to make the team, played only one snap in the first half. That usually doesn't bode well for a veteran. Edwards saw significant action in the second half and showed he's still capable of being a useful possession receiver, finishing with three catches for 49 yards.
What's ahead: The Jets play the Giants in their annual summer bash.