- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- In Mark, he trusts.
Coach Rex Ryan delivered his annual Week 1 Mark Sanchez testimonial, except this time it came with a twist.
"You saw it coming through the years," Ryan told reporters Wednesday morning. "As a rookie, he was looked at as the weakness of our football team. I said, 'There's going to be a day when he's looked at as a strength, and not a weakness.' I think that day is right now."
Ryan praised Sanchez for showing improvement in "every area," mentioning intangibles such as leadership, his command of the new system and his work in the classroom. He also said Sanchez has made physical improvements.
"He's throwing the ball better -- more zip, more accuracy," Ryan said. "From a physical standpoint, he's a bigger, stronger guy."
Sanchez was solid in the preseason, completing 69 percent of his passes, but he failed to lead the first-team offense to a single touchdown. Nevertheless, Ryan "absolutely" believes Sanchez is the right guy to lead the Jets to the playoffs. And if he's not, they acquired a guy named Tebow, waiting in the wings.
SIONE UPDATE: Ryan still is unsure about the status of NT Sione Po'uha (back). On Monday, Po'uha said he expects to play Sunday against the Bills. Said Ryan: "I'm still not there." Po'uha is moving better, according to Ryan, but he wants to get the go-ahead from the medical staff before he puts Po'uha on the field.
"He needs to be able to anchor in there on double teams," Ryan said. "That's the big thing. Unless the doctors and trainers are convinced he can do that, it makes no sense to put him out there."
SPECIAL K: TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) isn't expected to practice Wednesday, and he may not practice all week, but he's still likely to play. Ryan said he doesn't want Keller to go full speed on his hamstring until he has to -- and that could mean Sunday.
NEVER SAY GOODBYE: The NFL is a strange business. The Jets decided to waive backup DT Marcus Dixon last Saturday when they were awarded DT Isaako Aaitui on waivers from the Dolphins. (Anybody who saw the final episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" Tuesday night knows that Aaitui, whom the Dolphins wanted to put on their practice squad, was bummed about leaving Miami.) In his first practice with the Jets, on Monday, Aaitui suffered a severe knee injury and was waived. And that is the story of how Dixon ended up back with the Jets. Ryan refused to confirm the knee injury, saying only that Aaitui was the victim of "unfortunate" circumstances.
LB Ricky Sapp was released from the practice squad.
PUNTER ROULETTE: Ryan, explaining the decision to waive P T.J. Conley, said he was "looking for a little more consistency." The new punter is former Charger Robert Malone, whom they worked out twice before signing him. In Tuesday's tryout, Malone hit the roof five times in the Jets' field house. Malone also will be the placeholder on field goals and PATs.