CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The ballyhooed quarterback competition got off to a positive start, with both Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith performing reasonably well in the first practice. Neither player committed a turnover, an all-important statistic for the turnover-plagued Jets.
As expected, Sanchez worked with the first team, taking a majority of the reps. They will alternate throughout camp. He completed seven of 10 passes (one drop) and was "sacked" twice. (This wasn't a padded practice; the players were in shells.) Sanchez's favorite target was WR Clyde Gates, who caught two passes. He also connected twice with TE Kellen Winslow, who made a diving grab for about 30 yards late in practice.
Afterward, Sanchez said he was pleased with the first day, saying "everything went smoothly."
Smith went 4-for-7, with one sack and a fumble (it was recovered). If this were simply a throwing contest, Smith would win easily. He throws a nice ball, a tight spiral even on deep throws. His longest completion was about 40 yards to WR Stephen Hill. Actually, he threw the ball over the wrong shoulder, but Hill made a terrific adjustment -- a positive step for the second-year wideout.
Smith, who had more than 30 career fumbles at West Virginia, got careless on his final play, letting a defender slap the ball out of his hands in the pocket.
GATES IS SWINGING: It was quite a debut for Gates, whom Rex Ryan called the offensive MVP of the first practice. Gates, who missed several spring practices due to a balky hamstring, looked healthy and fast. His signature moment came in a 7-on-7 drill, when he made a diving, fingertip catch on a deep ball by Sanchez. Sanchez thought he led Gates too far, but Gates showed excellent accleration with the ball in the air. The Jets have been waiting a year for Gates to step up. This was only one day, but it was a step.
Actually, this was a good day for the Jets' much-maligned receiving corps. Titus Ryan and Hill also stood out in the crowd. Winslow made a couple of nice plays, but he also coughed up the ball on a strip by S Jaiquawn Jarrett.
SPEED ON DEFENSE: It's too early to make bold predictions, but it's already apparent that the defense is faster than a year ago. Then again, everything is faster than a dinosaur, right? The highlight moment came when DE/LB Quinton Coples chased Smith out of the pocket. Coples actually ran stride-for-stride with Smith, forcing him out of bounds. In pursuit, Coples barked at Smith, "Ain't that fast." Smith was impressed.
"That's amazing, right?" Smith said. "He's about 280 pounds and he's going step for step with me."
INJURY REPORT: RB Joe McKnight was removed from the non-football injury list and practiced. ... RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) sat out. He said he'll return in a couple of days. ... CB Aaron Berry limped off after getting tangled up with WR Joe Collins. ... WR Santonio Holmes, on the physically-unable-to-perform list, worked off to the side.
ODDS AND ENDS: There was a new wrinkle at the start of practice. An entire period was devoted to open-field tackling, with a focus on special teams. ... S Antonio Allen worked with the starting unit. ... Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman were the starting guards. ... The offense worked on some Wildcat, but not much. ... Rookie DT Sheldon Richardson, fresh off signing a $10 million contract, made an early splash. He recorded a sack on the fourth play of team drills. He started in the base defense. ... There were two false-start penalties with Sanchez at quarterback. Sanchez explained that, under orders from OC Marty Morhninweg, he was trying to be aggressive with his cadence. ... OLB Ricky Sapp had a sack. ... QB Greg McElroy was the No. 3, Matt Simms No.4. Simms threw an interception, the only pick in practice.