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Friday, August 9, 2013
Sanchez vs Smith: Who has the edge?

By Evan Kaplan, ESPN Stats & Information


AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe Geno Smith/Mark Sanchez quarterback competition really gets going today.
The New York Jets play their first preseason game tonight in Detroit and the quarterback competition between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith will be a main attraction.

Sanchez will start against the Lions but the two will each take snaps with the first-team offense. Rex Ryan will use the next few weeks to decide who will be his starting quarterback on September 8 against the Buccaneers. Despite his lack of NFL experience, the numbers suggest that Smith may be the man for the job.

Let's statistically compare the two, looking at Smith in college last year and Sanchez's numbers with the Jets.

Cold Weather
Playing in cold weather is one factor that should go into Rex Ryan’s decision-making, especially considering the Jets play in the Northeast.

In his last two seasons at West Virginia, Geno Smith faced seven teams from automatic-qualifying conferences when the temperature was 50 degrees or colder.

The Mountaineers were 2-5 in those games and Smith had a lower completion percentage than in the 14 games West Virginia played against automatic qualifiers when it was above 50 degrees.

But Smith’s completion percentage of 64.7 when the temperature was 50 or below doesn’t look as bad when comparing it to Mark Sanchez’s numbers.

Sanchez completed 54.4 percent of his passes when the temperature was 50 or below last season, and his 8.1 Total QBR in such games was the second lowest in the league.

Facing the blitz
One of the areas where Smith excelled in college was against added pressure. In his final season at West Virginia, he completed over 70 percent of his passes against five or more pass rushers, and threw just one interception against such pressure.

While dealing with pressure is an area where Smith excelled in college, the same can’t be said for Sanchez.

He threw a career-low five touchdowns against added pressure last season and was one of only three qualified quarterbacks in the NFL to complete fewer than half of his throws against five or more pass rushers.

Throwing downfield
Throwing the ball downfield is an area where the Jets will need to improve this season. They threw just three touchdowns on throws of at least 15 yards downfield in 2012, tied for the second fewest in the NFL.

Not only did Mark Sanchez struggle to get the ball in the end zone on such throws, he threw a league-high 10 interceptions and had the worst touchdown-to-interception ratio on throws of 15 or more yards in the league.

West Virginia featured a pass-happy attack last year, but it's worth noting that Geno Smith's 15 touchdowns on passes that traveled at least 15 yards downfield were more than any NFL player on such throws.

A common thread in West Virginia’s six 2012 losses was Smith being unable to connect on those deeper throws. He completed seven percent of his passes thrown 15 yards downfield in the team’s losses last season, down from 21 percent in their wins.

Under Center vs Shotgun/Pistol
One of the factors working against Smith is that he didn't have much game experience in taking snaps from center. He attempted over 96 percent of his passes out of the shotgun or pistol formations last season. The average NFL quarterback attempted over a third of his passes from under center.

The Jets ran 399 plays out of the shotgun formation last season, the 11th fewest in the league, but their Total QBR of 20 when passing out of the shotgun was the lowest in the NFL.