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Thursday, August 22, 2013
Updated: August 23, 10:53 AM ET
QB decision 'too close to call'

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' quarterback competition is so close that no one is willing to say when it will be decided.

As expected, rookie Geno Smith will start the team's third preseason game Saturday night against the New York Giants, Jets coach Rex Ryan announced Thursday.

The plan is to play Smith into the third quarter, with incumbent Mark Sanchez replacing him. Sanchez started the Jets' first two preseason games.

Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez
The quarterback competition between Geno Smith, left, and Mark Sanchez is "too close to call," according to Jets quarterbacks coach David Lee.

In theory, the team's decision-makers will huddle Sunday to pick a starting quarterback, but neither Ryan nor his top offensive assistants would commit to naming the winner before the final preseason game.

"We could [wait until after] because, like we've said the whole time, we're not putting a timetable on this," Ryan said. "When we're ready to make that decision and we feel great about it as an organization, we'll make that decision."

The timetable was altered when Smith sprained his ankle in the preseason opener. He hasn't missed any practice time, but he did sit out the second game.

Ryan said it wouldn't be a fair competition if the Jets didn't give Smith an extended look, although it appears they're giving the former West Virginia star every opportunity to seize the job.

"It's been too close to call," quarterbacks coach David Lee said. "I want it clear. I want it cleaner before we make that decision."

Lee admitted he has gone back and forth between Sanchez and Smith, acknowledging, "I'm being honest: This is an emotional, up-and-down deal."

The Jets know what Sanchez can do. The preseason has been an extension of his past two seasons, meaning his positive plays have been overshadowed by his costly mistakes. Sanchez, who has played the equivalent of one full game this preseason, has completed 64 percent of his passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns. But he also has two interceptions -- one returned for a touchdown, the other in the end zone -- and a huge clock-management gaffe that "wasn't pretty," Lee said.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he would be comfortable with Sanchez as the starter, but he's eager to learn more about Smith, who has played only 14 snaps in the preseason.

Sanchez has played 75 snaps, 51 with the first team.

"Mark has had a terrific camp," Mornhinweg said. "He's had a bunch of ups, and he's had some dips. Geno has had an outstanding camp for a rookie. He's had just a little bit more than a couple of plays in the preseason, so we'll see what happens.

"I think I know exactly where Mark's at, there's no question. I think we can do some very good things with Mark. I don't know quite where Geno's at yet."

Mornhinweg said he would have preferred to declare a winner "quite a little bit earlier," but the landscape changed with Smith's ankle injury. By starting him Saturday night, the Jets are taking a chance. If Smith plays three quarters and doesn't win the job, they will have wasted premium reps in the most important preseason game.

Naturally, the coaches downplayed the impact of the delay, insisting they would rather make the right choice than worry about building chemistry on offense.

Lee said he can see the competition extending into next week.

"We're not ready. ... We need to get more film, more footage of Geno," he said. "We just need to get him in a game, and what better game than this one?"