CORTLAND, N.Y. — Mark Sanchez tossed a pass that zipped through the end zone, over a fence and onto the roof of a golf cart parked on the other side.
And, it was a good — and smart — play.
Rather than try to force it to a receiver who wasn’t open during red zone drills Monday, the New York Jets quarterback threw the ball away so that no one could reach it. For a guy who has been plagued by 52 turnovers in the last two seasons, this was progress.
“I felt good,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez was mostly mistake-free in perhaps his best practice of training camp, while rookie Geno Smith threw two interceptions in 7-on-7 drills.
The competition between the two for the starting quarterback job remains tight, and coach Rex Ryan is not sure who will start the preseason opener at Detroit on Friday night. But Ryan added that both Sanchez and Smith will work with the first-team offence during the game.
“Today’s practice was sloppy,” a disappointed Ryan said before later adding, “one guy I’ll say came out to practice was Mark Sanchez. I thought he was sharp.”
After a lousy performance in the team’s scrimmage Saturday, that included him getting booed by fans after an interception, it was a day of redemption for Sanchez. While it was hardly an eye-popping day — he was unofficially 6 of 9 in team drills — he appeared in command the entire session and kept the mistakes to a minimum while running the first-team offence.
Sanchez had a nice drive in 11-on-11s that was capped by a 6-yard touchdown toss to Bilal Powell on a third-down play.
“Calls came in quick, got in and out of the huddle, had great tempo, good pace, good mix of runs and passes, screens, everything,” Sanchez said. “It was kind of the way that we want to run things, you know, in a nutshell in one drive, and that looked pretty good.”
Smith was far from bad, but it was the first time he made the types of mistakes he made Monday, finishing 4 of 6 and getting picked off by Antonio Allen (a tipped pass) and Nick Bellore (a forced throw in the middle of the field).
“I mean, you’ve got to look at it in a positive manner,” Smith said. “I don’t see it as a setback. I see it as a learning experience. I see it as something that I can improve on.”
It’s that approach that has his coaches and teammates feeling pretty good about the second-round pick from West Virginia. Smith’s refusal to get frustrated by bad moments on the practice field has also shown a lot about his confidence in his abilities.
In fact, he wouldn’t even acknowledge that this was one of his tougher practices in the pros.
“I wouldn’t say so,” he said. “Down in the red zone, I think I need to do a better job of taking care of the ball. I know it’s 7-on-7 and you kind of want to force the emphasis and try to get the ball to the end zone, but still be mindful that we’re still working game reps and that drill is made for us to kind of pretend that we’re in the game.”
Which means he has to do anything other than turn the ball over in that situation — a key focus of offensive co-ordinator Marty Mornhinweg this summer.
“That’s something that I did today and that can be fixed,” Smith said. “And now, I’ll improve on that.”
While Ryan was complimentary of Sanchez, he didn’t knock Smith, who still has yet to be intercepted in 11-on-11 team drills this summer — including the scrimmage.
“It’s not like he’s going to be Nolan Ryan,” the coach said, “and pitch a shutout out there.”
As for the rest of the team, Ryan was not happy with his players’ effort after a day off from practice Sunday. There were several false start penalties, including two in a row by right tackle Austin Howard and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. The defence also had its share of mistakes.
“I thought the focus wasn’t there,” Ryan said. “I never liked the attention to detail. … It’s unacceptable.”
NOTES: Ryan had no updates on WR Santonio Holmes, who is out with a foot injury, or RB Mike Goodson, away from the team for personal reasons. Ryan refused to rule out Holmes, currently on the physically unable to perform list, to be ready for the regular-season opener although the wide receiver still isn’t close to practicing. … CB Dee Milliner, the No. 9 overall draft pick, briefly left practice after falling on his left hand. He said he needed his ring and middle fingers taped up, but said he was fine. … Ryan praised LB Calvin Pace, saying he’s “having a monster camp.” Pace was released in February in a cost-cutting move, but re-signed to a one-year deal in April. … Ryan said the Jets might consider playing CB Kyle Wilson at safety at times. Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett are currently competing to start opposite Dawan Landry. … FB Tommy Bohanon, the team’s seventh-round draft pick, blasted and ran over DB Isaiah Trufant on one play — Bohanon is 6-foot-1, 247 pounds, while Trufant is generously listed as 5-8, 170. “He’s a load,” Ryan said of Bohanon, whom he refers to as “Tommy Bahama.” … RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), RB-KR Joe McKnight (concussionlike symptoms) and TE Kellen Winslow (rest day) didn’t practice.