Quarterback status the same after first scrimmage

Jets quarterback Tim Tebow scrambles out of the Jets quarterback Tim Tebow scrambles out of the backfield after getting defensive pressure during a scrimmage. (Aug. 4, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

CORTLAND, N.Y.

It happened more quickly than the most cynical observer could have anticipated. The Jets played their initial sort-of game Saturday night, and sure enough, when it was over, Rex Ryan acknowledged the inevitable:

"First off, obviously there's a quarterback controversy,'' he said.

Kidding!

It turned out the coach was referring to fourth-stringer Matt Simms, who threw the loveliest pass of the intrasquad scrimmage, a 31-yard completion for a touchdown to Raymond Webber. "Was it Matt Simms or Phil Simms? I don't know,'' Ryan said of Phil's son. "He looked pretty darn impressive.''

True. But what of the two quarterbacks on whom the Jets actually will rely in 2012? That was more complicated.

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After a week of practices leading up to Saturday night's showcase before 9,200 onlookers, we can make this observation:

Sanchez is the more polished, more conventional presence, a clear No. 1 until proven otherwise.

Tim Tebow is what Tebow has been -- an intriguing wild card that must be played carefully.

Sorry not to have something more profound for you.

It was difficult to draw conclusions because three starters were missing on the line, including one (Nick Mangold) in London to watch his sister, Holley, lift weights in the Olympics and another, Brandon Moore, in Canton to watch Curtis Martin's induction into the Hall of Fame.

"It was tough,'' Ryan said. "I was kidding [offensive coordinator Tony Sparano]. I said, 'Tony, I love you, but I'm betting on the defense tonight.' ''

That was a smart wager in a "first half'' during which the offense did nothing. But Sanchez opened the second by leading the first-team offense on a nice drive against the No. 1 defense, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Bilal Powell.

Sanchez was 11-for-16 passing for 82 yards and was "sacked'' three times, even though quarterbacks are not allowed to be tackled in scrimmages.

Tebow's day was more nuanced. He was 0-for-3 passing, but two misses were accurate long throws that narrowly missed connecting against good coverage. The other was a drop.