Expect Jets to name Geno Smith to start opener

Geno Smith looks on during a game against

Geno Smith looks on during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. (Aug. 28, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

It's finally here -- the day we all assume Rex Ryan will unveil his starting quarterback for Sunday's regular-season opener against the Bucs.

But the truth is: The secret's been out for days.

Mark Sanchez's status for Week 1 was in jeopardy the moment he injured his throwing shoulder Aug. 24 in a meaningless preseason game against the Giants. And with each passing day that Sanchez has been pedaling the stationary bike instead of practicing with his teammates, the clearer it's become that he isn't close to being an option to start Sunday.

A source familiar with the quarterback situation said Sanchez hasn't yet been told he's officially been ruled out against the Bucs. But with Ryan's admission Monday that Sanchez hasn't practiced with the offense since the injury -- and the fact that Matt Simms and Brady Quinn are their only other healthy quarterbacks -- the Jets have no choice but to start rookie Geno Smith.

During an ESPN NY radio spot Tuesday, Ryan, however, did little to shed light on the quarterback situation.

"We said all along that it was going to be a competition and we weren't going to name a starting quarterback until we're confident with that decision,'' Ryan said. "And obviously, we haven't named a starting quarterback yet. When we're ready to make that announcement, we will.''

Gamesmanship would be a plausible explanation for all the secrecy, considering the Bucs would have to spend the entire week game-planning for both Sanchez and Smith. But no other NFL team seems to be hung up in cloak-and-dagger games, and all already have named their starting quarterbacks. The last announcement came Monday, when the Redskins said Robert Griffin III will start Week 1.

Nevertheless, Ryan said: "We're not worried about 31 other teams, just focused on ourselves.''

Indications are that wide receiver Santonio Holmes, whose 2012 season was curtailed by a Lisfranc foot injury, could play Sunday. He recently was activated off the PUP list and is listed as a starter on the depth chart. Having a healthier Holmes couldn't have come at a better time for the Jets, who are facing an uphill climb to prove their offense will be better than it was last season (30th overall) under departed coordinator Tony Sparano.

Although there seem to be few (aside from devoted fans) who think the Jets can pull off a winning season, Ryan remains confident. Asked about ESPN's power rankings, which rate the Jets as the worst team in the league, Ryan just laughed.

"We're going to have an excellent season. But the proof is in the pudding,'' he said.

"I can tell you one thing: We feel good about ourselves. We think we have an excellent football team. If you evaluate us as a team, the way we play as a team, I certainly don't agree with that, not even close.''

Ryan also said he has confidence in all his players, including Sanchez. When pressed about the addition of Quinn (a former first-round pick who couldn't latch on in Cleveland, Denver, Kansas City and Seattle), Ryan insisted Sanchez's career in Florham Park isn't quickly nearing an end.

"Whoever comes up with that is just throwing stuff out there,'' he said.

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