Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith begin QB competition

Jets quarterback Geno Smith talks with reporters after

Jets quarterback Geno Smith talks with reporters after arriving at training camp. (July 25, 2013) (Credit: Hans Pennink)

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Mark Sanchez, the fifth-year incumbent desperate for a clean slate, and Geno Smith, the laid-back rookie eager to prove he's NFL-ready, each spoke of his attention to detail, commitment to his craft and unwavering confidence.

And Thursday each player said he expects the Jets to make the right call when it comes to picking a starting quarterback.

"In my heart, I expect to have a shot,'' Smith said.

"I feel good about my ability,'' Sanchez said a little later.

Each believes he's capable of quarterbacking the Jets to victory on any given Sunday. And when training camp officially opens Friday in front of hundreds of fans at SUNY Cortland, Sanchez and Smith will have their chance to prove it.

Rex Ryan would prefer to name a starter "sooner than later.'' But with so much riding on his decision (potentially his own job security), the Jets coach is prepared to be patient. Even if it means waiting until the preseason.

"The big thing is to make sure there's fair competition and you feel good about the decision,'' Ryan said. " . . . It has to be the right decision.''

New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg praised Smith recently, saying he is "way ahead of the pace of a normal rookie.'' But the former West Virginia star cautioned he's still looking for ways to get better.

"I'm still developing,'' said Smith, adding that he's "not going to put a timeline'' on when he expects to hear Ryan's decision. "I'm going to continue to develop two to three years down the line.''

Sanchez, on the other hand, feels at home in Mornhinweg's West Coast offense and in Cortland. "I feel comfortable up here and have had some of my best practices up here,'' said Sanchez, who won the starting job as rookie. "So this place is like my second home. I'm ready to go. I'm ready to go compete and play my best.''

And that's exactly what Ryan is hoping for. He guaranteed the quarterback competition will be for real, and that it'll be "great.''

"One thing [Geno] doesn't have to worry about is getting a fair shake,'' Ryan said. "He'll get that.''

Smith still may have much to learn, but "preparation,'' he said, has been key to his progression.

"I'm feeling more and more comfortable as the days go by,'' he said. "I know once I get more acclimated with it, the game will slow down.''

Although Smith elected not to attend Sanchez's annual Jets West camp this summer, both quarterbacks insisted there were no hard feelings between them.

"It's no big deal,'' Sanchez said. "Things were business as usual [on Monday]. We were competing our butts off and going through practice and everything was great.''

But the real test starts Friday.

"I'm confident the coaches will pick the best player,'' Sanchez said. "And I'm confident in my ability to be the best player.''

Said Smith: "I'm just confident in myself, my study habits, my ability to learn, get acclimated to the offense. What I do on the field will take care of itself, but I've got to put the work in.''

It may take weeks, or even months, before Ryan names his starter. But at the end of the summer, the Jets expect to have a quarterback who can win games. A lot of them.

"I'm a Jet first, so I hope the guy that wins the job is the guy that's going to help us prepare for the next level,'' said wide receiver Braylon Edwards, a good friend of Sanchez's. "It's not personal, when it comes to that. Whoever can be that guy, be it Geno, be it Mark, that's who it has to be.''

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