Matt Simms' chance to shine in Jets' final preseason game

Quarterback Matt Simms of the Jets throws a Quarterback Matt Simms of the Jets throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Ryan Spadola in the fourth quarter against the Giants during an NFL preseason football game at MetLife Stadium. (Aug. 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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If you take the Jets at their word, the quarterback competition is still ongoing. But Thursday night's preseason finale will have little to do with Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.

When the Jets and Eagles play at MetLife Stadium, the spotlight will be shining on a different Jets' signal-caller -- Matt Simms.

The son of former Giants quarterback Phil, the 24-year-old Simms is expected to get the starting job . . . at least for a day.

Sanchez wouldn't have played in the fourth preseason game anyway. But now the fifth-year quarterback may be in jeopardy of missing the season opener against Tampa Bay because of a bruised right shoulder joint, suffered at the hands of Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin in the fourth quarter of last Saturday's 24-21 overtime win.

And while some Jets fans may be anxious to see more of the rookie Smith, the Jets likely won't risk another quarterback injury in the same week.

Greg McElroy, who is vying with Simms for the No. 3 job, was expected to play against the Eagles. But the backup quarterback -- who has been hampered by knee and ankle injuries -- reportedly re-injured his mildly sprained knee and will be forced to sit out. That explains the sudden arrival of former Packers backup Graham Harrell, whom the Jets agreed to terms with on Tuesday. He'll serve as Simms' backup with Sanchez, Smith and McElroy on the sideline.

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Rex Ryan began his Monday afternoon news conference with a video presentation of plays made by receiver Ryan Spadola. But in the process, the Jets coach also highlighted the pocket-poise of Simms, who delivered a 22-yard touchdown pass and a 70-yard completion to Spadola to help deliver the Jets' win over the Giants.

"Really this is a nice job here by Simms, obviously," Ryan said. "He's avoiding the rush and the conversion here by Ryan at the bottom. He sticks him, loses the safety, and quite honestly by now I was hoping like heck he'd be able to run it in the end zone but that wasn't the case.

"But anyway, the young man is doing a tremendous job," Ryan said, pointing to the flat-screen TV while playing the film in slow motion. "Good escapability, able to keep his eyes down the field. He's another young man that's really popped up."

Facing second- and third-team competition, Simms has completed 11 of 15 for 193 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also has a 137.5 preseason passer rating.

But while it's clear how much he's impressed the coaching staff of late, not much else is known about their plans for Week 1. There are arguments to be made for starting either Sanchez or Smith, but there also are several variables -- mainly, the veteran's health and the rookie's inexperience.

Smith hasn't looked particularly good in either of his two preseason games. Against the Lions, he was proficient in the short passing game, but had to exit early because he rolled his ankle. On Saturday, he was erratic and threw three interceptions and took a safety after stepping out of the end zone.

That appears to be the only live action Smith will see this preseason. Sanchez, on the other hand, has four years of film -- good and bad -- to speak for him. But while offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has said there's "no substitute" for experience, it remains to be seen whether he and the rest of the coaches believe in Sanchez enough to name him the starter for Week 1.

Or, more importantly, if he's healthy enough.

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