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Circumstances not ideal for Mark Sanchez's return to lineup

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, left,

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, left, walks off the field with quarterback Mark Sanchez prior to an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. (Nov. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- If Mark Sanchez is going to have a triumphant return Sunday in Jacksonville after being benched in his previous game, his mental fortitude will have to be high. He won't be getting much help around him.

Sanchez almost certainly won't have Dustin Keller, his favorite receiving target. The tight end missed practice again Friday with a sprained ankle and is listed as doubtful for Sunday; in Rex Ryan's world, doubtful means just about out.

Then there's the possibility that Ryan could dress three quarterbacks against the Jaguars. That would create all kinds of headaches for not only Sanchez -- who could have Tim Tebow back in his Wildcat role and Greg McElroy waiting in the wings -- but the Jets as a team. Even if Tebow is active, Ryan said he will not use him as a punt protector because of his rib injury, leaving the Jets short two players whom he could use on special teams.

"Yeah, it's something you don't really want to do," Ryan said after practice Friday. "Again, sometimes at this time of year, sometimes you have so many nicks that you're actually trying to find a guy to put in that spot. You will very rarely have three quarterbacks up in today's game."

But there is that possibility. Tebow was limited in practice again with his rib injury, but he's listed as questionable for Sunday's game in his hometown. If he's active, that's yet another reason for Sanchez to sweat, because what likely will be a sparse crowd surely will be calling for Tebow at every opportunity.

"He's done more this week in practice, quite a bit more," Ryan said of Tebow. "We want to see how he travels and what he feels like on game day. We'll probably work him out before the game just to make sure he's ready to go before we make that decision. We left him as questionable, and that's basically all you can say. It's a game-time decision, I guess. I'll make that decision then."

With Ryan not using Tebow as the punt protector, it lessens the possibility of having the three quarterbacks active because two of them might not do anything all day.

With the quarterback circus going right up until game time and Keller almost certainly out, the Jets' offense is in a tight spot again. McElroy did get fans excited for a change, but he produced one score in a little more than a quarter. The offense has simply been sputtering more often than not.

"We scored seven points last week. We all know we can be better and we're working to get better," said Jeff Cumberland, who will see more plays at tight end if Keller is out. "It's something we all need to do."

Notes & quotes: WR Clyde Gates (concussion) is out. He made a brief appearance in the locker room, wearing shades for light sensitivity. "I'm cool,'' he said, "but I'm not that cool." . . . The Jaguars will be missing their top two running backs, Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and Rashad Jennings (concussion), and WR Cecil Shorts (concussion).

New York Sports