Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez participate in a practice in...

Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez participate in a practice in Florham Park, N.J. (Aug. 19, 2013) Credit: AP

One game may not define Geno Smith. But the Jets' preseason game against the Giants Saturday night could go a long way in determining who will start the season as the Jets quarterback.

The team has yet to divulge whether the rookie or veteran Mark Sanchez will start against their in-state rivals. But with the Jets' regular-season opener against the Bucs fast approaching, they'll be eager to see a healthy Smith in action.

And the rookie is looking forward to another opportunity to show he's the man for the job.

"Extremely anxious," said Smith, who was inactive against the Jaguars because of his sprained right ankle. "Sitting on the sideline was probably one of the hardest things I had to endure since I've been here. I never expected being out for a game, let alone the second preseason game. But to be out there this week is going to be big for me. I get another chance to go out there and prove myself."

Smith struggled Monday, completing 1 of 6 passes while throwing an interception in 11-on-11 drills. And he was nearly picked off again a short time later, but safety Antonio Allen dropped the ball. Rex Ryan, however, said Smith is "much further along right now" and also is driving the football better than last week.

Asked about Smith's interceptions, the coach was far more complimentary than critical.

"The fact that he just comes right back, makes the big throw downfield, I think talks about his type of confidence. He's not rattled," said Ryan, who blasted Smith's "brutal" practice performance last Wednesday. "Absolutely, we don't want to see mistakes and don't want to throw the interceptions. Those things happen, but you have to come right back from it."

With Smith sidelined against the Jaguars, Sanchez went 13-for-23 for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception. But if Smith is healthy enough to face the Giants, he should get the bulk of the first-team reps.


"The answer could be yes, but I think the answer is going to be, 'We'll see at the appropriate time,' " Ryan said with a laugh.

Like Smith, Sanchez also remains in the dark about the team's plan for Saturday. He reiterated this is "definitely the best camp" he's ever had and he's not the least bit fazed by Smith or the competition. But his tone noticeably turns serious when Smith -- or "The Decision" -- is the topic of conversation.

"We're coming down the stretch here, so I'm sure a decision will be made here soon," Sanchez said when asked about the importance of Saturday's game on the competition. "Other than that, I don't know."

There is no added pressure, Sanchez said, nor does he have any hard feelings about having to face off against a rookie.

"I don't care. I really don't," he said. "I've competed my whole life and I'm ready to play."

And so is Smith.

But while fans and the media will be watching his every step -- and throw -- Saturday night, Smith cautioned that the state of the quarterback competition doesn't rest solely on this one performance. Good or bad.

"They evaluate me on a daily basis, not just in one game," he said. "It's not only on the practice field, but it's in the classroom, it's the way I am around my peers, it's everything as a whole in order to be a leader and to be a quarterback. I don't think one game completely defines who I am, but it is important to go out there and get a good showing."

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