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Mark Sanchez can solidify his case for QB nod with good game against Jags

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez throws a pass during

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez throws a pass during NFL football training camp in Cortland. (Aug. 12, 2013) Credit: Hans Pennink

Mark Sanchez has outperformed Geno Smith, both on the practice field and in the Jets' preseason opener. Still, Sanchez is no closer to being named the outright starter for the regular season.

Sure, the fifth-year quarterback will get his second straight preseason start Saturday night when the Jets play the Jaguars, but only because Smith still is hobbled by a sprained ankle.

Sanchez will continue his quest to prove he's the right man for the job. And the Jets' confusing quarterback competition will rage on for another week.

There's a chance Jets fans will get a glimpse of Smith Saturday night at MetLife Stadium -- his first chance to play in front of the hometown crowd -- but coach Rex Ryan wasn't sure during a conference call with reporters Friday.

"I think we'll make that decision when we feel it's appropriate. There's no timetable," he said of whether Smith will play. "When we're comfortable with that decision, we will [make it]."

Sanchez, meanwhile, is expected to play the first half with the rest of the starters.

The Jaguars are in the midst of their own quarterback competition with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Like Sanchez, Gabbert will start for the second straight week. But Jacksonville's quarterback situation isn't as drama-filled as the Jets'.

Ryan reiterated Friday that the competition between Sanchez and Smith is far from over, adding that there still is time to make the call for their Opening Day starter. But the truth is, the Jets are running out of time to see Smith in live situations.

Sanchez was 10-for-13 for 125 yards with a touchdown pass and an opening-drive interception that was returned for a touchdown in last week's preseason loss to the Lions. And the assumption was that Smith -- 6-for-7 for 47 yards last week before spraining his right ankle -- would start Saturday night against the Jaguars. But after the rookie's "brutal" practice Wednesday, in which he threw four interceptions, Ryan said Smith's ankle wasn't "close to 100 percent."

Typically, the regular-season starter is decided before the third preseason game. That way, the starters have an opportunity to play together through three quarters of that third game before sitting out the final preseason game.

Sanchez offered a curt "I don't know" when asked this week if he expects the Jets to name a starter before their game against the Giants next Saturday. "That's the way they did it before, so I have no idea," he said. "It's up to John [Idzik, the general manager] and Rex."

With no assurances about his long-term status, Sanchez said his goal for Saturday night is to "just improve" on last week's performance in Detroit and to "be real sharp." If he doesn't achieve those goals, he might hear some boos.

"I certainly hope we can move past it and we can focus on what's in front of us and give -- not just Mark -- but all of us a fair shake," Ryan said. "But you certainly have the right to do whatever you choose."

The quarterback drama will garner the most attention Saturday night, but fans also will keep an eye out for Chris Ivory. After missing most of training camp with a tight hamstring, the punishing running back is expected to get a significant amount of playing time against the Jaguars if he's healthy.

If Ivory is limited, Bilal Powell likely will shoulder the load -- and that will raise even more questions about the state of the Jets' offense.

New York Sports