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Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith need to protect football vs. Detroit, says Rex Ryan

Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith participate in team

Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith participate in team OTAs at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. (June 5, 2013) Credit: James Escher

CORTLAND – It’s clear both Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith will each get first-team reps with the offense Friday in Detroit. But what remains to be seen is how each quarterback handles the pressure of the Lions front seven.

“The big thing is going to be taking that rush,” Rex Ryan said Tuesday, when asked what he’s hoping to see from his two QBs in their preseason opener. “We know Detroit really rushes the passer. …This is going to be good. We’ll see how guys react to it. We’ve got to protect the football and we’ve got to be smart for with the football. Si I think that’ll be a good test.”

Not only does Sanchez have a history of poor decision-making over the past two seasons, but the fifth-year QB also has four interceptions in team drills so far in camp. Smith has faltered some of late – throwing his first INT in 11-on-11s on Tuesday. With the rookie under pressure, cornerback Ellis Lankster (who also happened to play collegiate ball at West Virginia) picked off a fourth-and-long pass from Smith.

“That’s part of the message,” Ryan said of the importance of ball security against the Lions. “But we also want to be aggressive and take our shots down the field. But be particularly smart in the red zone.”

MEGA-BATTLE: It’s true, all eyes will be on Sanchez and Smith during Friday’s game. But there’s another highly-anticipated matchup Ryan is dying to see: Megatron vs. MegaCorner (aka, Lions wideout Calvin Johnson vs. Jets No. 1 cornerback Antonio Cromartie).

“That’ll be a fun matchup, now,” said Ryan. “Let’s see: you’ve got Megatron vs. the MegaCorner. That’ll be a great matchup to watch. Who knows how many plays it’ll be for.

“You’ve got Reggie Bush,” he joked, in reference to the Lions running back. “I won’t say we’re going to put hot sauce on him. Reggie, I don’t want to offend you.”

Detroit features five tight ends who are 6-foot-5 or taller – and Brandon Pettigrew just happens to be the best out of the bunch. “Where do they grow these kids?” Ryan asked. “That guy’s huge and fast. And, oh by the way,” he said of quarterback Matthew Stafford’s arm strength, “(he) can throw a strawberry through a battleship.”

GET AFTER THE QUARTERBACK: The Jets are sticking to their plan of using second-year defensive lineman Quinton Coples at outside linebacker. Now, how many reps he gets at each position remains to be seen, said Ryan. “’Well, your down and distance,” Rex said, when asked about Coples practicing with the D-line a lot. “When you’re looking at a two-minute situation you can play him outside or inside, that’s the kind of flexibility he has, that he gives you, as a play caller. Absolutely, he’ll do both. He’ll work outside, he’ll work inside. Today he worked a lot of inside.”

INJURY FRONT: Ryan had no post-practice updates on Vidal Hazelton, but it’s assumed the wide receiver will miss the rest of the season with a right ACL tear. Hazelton suffered the leg injury during practice drills Tuesday and had to be helped to his feet by two trainers. He later was driven off the field and into the locker room.

RB Chris Ivory “keeps talking like he wants to” play in Friday’s preseason game, but Ryan hinted there’s a strong possibility Ivory won’t suit up given the amount of practice time he’s missed.

“You’re excited to see him out there. I think we all are,” the coach said of the running back, who has practiced just once since the team arrived to camp on July 25. “iHere’s a big back, three percent body fat. He’s a pounder when he runs the football. But again, I’ll lean on (head trainer) John (Mellody) and our training staff. When they say it’s time, that he’s good to go, then he’ll be good to go. But until that time, it’s not that I question, ‘Oh, he’s not tough.’ No. That’s not it. When he’s cleared to go, he’s going to go.”

TE Kellen Winslow (knee/pitch count) practiced and is expected to play Friday. As of now, it’s unclear if WR Braylon Edwards, who also is on a pitch count, will face the Lions. He sat out Tuesday’s practice. 

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