Rookie QB Sanchez makes statement while running Jets' first-team offense

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Mark Sanchez reared back and lofted a pretty downfield pass that landed in Jerricho Cotchery's hands for a touchdown.

It was the first play of team drills Saturday and the beginning of a brilliant practice for the New York Jets' rookie quarterback.

"I put it in a place where only J-Co can get it," Sanchez said, "and he made a great adjustment for the ball."

Tale of the tape

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» Name: Mark Sanchez         Name: Kellen Clemens

» Height: 6-2 | Weight: 227  Height: 6-2 | Weight: 223

» Experience: Rookie           Experience: 3 seasons

» College: USC                     College: Oregon

Working exclusively with the Jets' first-team offense for the first time this summer, Sanchez completed 10 of 19 passes for two touchdowns and one interception. He also further solidified his edge over veteran Kellen Clemens in the team's quarterback competition.

"Every day needs to be a step forward when you get a chance to go with that first-team group," said Sanchez, who's trying to win the spot vacated when Brett Favre retired. "I thought it really showed that I was ready for that, and I took advantage of that time."

Meanwhile, Clemens struggled running the second-team offense, going 4 of 12 with no scores, one interception and two other passes that could have been picked off by defenders.

"With Sanchez getting more reps with the ones is not based on Kellen's performance, it's based on Mark's performance," new Jets coach Rex Ryan said.

Sanchez, the No. 5 overall pick in the April draft, has looked extremely confident running the offense, and he showed the poise of a veteran Saturday, particularly in two-minute drills near the end of practice.

"The rook doesn't make the same mistake twice," linebacker Bart Scott said. "He throws a solid ball and he gets the ball out of his hands quick."

Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer decided Friday night that Sanchez would get the snaps with the first-team offense and then work with the second team in the afternoon practice.

"I couldn't even sleep," Sanchez said, laughing. "It was awesome. Looking over the script a million times, trying to get everything right, so I'm accountable to those guys, and know that when I get in there, those are very important reps."

The quarterbacks will alternate work with the first- and second-team offenses from this point, although Ryan already has decided that Clemens -- listed at No. 1 on the Jets' depth chart -- will start Friday's preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams.

"I think we've laid a very good foundation, but we're only a week in," Clemens said. "Obviously, we've got another week to get ready for St. Louis."

Clemens hasn't looked awful, but he hasn't been particularly impressive, either. And that's not good for a quarterback who's entering his fourth season in the same offensive system. Through 11 practices, Clemens has thrown seven interceptions in 11-on-11 drills compared to Sanchez's three.

"Kellen's doing well," Ryan said. "Does he wish he had a couple of throws back? Sure. I think everybody does."

This is Clemens' third competition since the Jets drafted him in the second round out of Oregonin 2006. As a rookie, he competed with Chad Pennington, Brooks Bollinger and Patrick Ramsey for the job that went to Pennington. Clemens also was in a close competition with Pennington last summer until the Jets traded for Favre.

"We'll just continue to improve," Clemens said. "That's the goal individually and collectively, just to continue improving each day."

Ryan said he'd like to decide on a starter for the season by the third preseason game, and Sanchez is doing all he can to make that decision an easy one.

"I think he's starting to really get the offense, it looks like," Ryan said. "He's confident -- he's always confident. He's moving around, and he's not moving around like a deer in headlights, either, like most rookies have when they see all that stuff that our defense is throwing at them. He's poised and he's obviously got the skills to throw the ball."

Cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was beaten by Cotchery on the early touchdown, has no doubt that Sanchez can start as a rookie.

"He's being a captain, he's being a leader," Revis said. "He's out there saying stuff to those guys: 'Let's get this first down. Let's move the ball,' things like that to get the offense ready to go and play."

Right tackle Damien Woody, a 10-year veteran, also liked what he saw in the huddle from Sanchez.

"The thing that really stands out is he's kind of figuring things out against our defense," Woody said. "You've got to understand, our defense is one of the most complicated schemes that you will ever see in the National Football League, and he's doing a heck of a job of identifying what's going on and making things happen. I'm sure with each day, he's getting more comfortable with the offense."

Notes: Revis was held out of the afternoon practice as a precaution with tightness in his left hamstring. ... NT Kris Jenkins (strained left calf), FB Tony Richardson (hip pointer) and S Keith Fitzhugh (bruised left rotator cuff) sat out the morning practice.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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