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Is Jets' Q. B Competition Really Open?

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 08:12 AM

http://www.northjersey.com/sports/jets/44653592.html

Is Jets' QB competition really open?
Sunday, May 10, 2009 NorthJersey.com
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After being drafted by the Jets, Mark Sanchez called his new teammate, Kellen Clemens, later that evening.

It was the first of what likely will be many conversations between the two in the coming months. The question is which of the two quarterbacks eventually will be carrying a clipboard during those chats.

As offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer recently indicated, Clemens has a three-year head start over Sanchez in terms of his experience in the Schottenheimer's offense. But that advantage might not be nearly enough to enable the fourth-year veteran to hold off the matinee-idol rookie, whose "buzz" factor already is just about off the charts.

When Clemens met with reporters last week for the first time since Sanchez was drafted, he exuded the same confidence he had three weeks earlier, when he was competing with former undrafted free agent Brett Ratliff.

Clemens hardly seemed like a beaten man, saying "I expect to be under center opening day in Houston.

"In speaking with coach [Rex] Ryan, it's an open competition," Clemens said. "I'm going to get a fair shot at the starting job."

But will he? Only Ryan knows the answer. As Baltimore's defensive coordinator last season, Ryan watched rookie Joe Flacco win the starting job by default when veterans Kyle Boller (shoulder) and Troy Smith (tonsillitis) weren't ready for opening day. Ryan said earlier this month he knew last spring that Flacco was the best QB on the Baltimore roster.

While Flacco performed more than creditably in helping the Ravens reach the AFC final, his stats weren't exactly the stuff of legend. He threw 14 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, and his passer rating of 80.3 was 22nd in the NFL among quarterbacks with enough attempts to qualify. Among quarterbacks whose teams made the postseason, only Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (80.1) and Minnesota's Gus Frerotte (73.7) had lower ratings. Flacco benefited from a tough defense that finished second in the NFL in total defense and third in points allowed.

Overall 2008 No. 1 pick Matt Ryan had better numbers in leading Atlanta to the playoffs, throwing 16 touchdowns and 11 picks and getting a rating of 87.7. So in the copycat league that is the NFL, starting rookie quarterbacks could become even more popular than the Wildcat formation.

But even Sanchez knows all that might be a blip on the screen.

"I think it raised a lot of other people's expectations of a rookie quarterback," Sanchez said of what Ryan and Flacco accomplished. "They were really anomalies among rookies. ... They would be the first to say that they had a ton of help. For me to be successful this year for this team to be successful, it's about the defense playing well, playing well on special teams and the return game and the offense moving the ball efficiently."

If nothing else, Clemens believes it will be a friendly competition, although certainly intense.

"He's a great dude," Clemens said of Sanchez. "He's obviously a very talented quarterback. I think it will be a good working relationship between he and I. I'll certainly try to be as helpful to him as Chad [Pennington] was to me."

Clemens just hopes he won't be the one with the clipboard.

After being drafted by the Jets, Mark Sanchez called his new teammate, Kellen Clemens, later that evening.

It was the first of what likely will be many conversations between the two in the coming months. The question is which of the two quarterbacks eventually will be carrying a clipboard during those chats.

As offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer recently indicated, Clemens has a three-year head start over Sanchez in terms of his experience in the Schottenheimer's offense. But that advantage might not be nearly enough to enable the fourth-year veteran to hold off the matinee-idol rookie, whose "buzz" factor already is just about off the charts.

When Clemens met with reporters last week for the first time since Sanchez was drafted, he exuded the same confidence he had three weeks earlier, when he was competing with former undrafted free agent Brett Ratliff.

Clemens hardly seemed like a beaten man, saying "I expect to be under center opening day in Houston.

"In speaking with coach [Rex] Ryan, it's an open competition," Clemens said. "I'm going to get a fair shot at the starting job."

But will he? Only Ryan knows the answer. As Baltimore's defensive coordinator last season, Ryan watched rookie Joe Flacco win the starting job by default when veterans Kyle Boller (shoulder) and Troy Smith (tonsillitis) weren't ready for opening day. Ryan said earlier this month he knew last spring that Flacco was the best QB on the Baltimore roster.

While Flacco performed more than creditably in helping the Ravens reach the AFC final, his stats weren't exactly the stuff of legend. He threw 14 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, and his passer rating of 80.3 was 22nd in the NFL among quarterbacks with enough attempts to qualify. Among quarterbacks whose teams made the postseason, only Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (80.1) and Minnesota's Gus Frerotte (73.7) had lower ratings. Flacco benefited from a tough defense that finished second in the NFL in total defense and third in points allowed.

Overall 2008 No. 1 pick Matt Ryan had better numbers in leading Atlanta to the playoffs, throwing 16 touchdowns and 11 picks and getting a rating of 87.7. So in the copycat league that is the NFL, starting rookie quarterbacks could become even more popular than the Wildcat formation.

But even Sanchez knows all that might be a blip on the screen.

"I think it raised a lot of other people's expectations of a rookie quarterback," Sanchez said of what Ryan and Flacco accomplished. "They were really anomalies among rookies. ... They would be the first to say that they had a ton of help. For me to be successful this year for this team to be successful, it's about the defense playing well, playing well on special teams and the return game and the offense moving the ball efficiently."

If nothing else, Clemens believes it will be a friendly competition, although certainly intense.

"He's a great dude," Clemens said of Sanchez. "He's obviously a very talented quarterback. I think it will be a good working relationship between he and I. I'll certainly try to be as helpful to him as Chad [Pennington] was to me."

Clemens just hopes he won't be the one with the clipboard.
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