What the football world expected became reality Wednesday when the Jets' quarterbacks were informed that Mark Sanchez is the new starter, team sources confirmed to ESPN.
No Jets rookie started the first game of a season since Dick Jamieson started the first game in franchise history in 1960 when the Jets were known as the New York Titans.
The last Jets rookie QB to start a game was Matt Robinson on Nov. 27, 1977 at home against Pittsburgh.
So when Sanchez starts in Week 1, he'll do something even Joe Namath didn't do. Namath made his first start as a rookie in the Jets' third game of the 1965 season.
Rookie pass attempts by Jets QBs drafted in first round:
Year Quarterback Attempts
Sanchez will start the Jets' third preseason game Saturday night against the New York Giants -- and, more importantly, the team's regular-season opener at Houston against the Texans.
It wasn't a question of if Sanchez would be named the starter, but when. Even though he struggled some against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, the Jets have seen enough moxie and talent from Sanchez to make this year's fifth overall pick the face of the franchise.
The designation of Sanchez as the Jets' starter was first reported by FoxSports.com.
The Jets traded up in the draft to select Sanchez, who was signed to a five-year deal that could be worth up to $60 million, including $28 million guaranteed.
Vying to become the Jets' starter, Sanchez, drafted out of Southern California, got off to a wretched start Monday night but finished with a flourish in a 24-23 preseason loss.
Starting for the first time, Sanchez handed off the ball on the game's opening play from scrimmage. Then he forced a pass while being hit in the stomach by middle linebacker Ray Lewis. The ball was intercepted by Haloti Ngata, who rumbled 25 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0 with 52 seconds elapsed.
"Not obviously the way you want to start. I thought I was doing the right thing; I felt Ray come free on the right side from the protection," Sanchez said. "I was checking it down to the flat, perfect. Haloti just jumped right in front of the ball and made a really athletic play."
Sanchez nearly had his second pass picked off, too. On his final play, however, he threw his first NFL touchdown pass -- a 19-yarder to running back Leon Washington with 5:50 left in the second quarter.
Sanchez went 3 for 8 for 43 yards. He didn't experience success until the Ravens removed several players from the first-team defense, including Lewis and safety Ed Reed.
Jets first-year coach Rex Ryan spent the previous 10 years building the Baltimore defense, but there was no way he could fully explain to Sanchez the experience of going up against the wickedly effective unit.
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"You put a young guy like Sanchez in there and you see our defense, it can be difficult," Lewis said. "You saw his eyes get big, and he was jumping around in the pocket. Bottom line: We gave a lot of looks and disguises and we confused him a little bit."
To say the least.
"Oh, they were flying. They were flying around," Sanchez said. "You practice for it and you see it on film. These guys were doing it. You're trying to keep one eye on Ed Reed and one eye on Ray Lewis and a D-lineman gets you."
Clemens, who started New York's other exhibition game, was 5 for 10 for 60 yards. Like Sanchez, he had an interception returned for a touchdown and threw a TD pass (a 28-yarder to David Clowney in the third quarter).
Sanchez finally started to move the offense on his final drive Monday night. A short pass to Washington on a third-and-12 went for 16 yards, and a run by Washington for 15 yards on a third-and-10 set up the TD pass.
"I'm proud of the way he responded," Ryan said of Sanchez. "It ain't going to be perfect; sometimes you have these type of nights. You've got to give credit where credit is due, and most of that goes to their defense."
Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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