On the first day of what will surely be many, many months of Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow quarterbacking comparisons leading up to the regular season— Sanchez outplayed Tebow on day one of their first head-to-head competition open to the media.
While the New York Jets held their third OTA Thursday morning, it was the first look at the Tebow-Sanchez dynamic on the football field with both of them wearing Jets helmets.
Tebow worked with the second team just as the Jets said he would and took reps as the No. 2 quarterback behind the incumbent Sanchez. He was also used on special teams, as the personal protector on the punt team— something he did on Monday for the first time.
At the quarterback spot, some of Tebow's passes came out a little high. He was picked off on consecutive passes in 7-on-7 drills, by Bart Scott and new Jets safety Yeremiah Bell. Tebow finished 6-for-8 in the nine snaps he took in 11-on-11 team drills.
Most reporters thought Sanchez looked a little sharper and was the better quarterback on the field. His first three passes during 11-on-11s were incomplete, but that included a couple of drops by his receivers. Sanchez did throw a 75-yard touchdown to Stephen Hill— who beat Kyle Wilson on coverage. Sanchez finished 7-of-14 during the 11-on11 drills.
Sanchez probably felt more pressure to play well today so he can establish himself as the starter and not just someone hanging on to his job. He sounded pretty relaxed about the scrutiny after practice.
"[Tebow's] popularity drives a lot of that," said Sanchez. "At the same time, I wouldn't be in this position if I couldn't handle it. And I'm prepared for it."
The fourth-year quarterback shrugged off the added media attention this off season.
"We've been to the playoffs around here," he said. "We know what it 's like to have different media outlets. When you get a guy as popular as Tim it's just natural. It's good exposure for our team."
Tebow was less steady. Maybe because his old college coach Urban Meyer was watching from the sidelines.
"Absolutely (it) had a competitive vibe," said Tebow. "It was a lot of fun. I feel like we have a very good pace. We're getting in and out of the huddle... getting a lot of plays off, which is something coach Sparano stresses. So we want to have a good tempo. I feel like we're very competitive."
It's early but the first day's tally is Sanchez-1, Tebow-0. Keep your scorecards handy.