The Jets traded up in the draft to take Mark Sanchez fifth overall and handed him a five-year, $60 million contract with $28 million guaranteed, but new coach Rex Ryan said Kellen Clemens will be the starting quarterback to open training camp.
“Kellen Clemens will be No. 1 (on the depth chart), (Mark) Sanchez will be two and (Erik) Ainge will be three,” Ryan said as the Jets reported to camp in Cortland, N.Y. “There is going to be a competition. Clemens going in will get the first reps, and Sanchez will get twos.”
Though Clemens will begin camp atop the depth chart, Ryan made clear that the three-year NFL veteran is by no means guaranteed to stay in that spot.
“We are going to give Sanchez the chance to be with the ones as well,” Ryan said. “I would say that it will be an open competition. We will evaluate them every day. We’ll see how it progresses throughout the summer.”
As for his part, Clemens said he is just working hard to try to win the job.
“At the end of the day, this is a business that is concentrated on one thing, and that is winning football games,” Clemens said. “The Jets are going to put the best players out there at every position that are going to help us win football games, regardless of pay.”
Clemens has been the Jets’ starting quarterback another time. He replaced an injured Chad Pennington midway through the 2007 season and started eight games that year. But Clemens struggled in that stint, throwing twice as many interceptions (10) as touchdowns (5) and completing just 52 percent of his passes, and the Jets were 3-5 in those games.
Last season, Clemens threw just five passes in backup duty after losing the starting job to Brett Favre, whom the Jets traded for during training camp.
When Favre retired in the offseason, Clemens was once again thrust into the spotlight, but he will face a tough battle in trying to hold off Sanchez.
Guard Alan Faneca, who was with the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger played as a rookie in 2004 and led Pittsburgh to a 15-1 season, said the best player will win the competition in New York. Faneca did point out, however, that it’s tough to come in as a rookie quarterback and play right away in the NFL.
“I think if it is Mark, he has got a little bit to learn as far as the game itself with the NFL, just like every other rookie,” Faneca said. “That’s a hard position to do it.”