(Sports Network) - Mark Sanchez will get the first opportunity to hold serve is his quarterback duel with rookie Geno Smith when the New York Jets open their preseason slate in the Motor City against the Detroit Lions.
Those back-to-back trips to the AFC Championship Game in Sanchez's first two NFL seasons are now just distant memories for the Jets, a team which will enter the 2013 season as one of the least talented in all of football.
The embattled Sanchez is getting one final chance to prove he can be the answer at quarterback for New York but with Smith, the former West Virginia star, on hand his leash figures to be short.
"Yeah (it factors in)," Jets coach Rex Ryan said when talking about Sanchez's past success, "but I know all about the turnovers. I know about the goods and the bads. So, there (have) been great moments, (there have) been bad moments. We'll start right now. Somebody has to take the first snap, and to me, it is going to be a fair competition, a fair and open competition. Mark has had a good camp. He's had a good training camp, as has Geno. But being the incumbent, I don't think anyone would have been surprised that Mark would be the first quarterback in the first preseason game."
Smith believes he is still in the hunt, however.
"The reps have been split," the second-round draft choice said. "That's kind of the way practices have been going. My job is just to take care of my reps that come on Friday. I don't have any reaction towards (Sanchez starting), the competition is still open. I'm just continuing to work and to grow."
Other areas to assess for with the Jets include cornerback where rookie Dee Milliner, who is struggling with a calf injury, will be asked to fill some very big shoes (Darrelle Revis), right tackle, a position where Austin Howard allowed 13 1/2 sacks last season, and left outside linebacker where the pedestrian Antwan Barnes and second-year man Quinton Coples are currently competing.
In Detroit this is a make or break year for Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
A dismal 4-12 season had Detroit in all too familiar territory this spring, mulling a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft. The Lions thought they put that kind of thing behind them after a 2011 playoff appearance but things went off the rails pretty quickly last year and it's imperative Schwartz turns things around.
Cleaning up the mental mistakes and all the pre-snap penalties would go a long way in curing the woes of Detroit's talented offense, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009, and All-World receiver Calvin Johnson, the second selection in the '07 draft.
Add in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the second pick in the 2010 draft, and this year's No. 5 selection, DE Ziggy Ansah, from the other side of the ball and you see Detroit has far too much experience picking in the top 10 along with way too much talent to be doing so again.
"They are always important," Stafford told the Lions' website when talking about preseason games. "Anytime you play and put the uniform on gameday you want to come away with a win. I think it's important for the veterans to start fast."