FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' cover boy was well covered by his new defensive teammates.
Mark Sanchez, razzed for his steamy photo shoot for GQ magazine that hit newsstands earlier this week, struggled mightily Thursday in his third practice with the veterans. The fifth overall draft pick was off-target for much of the session during 11-on-11 drills while working with the second-team offense.
"Today was a good day ... for the defense," Sanchez said with a laugh.
Sanchez, competing with veteran Kellen Clemens for the starting job, had mixed results in his first week with the veterans.
"He had an excellent second day, let's start with the good," coach Rex Ryan said. "The bad was the first day and the ugly was part of today. We're kind of throwing him to the wolves."
And Sanchez started the feeding frenzy himself after posing for some photos for the current issue of GQ, including his bare-chested shot with supermodel Hilary Rhoda. Another included the former Southern California star running along a beach in a red lifeguard swimsuit.
"I sure lobbed one up for them to hit it right out of the park," Sanchez said, laughing. "It was good. They had some good pictures up in the locker room. It was funny. They called me David Hasselhoff and all that."
Sanchez said the shoot took place about two months ago -- before the draft -- and addressed the perception that maybe he's spreading himself too thin.
"I understand that," Sanchez said. "It was one of those things where you're getting ready to get drafted and it's almost like a bucket list kind of deal, like you're going to do a photo shoot with a supermodel? Are you kidding me? It's one of those things where you've got to."
Left guard Alan Faneca said one of the photos is being used as a screen saver in the offensive unit meeting room.
"Oh, yeah. We've been giving him a hard time," Faneca said.
"Initially, as a guy, a lot of guys are going to get jealous and say, 'Yeah, those pictures were airbrushed,"' wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said with a chuckle. "That's a GQ thing and he's got his Cali thing going, so I'm not going to hate on him."
Cotchery added that there's no shortage of copies of pictures floating around.
"I think we had some exclusive pictures and he got roasted that first day," Cotchery said. "He's kind of figuring out what it's like to be in this locker room. Guys were bringing in pictures from everywhere and they're posted up everywhere in this training facility right now."
Linebacker Calvin Pace also joked about the photos, but was impressed by how Sanchez has handled himself.
"He's got thick skin," Pace said. "And, that's good for a quarterback."
Especially after a performance like Sanchez had Thursday. Late in practice, Sanchez threw a pass over the middle that sailed high and out of the reach of a receiver. The always vocal Bart Scott didn't miss a chance to get on the rookie.
"You're going to get somebody killed, Sanchez!" the linebacker yelled.
"For a rookie playing against this defense, you can't ask for anything better," said Sanchez, who was intercepted by Eric Smith on one poorly thrown toss. "They're tough, they're fast, they know exactly what they're doing and they know I'm not quite up to speed yet. It was a tough day, but that's what these days are all about."
Sanchez said he's adjusting to the speed of playing in the NFL, even if it's just organized team activities.
"I think a lot of the passes and the pass concepts, the reads, your progressions and things like that are very similar (to college)," Sanchez said. "So I feel good in 7-on-7s and things like that. I feel really good. But once you get into the run game and protections, there's just so much more."
Meanwhile, Clemens outplayed Sanchez in this practice -- and that included several drops by receivers.
"I solved a little bit of what (the defense) put in and then they just put more in," said Clemens, entering his fourth season. "You're always a step behind the 8-ball. It's really good for us to go against a defense like this because you won't see many fronts, schemes or philosophies on Sundays that we haven't gone against during the week. It will make us better on Sundays."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press