CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Welcome to the NFL, Mark Sanchez. Now, let's see what you can do against one of the league's toughest defenses.
The New York Jets rookie quarterback will get his first career start against Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens -- coach Rex Ryan's former team -- in a preseason Monday Night Football game on Aug. 24.
"I have my work cut out for me," Sanchez said Sunday with a laugh. "That's why it wouldn't be right of me or anyone else to make this a make-or-break game."
After all, it's still just the preseason and the Jets' quarterback competition between Sanchez and Kellen Clemens is far from being decided.
Or is it?
Ryan previously determined that Clemens would start the preseason opener against St. Louis on Friday and the quarterbacks would flip-flop against Baltimore. But after Sanchez, the fifth overall draft pick, sparkled in his debut against St. Louis on Friday, Ryan spoke glowingly of the rookie and did so again Sunday.
"I think he earned the reps with the ones and all that," Ryan said. "It might have been done on paper that way in pencil, but he had to earn it. The guy had to earn his reps, and I think he's done that. Without question, he's done that."
Sanchez came into the 23-20 loss with 28 seconds left in the first quarter and threw a 48-yard pass to David Clowney on his opening play. He completed three of four passes for 88 yards in one series that was capped by Thomas Jones' 1-yard touchdown dive.
"He actually performed like I thought he would," Ryan said of Sanchez. "He's cool, doesn't get rattled and just went in there and did a great job. He was part of the solution. He let his teammates work and, shoot, they drove it right down the field."
Sanchez, told earlier Sunday that he'd start next Monday night's game, downplayed the decision.
"It's just a matter of the rotation, though," he said. "Nothing's changed yet and it's just the way things shake out, but of course I'm excited."
Meanwhile, Clemens, entering his fourth season, was 4 of 4 for 24 yards and was sacked once -- and lost a fumble -- in two series. He was solid, but lacked the big plays or star presence that Sanchez had; the rookie received a loud ovation when he came in.
"Mark is a very talented player," Clemens said. "I'm in a competition with a guy who obviously has some pretty serious ability. I don't rank myself all that low, either."
But many fans and media believe Sanchez has already taken a significant -- and maybe insurmountable -- lead in the competition.
"I'd say the good thing about that is that it's an outsider's opinion," Clemens said. "It's an insider who's going to make the ultimate decision. Rex has the ultimate decision."
How the quarterbacks perform against the Ravens could go a long way in helping Ryan make that determination.
"Well, yeah, if you do anything against that bunch, you could move it against anybody," Ryan said. "Baltimore and Pittsburgh have been the best defenses in this league for a long time, so if we can move the ball -- and I have confidence in our offense -- but it's going to be a great challenge. It would count more than moving it against St. Louis. No disrespect to St. Louis, but they ain't the Ravens and they're not Pittsburgh."
Ryan said he hadn't yet decided how many plays or series Sanchez and Clemens would play against Baltimore. He previously has said he'd like to have a regular-season starter selected by the third preseason game against the New York Giants on Aug. 29.
"I know I want to have it done then, but I'm not saying that 100 percent it will be," he said. "I'm assuming it will. I'm not going to guarantee that I'm going to have it done at that time."
One factor in playing time next Monday will be how much of the starting offensive line is healthy. The Jets were without center Nick Mangold (right knee), right tackle Damien Woody (head) and left guard Alan Faneca (broken finger) against St. Louis.
Faneca will be sidelined for the Ravens game after having surgery to repair the middle finger on his left hand. Ryan said Faneca had "a screw or two, or four, maybe," inserted, but added that the Pro Bowl lineman will be ready when the regular season begins.
NOTES: FB Jehuu Caulcrick (left knee) is questionable for the Ravens game, but Ryan added "he probably will play." ... Stanley Daniels, who started at LG for Faneca vs. St. Louis, was excused from practice for personal reasons. ... Ryan wants his third-team units to scrimmage during practice all week to eliminate mistakes during the Rams game that he said were "embarrassing to me."