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Top Five Position Battles #1: Quarterback

The most talked about position battle is at quarterback. It pits the guy of the future, Mark Sanchez, against the former guy of the future, Kellen Clemens. There isn't a whole lot of doubt that Sanchez will eventually become the starting quarterback of the Jets. It is more a matter of when. Considering how much money the team invested in Mark, Clemens can at best only audition for his next team. This kind of audition can be productive, though. Just ask Drew Brees.

Handicapping the race:

Mark Sanchez has $28 million in guaranteed money. He is the face of the franchise. The Jets have little confidence in Kellen Clemens. Otherwise they would not have moved up to grab Sanchez. All of this indicates the team really wants Mark starting under center against the Texans. If the competition is even close, the Jets will look to get the rookie experience as soon as possible.

Clemens has only one way of winning the job, outplaying Sanchez by a lot. There are two possibilities. The first is that Sanchez shows himself completely unprepared to take on the pro game. Instead of throwing him to the wolves, the team might decide to nurture its prized investment. The other is for Kellen to look like a star in the making, conjuring images of his brilliant 2007 preseason. If it's clear Clemens gives the Jets a better chance to win, the rookie coach will have to go with the veteran to keep his locker room happy.

A hidden factor at play is that Clemens is playing for his career. If he has designs on being a starting quarterback in the NFL, this is probably his last chance to produce. There aren't going to be opportunities to even compete for a starting job if his resume only consists of those eight lousy starts in 2007. He'll become a career backup. If he looks like a player in 2009, he might entice some team out there with woes at the position. Drew Brees should be his role model. Brees thrived in a similar spot in San Diego. Even though the Chargers let him go, he more than landed on his feet with the Saints. It wouldn't be a bad thing for Clemens to play well enough to force the Jets into a decision. Having two talented young quarterbacks is the best "problem" any team has ever faced.

Despite the motivational factors, this job is Sanchez's to lose. The Jets want him to win it and will give him any benefit of the doubt. The other position battles we could not predict the outcome with any certainty, only handicap the race entering camp. Barring injury, Mark Sanchez is probably going to be your starting quarterback.