Continued from page 1

Smith realizes he has a lot of work to do to get to the point that he’s a starting quarterback in the NFL. But he’s not stopping there. He wants to develop into one of the greatest the game has seen.

“That’s my goal,” Smith said without hesitation, adding that it has been a dream of his since he was in fifth grade.

Sanchez appeared possibly on his way to being one of the Jets‘ greats with success in his first two seasons that had some comparing him to Joe Namath. He was called “The Sanchize” and expectations rose _ but his production dipped.

So much so, he was benched for the first time in his career at the end of last season _ a year defined by one play: when Sanchez fumbled after running into the backside of one of his offensive linemen in front of a Thanksgiving night national TV audience against New England.

He has tried to put all that in the past, though, and is focused on the task at hand. That, of course, is to hold on to the job that once seemed destined to be his for as long as the Jets could imagine.

“I’m confident the coaches will pick the best player,” Sanchez said. “And I’m confident in my ability to be the best player.”

Sanchez has a big fan in newly re-signed wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who was on the receiving end of some of the quarterback’s biggest throws in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. But, in his third stint with the team after playing in three games last season, Edwards wants to win.

Mark is definitely a friend of mine off the field, as well as away from the Jets, so I wish him well and I hope he can be the guy,” Edwards said. “But at the same time, I’m a Jet first. So I hope the guy that wins the job is the guy that’s going to help us prepare to the next level, the guy who is going to take us to the playoffs and get us back where we belong, hopefully even further.

“So whichever guy that is, that’s the guy I want to win.”

Smith raised some eyebrows earlier this month when he didn’t attend Sanchez’s annual “Jets West” camp with other teammates in California _ adding extra juice to what should be a heated competition. But both quarterbacks said that was much ado about nothing.

“I don’t think I need to set any record straight,” Smith said. “Everyone was invited to go, and I decided to stay home in Florida to be closer to home. I still got in good work and was able to prepare. Me and Mark, people are trying to make an issue out of that. There’s no issue there.”

Both Sanchez and Smith said they have a good working relationship, one that could be tested as one man tries to keep his job and the other tries to swipe it from him.

“I’m ready to go,” Sanchez said. “I’m ready to go compete and play my best.”