The Buffalo Bills will not get the expected benefit of facing inexperienced New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy in Sunday’s season finale at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
McElroy was ruled out Thursday due to a concussion, so the Jets named Mark Sanchez as starter.
Sanchez was benched just a week ago due to poor play. He threw four interceptions in a 14-10 loss to Tennessee. Nevertheless, Sanchez is 5-1 in his career against the Bills and passed for 266 yards in a 48-28 rout of Buffalo in the season opener.
McElroy made his first start last week and was sacked 11 times in a 27-17 loss to San Diego. McElroy took the snaps as the starter Wednesday but experienced headaches Thursday morning, Jets coach Rex Ryan said. Ryan said McElroy “wasn’t exactly truthful” about concussion symptoms he had experienced since the San Diego game.
“We have two practices and one walk-through before the game, and Mark’s very familiar with the Bills,” Ryan said before the Jets’ Thursday practice. “That’s the reason I’m going with Mark.”
Tim Tebow will serve as the No. 2 QB versus the Bills. Tebow missed the Jets’ 11th, 12th and 13th games because of a rib injury. He was on the field for only eight snaps in the 14th game, against Tennessee. He did not play against San Diego. Tebow has just 32 rush attempts and eight pass attempts this season.
“Obviously he’s not happy with that, as you’d expect,” Ryan said of Tebow’s reaction to the decision to start Sanchez.
Sanchez ranks 33rd among NFL QBs in passer rating (67.9) and 32nd in completion percentage (54.8). He’s tied for the second most interceptions in the league, with 17. Against Buffalo over the past three seasons, he has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Bills safety Jairus Byrd seemed to take his failure to make the AFC Pro Bowl roster in stride.
“It’s all good,” Byrd said about being left off the three-man safety roster for the NFL’s all-star game. Byrd’s five interceptions are tied for the AFC lead with New England safety Devin McCourty, who didn’t make the team either.
The AFC representatives were Baltimore’s Ed Reed, who made his ninth Pro Bowl, Kansas City’s Eric Berry and the Jets’ LaRon Landry.
Bills strong safety George Wilson pondered Byrd’s future while explaining Pro Bowl politics.
“Byrd has been a playmaker for us,” Wilson said. “He’ll continue to be a playmaker for us or wherever free agency takes him, whether it’s here or elsewhere. He’ll continue to make plays. That’s what he’s always done.
“You want guys back, but you never know what’s going to happen,” Wilson said. “You don’t know what to expect. You have to wait and see.”
The Bills will have the final say on whether Byrd comes back, and it’s hard to imagine he would not be with the team next season. Buffalo can apply the franchise tag to him, guaranteeing he would play next season for the average of the top five salaries at safety over the past five seasons. That figure is expected to be $6.8 million for 2013.
“The Pro Bowl a lot of times is a popularity contest,” Wilson said. “I think it hurts you when you play in a small market, especially when you’re not winning. Ed Reed is on a playoff team. It just goes to show it’s popularity and getting wins.”
“I think the true test of the cream of the crop at each position comes from the All-Pro teams that are voted on by the writers, people that watch the game from an analytical standpoint rather than being fans or thinking of name recognition,” Wilson said.
The only Bills who did not practice Thursday were receiver Ruvell Martin, excused for personal reasons, and safety Da’Norris Searcy, out with a groin injury. Defensive end Mark Anderson (knee) was limited but probably will not be ready for Sunday. All the other Bills on the injury report are expected to play. Tight end Dorin Dickerson (ankle), who will be counted upon for plenty of snaps since Scott Chandler is out, was able to work much of practice, and Gailey was optimistic he will be ready.
Jets starters who did not practice were tight end Dustin Keller (ankle), receiver Chaz Schilens (knee), linebacker Bryan Thomas (chest), and Landry (heel, hamstring).
The Bills are looking for snow shovelers to help dig out the stadium today. Fans can go to Gates 7 and 8. They must be 17 or older and present photo identification. The work pays $10 an hour.
News reporter Tim Graham contributed to this report.