Edwards has been around Smith for only a couple of days, but he said Friday that the rookie has a serious approach that reminds him of a former Seattle Seahawks teammate -- Russell Wilson. A lofty comparison, to be sure.
"It's going to be a battle," Edwards said of the Jets' quarterback competition. "Mark can't make mistakes like he has in the past. Things have to be legit with Mark for him to be the starter because he has a legit guy knocking at the back door."
The showdown began for real Friday, the first day of practice.
Before a relatively small crowd at SUNY Cortland, both quarterbacks got off to a nice start, neither committing a turnover and Smith showing off a big arm.
Edwards was impressed. He has been around several rookie quarterbacks in his 10 seasons, including Sanchez (2009) and the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick (2011), and he said Smith has Wilson-like intangibles.
"Russell was a maniac when it came to studying film, breaking down film and asking questions," Edwards said. "Russell was a beast at that. That's what I see potentially in Geno, how he comes in the huddle, how he asks questions in meetings. He's right there with Mark."
Smith has a ways to go, especially with his grasp of Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast system. At West Virginia, Smith was used almost exclusively in shotgun, so this is a big transition. There were a couple of hiccups in practice.
"He didn't have the greatest practice -- don't get me wrong -- but you can tell with his attitude he's not just happy to be in the NFL. He's not happy to be backing up Mark Sanchez," Edwards said. "He's here to start. You can tell with his leadership."
Smith was pleased with his Day 1 performance.
"It felt pretty good. Things went smoothly," he said.
He joked that he's never at a loss for confidence. On Thursday, the second-round pick said his goal is to become one of the best quarterbacks in history.
The Jets would be happy if he ends up being the best quarterback in Cortland. After four seasons of Sanchez, who committed a league-high 52 turnovers in 2011 and 2012, the organization wouldn't mind a fresh start -- if Smith is up to it.
Coach Rex Ryan, whose job could be riding on the decision, raved about Smith's arm strength.
"He can throw it with anybody -- maybe not anybody," Ryan said. "I don't know if he can throw it with [Jay] Cutler or if he can throw it with the kid in Detroit [Matthew Stafford], but I know one thing: He can throw it. He's got a really live arm. There's no doubt."
Smith worked with the backups, but he'll get a chance to lead the starting offense, as per the quarterback rotation. Ryan declined to say when he expects to name a starter, but it figures to be after two preseason games.
Sanchez has been outspoken in his belief that he'll win the job, and he came away from Friday feeling no different.
"I thought I did well," he said. "I felt sharp, I felt accurate, and I felt good with my checks."
Sanchez said the notion of losing to Smith hasn't crossed his mind.
"I don't even think like that," he said. "I don't think about not winning the job. That's just the way I am. I'm pretty optimistic."