The New York Jets say they're a closer team than a year ago. You could point to several reasons, starting with more continuity on the roster and the addition-by-subtraction departures of Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie. But there's something else and, like a lot of things in the NFL, it involves the quarterback position.

Without a doubt, the Geno Smith-Michael Vick chemistry is better than the Smith-Mark Sanchez dynamic. A year ago, Smith and Sanchez were engaged in a fiercely competitive battle for the starting job. There was no outward animosity between the two, but they weren't the best of buds, either. They were in difference places in their careers, Sanchez desperately trying to reclaim what he lost, Smith trying to validate the organization's faith in him as The New Chosen One.

"It was tense," guard Willie Colon told Wednesday after the Jets' final open practice in Cortland. "It was tense."

That tension was felt throughout the locker room. At times, it created a walking-on-eggshells vibe. Some of the older veterans were loyal to Sanchez, who was often spotted around Cortland with those same players -- some of whom recognized that Smith was being fast-tracked for their friend's old job. It was a weird deal. When the Jets broke camp last summer, they had no idea who'd be behind center. That's not a good thing for a team.

The landscape changed, of course, when Sanchez was injured in the third preseason game. He was the likely opening-day starter, but there would've been a short leash. The organization preferred Smith, who got the job by default. If it weren't for the injury, it had the makings of a full-blown quarterback controversy. As it turned out, Sanchez wasn't around the team as he recovered from shoulder surgery, allowing Smith to endure his growing pains amid peace and quiet.