Note: I am considering making this a regular feature during the NFL season. Let me know what you think.
When the first all out blitz came from the Ravens, Jet QB Mark Sanchez put the ball up for grabs. Ray Lewis came in untouched and caused the Int. The Raven D linemen Haloti Ngata caught it and ran it 25 yards for a TD. I was thinking about John Madden. As he said in the movie The Replacements, he loved to see a big guy score.
There was almost a second interception when IB Lewis caught Sanchez staring down his receiver. In part because he had been so rattled by the blitzes he never took his eyes off his intended target. Again, the ball never got there because it ended up in Lewis’ hands. Lewis dropped it or it would have been the second D TD for the Ravens. At that point, Sanchez was probably wondering where the red no tackle jersey was.
The problem is in part the same increase in speed that every rookie QB goes through coming into the NFL from college. But with Sanchez there is another issue at work as well—He just doesn’t have enough experience playing QB. Sanchez sat for a year behind Matt Leinart then 2 years behind John David Booty. Leinart was a 1st round pick but Booty was a 5th round after thought of the Vikings.
The history of QBs in the NFL is littered with those that played only one year. The most obvious was the 1999 3rd overall choice by Cincinnati of Akili Smith of Oregon. Smith started only one year for the Ducks and went from undrafted rookie camp invitee to the 3rd pick in the first round. He never worked out in part because he didn’t have the experience or patents to learn the offense. The one thing we can say about Sanchez is that he has patents. He waited for 3 years as USC.
Sanchez has improved a little in his 4 months as a pro. He looked good against the Rams in his first action of the preseason. But the Rams D is bad and he was going against their 2nd and 3rd team guys. Most of those guys will be learning key phrases for their future profession like “would you like fries with that?”
A couple of things that Sanchez is doing now he was not doing as a USC starter. Perhaps the most important is that he is holding the ball much higher as he drops to find a receiver. That is critical because it reduces the time between him finding a potential target and getting rid of the ball. His release has been improved by better mechanics.
He is accurate on the move when he finds someone to throw to. As Sanchez was being chased to the sideline he found a WR open and got the ball to former Missouri QB Brad Smith. The completion was called back for Smith interfering with the DB.
The lack of experience shows the most in his inability to make quick reads of the coverage. There are a lot of blitzes and combinations of man and zone coverage he has not seen before. All young QBs are easily confused. One that has only one year of starting in college is particularly behind. He goes down in part because he is watching the blitz rather than looking down field for a receiver.
I do like the improvement in his footwork. Like all young QBs, at USC, Sanchez tended to have happy feet. He would not set his feet before he threw the ball. He is doing better with the Jets. He showed a couple of happy feet dances when the rush was coming close. But on a TD throw under some pressure, he set his feet and drilled the ball to Washington for the score.
OVERALL: Sanchez is going to be OK. I am not sure he will ever become a dominant QB that would justify the 4th overall pick. He has a lot to learn. The entire organization is new and has some time to turn the fortunes of the Jets around. We all are sure that the other QBs on the Jets can not lead them to a Super Bowl. Because the Jets have a good O line, I would put Sanchez in and let him learn on the job. I have never been a big fan of how much better a QB gets holding the clipboard. Whether he starts or not, the Jets will take a step back in overall record. But they will be better off in the long run. The Colts didn’t win much when Payton Manning was a rookie starter either but that has worked out pretty well.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .