In recent weeks, QB Mark Sanchez has evolved from being a game manager to a downfield passing threat, winning consecutive overtime games with big throws in Weeks Nine and 10. The Jets still want to be a run-first team, but according to the team's backup quarterback, 18th-year pro Mark Brunell, Sanchez's development has accelerated as his mobility and leadership qualities have improved as the season has progressed.
Brunell, who knows a thing or two about the benefits of being a mobile QB, said Sanchez's improved footwork allows for his instincts to take over when he's under pressure and keep plays alive.
"It's a double-edged sword because moving around and buying some time and getting out of the pocket can certainly help, and it has helped Mark, but it also hurts you, too, if you're not careful with the ball and you're not making good use of your legs," Brunell told PFW. "It's him just being smart, keeping plays alive, making nice passes, and what's important is that when those guys are coming after you, ball security is important. Fortunately, Mark's feet have really helped our football team and put us in position to win some games."
Sanchez has always been an athletic player, but recently he's been putting those skills to better use. A play in overtime of the Week 10 win vs. Cleveland highlighted that. Rushed from his left, Sanchez first stepped up in the pocket before sprinting back and rolling around to the left, all while keeping his eyes downfield. The perseverance paid off when Sanchez found a hobbling Jerricho Cotchery across the middle, and the receiver made a diving catch for a 10-yard gain and a first down.
Another aspect of being a quarterback is being a team leader, something that Sanchez struggled with as a rookie in 2009. New York coaches wanted that to change this year, so Brunell instituted a policy where the starter was to be fined for any poor body language shown on the field.
"Just being poised, controlled, composed," Brunell said. "A little bit last year and at the beginning of this year, Mark had the tendency to keep his head down, he was kind of down, his body language wasn't good. So we worked on that, and I'll tell you what, he's been solid the last few weeks.
"He hasn't paid a dime, though."