The preseason hope in New York was that QB Mark Sanchez would take the Year Three jump. We knew coming into the season that Sanchez had proved he could win big games with his poise under pressure, but the way he was talked about, it seemed the team believed he could become the type of signalcaller who could put a team on his back.
Unfortunately for the Jets, not only has that not happened, but it appears Sanchez has taken a step back.
We hear that, internally, the Jets know that their best chance to win is through defense, special teams, running the football and a conservative passing attack. Sanchez may have been throwing more than usual earlier this season, but don't expect the Jets to start opening things up again.
A few things that Sanchez can't control haven't helped. A new right tackle, Wayne Hunter, has had his struggles, and Sanchez was without his All-Pro center, Nick Mangold, for 2½ games.
He also is working with two brand-new receivers — Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Kerley, not to mention this is only his second season with Santonio Holmes. In addition, the run game hasn't lived up to its potential, putting Sanchez in less-than-favorable spots.
The first quarter has been a big problem for Sanchez and the Jets' offense. They didn't get a first down until late in the second quarter of their Week Six win over the Dolphins. In the first quarter this season, Sanchez has thrown a touchdown and two picks and has a 72.8 quarterback rating. In the fourth quarter, where we've seen Sanchez thrive, he has four TDs, no INTs and a 98.5 QB rating.
The coaching staff is well aware of the disparity.
"We know, for whatever reason, we need to find a way to get rid of that first quarter and try to figure out how to tell him, 'Hey, it's the fourth quarter and we're trailing,' " said head coach Rex Ryan. "He always plays better that way, it seems."
With the Jets clearly putting more emphasis on the run, which takes the pressure off Sanchez, he should improve. One thing we've seen more of this year could also help — running plays out of the shotgun. Through six games, Sanchez has already attempted 109 passes from the formation and has a 97.5 QB rating. Last season, he had 221 total attempts from the shotgun.
The Jets know that Sanchez is not an elite quarterback, and although they need to do a better job around him, he needs to pick his game up, as well.
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