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Spotlight: Mark Sanchez

posted by Andrew Garda on Jul 19th


Andrew Garda's thoughts

When Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan took over the team; he walked into a quarterback situation which was in need of some direction. The aging Brett Favre was retiring by way of Minnesota, Chad Pennington was a middling, oft injured option and Kellen Clemens had shown some promise but flamed out in the end. With that in mind, Ryan wasted no time in drafting what he and GM Mike Tannenbaum saw as the answer to their franchise QB question: Mark Sanchez.

Two years later, and we're still waiting for a definitive answer.

Of the three quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2009 Draft, Sanchez has been largely middle of the road. Unlike Matt Stafford, Sanchez has been able to stay on the field, but he hasn't been as statistically productive as Josh Freeman. Sanchez is still fairly raw though he has certainly worked hard to improve.

The improvement has been slow in coming. In his first season, Sanchez completed 196 passes out of 363 attempts for a completion percentage of just 53.9%. While not tragic, it was far from good. In his second year, the Jets' hope was his percentage would see a significant improvement. Unfortunately, this was not the case as it merely twitched, hopping up not quite a full point to 54.8% as he completed 278 passes out of 507 attempts.

When you compare this to Freeman, who improved from 54.6% to 61.3% (almost 7% better), one might begin to feel uneasy. Going into this season, Sanchez is setting a personal goal of a 65-70% completion rate. It's a high bar, but necessary in many ways as the team needs him to become more accurate in order to reach the next level and a Super Bowl.

Sanchez did show drastic improvement in both interceptions (down to 13 in 2010 from 20 in 2009) and touchdowns (up to 17 in 2010 from 12 in 2009). So while the overall percentage is not as good as you'd like to see, he's making less destructive mistakes with the ball.

Can he take another step forward though?

It's important to remember that Sanchez has only three seasons under his belt as a starter-- one at USC and a pair as a Jet -- while the other two starting quarterbacks in his draft class had three years of starting in college before they hit the pros. Much has been made of the weapons Sanchez has around him but Stafford has Calvin Johnson while Freeman now has Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount. This is not to excuse some boneheaded decisions on the part of the former Trojan QB, but to put it in perspective. We are looking at a player who is still very much in the formative years of a career. There is plenty of criticism to be had, but also plenty to praise given his few years as a starter.

Sanchez has shown a great deal of leadership in his tenure as starting Jets QB, from organizing offseason workouts for two years (the well publicized 'Jets West'), to the hours spent in the film room and at the Jets facility, to the last minute wins he has led the team to over the past year. There's also the four road playoff wins he has compiled in just two years as a starter.

The key to Sanchez' next step in development is likely to be held by the front office and whether they can entice one or both of Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards to return. The lockout may help with that as there will be little time to weigh deals and continuity and opportunity for a ring might outweigh sheer boatloads of cash. The longer Sanchez has his main receivers, the more comfortable and effective he gets with them. As he got used to Holmes, they got into a rhythm. Another year together would only improve that, as it did with Edwards.

However, if he needs to start over with a new WR corps, it could be slow going early on as he tries to create chemistry with new targets with less offseason time than usual.

Other things to like are the solid running game which is not as heavy as it was in year one, the improving offensive line and a defense which largely keeps the team in games.

Still this all comes down to Mark Sanchez and whether he can take another big step forward. Of course, even if he does improve, it will likely not be enough for fantasy owners to depend on him as a starter. It is likely he will remain a back up albeit a more reliable one.

Positives

  • Cut down on his interceptions significantly from 2009 to 2010 and should continue to do so in 2011
  • If the Jets return both of his receivers, Sanchez will have proven chemistry with two playmakers
  • Stays cool in tough situations and can lead his team back to win

Negatives

  • Can be erratic in his decision making, even if he isn't turning the ball over, which hurts his completion percentage
  • Could lose either Holmes or Edwards--or worse, both--which leaves him with very poor WR options
  • Even though the Jets threw the ball more in 2010, it is unlikely the offense will ever go pass heavy, therefore Sanchez's numbers will always be limited

Final thoughts

Sanchez needs to improve his completion percentage radically and in order to do so, he needs to see the field better and make better decisions. Until he does that, he will always struggle to reach the potential the Jets' front office saw when they jumped up to draft him in 2009. The problem is he may lose his two best wide receivers and either have to break in new weapons or rely on some question marks like Jerricho Cotchery who us returning from injury.

On top of that, he faces a rough schedule with defenses like the Ravens, Eagles and Giants joining the ever tough Patriots. That's not to say he can't handle it, but it makes any issues with his wide receivers more worrisome.

Even if he overcomes all that, he's still in an offense which favors the run over the pass. All of these things make Sanchez a decent backup in fantasy but will prevent him from ever being a top option.

It may be that he will become a solid NFL starter, but it's unlikely he'll ever be a fantasy stud.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Sweet Love said:

Sanchez could be the hardest bonafide starting QB to get a read on due to the WR situation. With both Holmes and Edwards as FAs, there is a general assumption that the Jets will at least be able to retain one of the two. Edwards has gone on record saying he is willing to take a "discount", and once a CBA is agreed upon, IMO, it is likely that the Jets will try to secure Holmes first and then Edwards (I would take a guess that Edwards would think the same). Holmes on the other hand has said very little and it would not be a surprise at all if he were gone from the team just a day into official FA. With that said, it would just take two teams (one for Holmes and the other for Edwards) to offer up a sweet deal and the Jets are left with squat. I only see about a 15% chance of this happening, but worth noting.

Sanchez improved in year two, but without both WRs (previously mentioned ones), I do not see a big spike in his numbers. Add the improvement in the running game via the draft and they have one more young set of legs.

Projections:

This may be viewed as a cop out, but I see no other way to do projections in this specific case:

With Edwards and Holmes - 325 comp, 550 att 3600 yards 25 TDs 15 INTs
With just one of the two - 300 comp, 525 att 3300 yards 21 TDs 15 INTs
With neither of the two - 285 comp, 520 att 3100 yards 18 TDs 16 INTs

I do think if they fail to sign either, they will find a way to get a TO/Moss type to fill the role for a year, but I would not expect wonders from that particular WR.

rzrback77 said:

In Sanchez' rookie year, the Jets were all about running the ball. They ran 600 times and only passed 389 times, running over 60% of their offensive plays. Sanchez was a "game manager" or "care taker" in every sense of the word. He also struggled when he did pass the ball, completing only 54.0% of his passes and averaging 6.7 yards per attempt.

In 2010, the Jets managed to level out their offense as they ran only 526 tiimes and passed 522 for very close to a 50/50 split. They added LT and Holmes to their offense and had five legitimate receiving options. But, looking closely at the stats, they were not more effective passing in 2010, they just passed more.

In 2010, Sanchez completed 54.4% of his passes, still not very good by NFL standards, especially considering that LT caught 52 passes (66.0%) out of the backfield. Sanchez had a 6.5 ypa, which was even lower than in his rookie campaign. The best improvement was an increase in TDs from 12 to 17, still low and a decrease in interceptions from 20 to 13.

In addition, the Jets may lose one or both of Edwards and Holmes and added another RB in the draft. Even without knowing which WRs will return, I think that the Jets dial down the passing attack and run a little more.

guderian said:

What's interesting about Sanchez is that if you look at his entire season (including playoffs), it paints a slightly better picture than his regular season. Also, remember that he didn't play in week 17.

Adjusting for that and projecting the 18 games he did play over 16 and his stat line looks like: 295/530 (55.7%) 3473 (6.55/att) 20 TD/12 INT.

Assuming that he gets at least one of Holmes or Edwards back, I think we'll see some modest improvement in his efficiency in his 3rd year as he ups his completion rate to say 58%.

MrTwo94 said:

You don't last long in the NFL with a sub-55% completion percentage. In fact, if you sort by yards, you have to go all the way to #29, Derek Anderson, to find a QB with a lower completion percentage than Sanchez. Then you have to go to #33, Jimmy Clausen, to find the next. Impressive company for Mark Sanchez. Out of those top 28, only Fitzpatrick was under 58 (57.8). So Sanchez's 54.8% really sticks out as a red flag. The guy might still be learning, but he didn't learn much between years 1 and 2. Sure, the attempts increased yielding more total yards but the yards per attempt dipped a bit and the completion percentage only marginally increased. I don't expect the Jets to continue this trend towards the pass. If anything, they should be dialing it back. So unless Sanchez miraculously increases his accuracy, expect a season similar to last year.

Chase Stuart, FBG Staff said:

It's got little to do with the WCO. Favre had a 65% completion percentage with the Jets in this system. Completion percentages are up today compared to 1975 because of the removal of restrictions on pass blocking and the addition of restrictions on defensive backs. Sanchez' completion percentage is brutal and there's no excuse for it. He isn't throwing a ton of deep passes, he's throwing a lot of short and intermediate routes. The bottom line is Sanchez (1) isn't that accurate and (2) doesn't read defenses well.

These things can improve, but Sanchez was well below league average in yards per pass attempt and at the bottom of the league in completion percentage. Those are not good signs.


Mark Sanchez projections

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