Jets rookie QB Sanchez ready for season’s 2nd half
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) – Mark Sanchez balanced his duties last week as the scout team quarterback for his old high school and the starter for the New York Jets.
That meant 16-year-old receivers running the same routes Jets players did in recent games.
Sanchez spent his bye-week break watching video of the first half of his rookie season. When he’d see an errant throw, a missed read, poor footwork, he wanted to run out onto the field and redo the play – and get it right this time.
“Man, I know that read,” Sanchez would think. “I know how to take a seven-step drop, reset, look at my first progression, look at the second progression, and just drill it down the middle of the field. I can do that.”
So he enlisted some kids from his alma mater, Mission Viejo High in southern California, to help. Sanchez returned the favor by impersonating San Clemente High quarterback Chase Rettig, who has committed to Boston College, at the Diablos’ practice.
He must have done a good job – Mission Viejo beat San Clemente 55-7 on Friday.
Everything Sanchez touched seemed to turn to victory earlier this NFL season, when his career with the Jets got off to a 3-0 start. But now they’re 4-4 at the midway point, a skid that includes Sanchez’s three-interception game at New Orleans and five-INT day against Buffalo.
Sanchez celebrated his 23rd birthday Wednesday, which depending on how you look at it is a symbol of how young he is – or how quickly he can mature.
“Don’t we wish we can all go back to being 23?” coach Rex Ryan joked. “Golly, he’s a young dude. What were we thinking drafting him that high?”
What they were thinking, of course, was this was a young quarterback capable of starting in the NFL.
“It’s funny, he’s got such a huge responsibility, you forget that this guy is 23 years old,” Ryan said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
As right tackle Damien Woody said, “He’s not doing bad for himself right now.”
“He has everything in front of him – that’s the exciting part,” Woody said. “The guy’s only going to get better. As long as he continues to keep working at it, keep those same work habits that got him to this point, just continue to improve, then he’s going to be a heck of a football player.”
Sanchez has done a far better job “managing the game,” as Ryan put it, in his last two outings. Then again, it’s also the time of year to start fielding questions about the dreaded rookie wall, and whether he’ll crash into it.
“This is about that time,” Sanchez conceded. “It’s important to not shy away from it or hide from it or not talk about it, but what ways can you avoid it?”
That means continuing to lift weights and run during practice. But he has stopped throwing passes during pregame warmups to rest his arm, a trick suggested by backup Kevin O’Connell, who picked it up from Tom Brady while with the Patriots.
November also means questions about how this southern California kid – and University of Southern California alum – will fare in the cold of the Northeast. On a chilly, windy day, Sanchez was one of the few Jets practicing in short sleeves Wednesday.
With temperatures in the low 50s, it wasn’t exactly preparation for a January snowstorm. But as Sanchez said with a laugh, “It’s cold for me.” And it’d be cold to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who visit the Jets on Sunday.
“It’s just something you’ve got to start to embrace and understand we need to use it to our advantage,” Sanchez said, “especially when we get teams from Florida or warm-weather teams coming in.”
And he knows he needs to increase his completion percentage even as the winds pick up and hands get colder. Sanchez ranks 30th in the league at 53.3 percent. He believes 60 percent is realistic for a rookie – with hopes of eventually reaching 70 percent.
The intangible quarterback stuff Sanchez already seems to have down. Trust in the huddle is built in the summer, he said, during casual chats with teammates between workouts.
“Talking to them about where they’re from, where they went to college, how many brothers and sisters they have,” Sanchez said. “Not just to make conversation but to kind of find out, learn about these guys, know what they’re all about. Who’s got kids, how old are they.”
Sanchez has “done everything right,” Ryan said. Then the coach paused, remembering the moment Oct. 25 in Oakland when television cameras caught the rookie trying to discreetly put mustard on a frankfurter and eat it late in a 38-0 win.
“With the exception of the hot dog,” Ryan quickly added. “He’s done ALMOST everything right.”