When the flight nears its touchdown, Mark Sanchez has a big smile that lights up the room, and he looks to be in complete control as the pilot of the Jets. However, when the plane is unstable as it rocks back and forth, the curly-haired signal caller appears perplexed as he stares into the clouds looking for answers, then looks at the playbook and its various numbers and letters. He doesn’t have enough fuel to extend the flight, and consequently it crashes, and questions remain as to what’s next.
Those questions still hover over the New York Jets offense. There appears to be little progression made in Sanchez’s game since he entered the fray. Last season, the Jets’ passing offense was ranked 21st in the league, and Sanchez had 28 total turnovers (18 interceptions, 10 fumbles), which brings his career total to 63 (!) in just three seasons.
His supporters state that he’s still developing while his detractors continue to question if he’ll ever develop. Both sides can make a strong argument, especially since he doesn’t receive much support from a pedestrian running game, but it’s hard to ignore the supporting data for his stagnant development. Sanchez still doesn’t handle pressure well, especially when it’s at the front of his feet. He also routinely misses throws that he should make and he decides to attempt throws that he shouldn’t, which results in the turnovers (he had only four games last season in which he didn’t throw an interception).
An example of his routine misses was seen near the end of the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in week 1 last fall. First, there was the good Sanchez, as he got the ball inside of his own 10 yard line, and after a reversed-out fake to running back Shonn Greene, he gave a slight shoulder fake before rifling a pass to Plaxico Burress in the middle of the field for 18 yards.
Then the bad Sanchez quickly made his appearance. On the next play, Sanchez makes a mistake by staring down tight end Dustin Keller and then throwing the pass into the middle of the field where two defenders roamed — one of which was linebacker Sean Lee, who intercepted the pass.
The throw would have been fine (to a degree) if he didn’t stare down Keller and then attempt to drop it over Lee; instead, he should have thrown Keller open by placing it further to the left. However, because of the mistake, the Jets were in the hole seven points as Lee returned his interception to the one-yard line, and the Cowboys scored two plays later.
Another example of a costly routine miss by Sanchez came against the San Diego Chargers in Week 7. Sanchez threw an interception on a pass in which he had the right idea of what to do, but he didn’t execute it with the proper ball placement.
To his right, Burress was split wide, and after the ball was snapped, he ran a corner route that created separation from the Chargers defensive back. Burress wasn’t entirely uncovered, as he had safety Eric Weddle on his left shoulder, but all Sanchez had to do was throw it to the far right — where only his receiver can get it — and it’s a touchdown.
Unfortunately that’s not what happened. Sanchez threw the ball to the left of Burress where only Weddle could get it, a throw that resulted in another momentum-crushing drive that ended without points.
The inconsistencies of Sanchez, which may or may not have been linked to a shoulder injury revealed by Burress yesterday, have mirrored those of the Jets offense, and it’s likely a reason why the team brought in Tim Tebow to provide competition. Tebow is no better than Sanchez, but he could provide the spark needed to motivate Sanchez to play better this upcoming season. The Jets desperately need him to take the next step as a quarterback, which he can do by improving his decision making and field vision, and continue to work on his ball placement.
Those are the steps needed to get the plane functioning without issues again. Otherwise, Sanchez may as well hand the keys to Stevie Johnson, and getting the mercy killing over with.