Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sanchez comes out firing in preseason loss to Rams

Most Jets fans tuned in to their preseason opener against the Rams for one major reason: To watch rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez take the field for the first time in a New York uniform. And Sanchez made quite a debut.

On the last play of the first quarter, Sanchez entered on the team's third drive which began from inside their own 10. Brian Schottenheimer challenged Sanchez to make a play down the field and he responded with a 48-yard connection to David Clowney down the right sideline on his first NFL snap.

Sanchez dropped back into his own endzone, looked left, shoulder faked to hold the safety and turned back to the right. Seeing Clowney a step past the corner, Sanchez lofted a perfect pass into a tight window before the safety could get over to help. After two completions to Dustin Keller, including one on third down to keep the drive going deep in Rams' territory, Thomas Jones ran it in from a yard out.

On his first drive as a Jet, Sanchez led the Jets to a touchdown, throwing for 88 yards and completing three out of his four pass attempts. It would be his only drive of the game (left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson was also pulled after the drive, so the Jets likely didn't want to expose Sanchez), but talk about making a first impression.

Sanchez has already been named the starter for the next game against Baltimore over Kellen Clemens, who was 4-4 for 24 yards but didn't protect the football on the first drive, losing a fumble that set up a St. Louis field goal. Word out of camp already had Sanchez in a close race with Clemens and if he continues to outperform Clemens on the field, the starting job should be his to start the season.

If that's the case, I expect Sanchez to have a similar season to Joe Flacco's 2008 campaign. Like last year's Ravens, the Jets have a strong, deep running game with Jones, Leon Washington and rookie Shonn Greene and a reliable possession receiver in Jerricho Cotchery, like Flacco had with Derrick Mason. The presence of a playmaker at tight end will also help Sanchez, as Dustin Keller has a chance to really shine in his second season.

The Jets should have a strong defense even without Calvin Pace for the first four games after his suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy. They looked very aggressive at the outset of this game, coming up with big plays on the blitz to stifle Rams drives. Outside of the lack of a true number-one receiver, the situation is perfect for a rookie quarterback to succeed. And I think Sanchez has the tools to do just that.

As for some other Jets, Jones gained just 13 yards on nine carries and didn't seem like he was running at game speed just yet. Washington only received two carries but the rookie Greene showed his patience, vision and quick feet against the backups in the second half and if he continues to impress, the Jones-for-a-receiver trade rumors will only heat up.

The Jets really should hang onto Jones this season unless a true number-one receiver falls into their lap. His presence in the backfield will do more for Sanchez than a non-star receiver will, and I don't see the Jets getting a star in return for Jones at this point in the preseason.

The Jets receivers aren't much to write home about, but Sanchez will have options to throw to. Clowney had two long catches in this game and should be able to stretch the field, while Cotchery and Keller will be the two reliable targets that Sanchez will likely lean on. Washington, Chansi Stuckey and Brad Smith have all shown potential in the passing game and will give Sanchez plenty of options to work with if he indeed wins the starting job.


  1. Why is Calvin Pace out the first four games?

  2. Wow didn't see the was a suspension for performance-enhancers, which should have been included. Good call.