Mental State Of Mark Sanchez Key To New York Jets Making A Run

TJ on the mental state of Mark Sanchez being a key factor on if the Jets can make a late season run

Over the last seven days, Mark Sanchez has been beaten by a quarterback who rarely throws a forward pass, and replaced in practice by another who hasn’t seen the field in a meaningful game in years. The mental state of Mark Sanchez, has expressed both confident and fearful tendencies over two and a half NFL seasons, and is the key component for the Jets playoff hopes. As the club embarks on a six game stretch that includes winnable games on paper, with virtually no room for error.

The 5-5 Jets have done it to themselves. Shoddy offensive line play, a pedestrian rushing attack, and a defense that has failed to dominate the line of scrimmage, have along with the now mistake prone Sanchez, all contributed to the club’s current need of running the table.

Going 5-1 should get the Jets in. 4-2 probably won’t. Not with five losses already in the AFC, and an AFC East title that appears headed for another Foxboro crowning.

The task is doable. A banged up Bills team. A QB-less Chiefs club. A Jekyll and Hyde Philly team and 3-7 yet improving group of Dolphins bring a semblance of hope to the Jets. Provided that their play improves. Starting with Sanchez.

It hasn’t all been the fault of the quarterback though much of the blame for the losing has fallen on the shoulders of number six. What has come first, the Jets quarterback’s lack  of ball security or the mounting losses, is debatable. What is NOT up for debate is that Sanchez has made a plethora of key errors that have led directly to failed outcomes. A collection of instances that have left many questioning his ability to lead the Jets.

Sanchez entered this season prematurely awarded the keys to an “Air Coryell” type of offense that was to throw early and often. Deep and short, and all over the field. Once the hardened wall of  a promising 2-0 start began to show cracks up front, a decision was made to do an about face. The “ground and pound” then made their way back into the huddle after Sanchez took a physical beating in Baltimore. In a loss that dropped the Jets to 2-2 during a hellacious three game road swing. The club’s move back in time settled down the ball security issues that following Sunday, but still resulted in a low octane, 30-21 loss at New England.

After a mundane offensive performance during a 24-6 Monday night win over winless Miami, OC Brian Schottenheimer came out from his lab in order to implement “science project three,” a spread out attack against San Diego. The new look got all Jet skill players involved early. However, an end zone interception thrown by Sanchez in the first half thwarted a drive that reminded some of the game ending pick six by Ravens CB Lardarius Webb in Baltimore one week prior. Despite a solid second half comeback that resulted in a big 27-21 win over the Chargers, a scary habit was forming for the Jets underneath the surface, and inside the helmet of it’s signal caller. At 3-3 though, the Jets were at least back in the race.

The Jets returned from a bye week answering doubts surrounding their recent history of egg laying after breaks, by embarking on a crisp nine minute opening drive at 4-2 Buffalo. One that resulted in, you guessed it, an end zone interception by Sanchez that gave Buffalo life. The play seemed to shake the foundation of Sanchez for the rest of the first half, as another pick was followed by a fumbled snap. Two quarters dominated by the Jets defense soon ended with Gang Green owners of a slim 3-0 lead. Sanchez and Co. got it together later in closing out the Bills 27-11, but questions regarding the QB’s “growth” after his nervous play early on, grew louder afterwards.

Now at 5-3, but trailing 30-16 with 8:00 left in a matchup for first place with New England, Sanchez did it again. Throwing a pick six from his own goal line that put the Pats up for good at 37-16. A play that ended the Pats two game slide and talk of a Belichick dynasty in it’s final throes. The interception only compounded an inexplicable timeout that Sanchez had called prior to a late first half TD, that left Tom Brady enough time to regain the lead 13-9, with a TD of his own.

Anecdotally, the lost lead at halftime had sent the Jets marching toward the locker room, where an angry Ryan told NBC the timeout was the “stupidest play in the history of football.” Moments later, a fan compared Ryan’s work to King Bill’s to which the Jets boisterous coach responded “STFU.” A comment that later led to a $75,000 fine by the league on Ryan.

The loss to it’s archrival after the rare shot at a divisional takeover slipped from within their grasp, left the Jets ripe for an ambush in Denver. Where only days later, on an odd Thursday night tilt, Sanchez again threw away the lead. This time at the tail end of the third quarter of a game the Jets led 10-3. Where points were at a premium, as injured primary backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson sat as specators. The resulting 10-10 tie then set the stage for Tim Tebow’s impersonation of a John Elway game winning drive.

Despite the many gaffes that Sanchez has had in 2011, his body of work during prior years, should still leave him with many postives to rebuild his confidence from. Regardless of the truth that Ryan’s Jets have been built on defense and a stout rushing attack, Sanchez’s caretaking DID lead to four big comeback wins in 2010. As well as clutch play during mistake free play from behind center over two postseasons.

Mark Brunell was given first team reps over the past few days, but the 19 year veteran is not about to start on Sunday in a must win rematch with the Bills. However, don’t take Ryan seriously when he says as he did at a press conference today, that he can’t envision sitting Sanchez. Should the “Sanchise” struggle with the season on the line, in a winnable game that will feature a Fred Jackson-less Bills offense, don’t be shocked if Ryan goes to the bullpen for a short term fix.

The only person who can prevent this scenario is also the only one who can spearhead the Jets return to a swagger that carried them to the Super Bowl’s doorstep for two years straight. Mark Sanchez.

Sanchez must believe in himself again. By surveying the field. By delivering throws on time. By avoiding the tunnel vision that has led to so many points for the opposing the defense. The Jets QB has to remember that he was brought here to get the Jets over the hump. He must take the field Sunday knowing that if the coaching staff DIDN’T feel as though he could achieve that, he would have never been given the starting job from day one, with a quality team built around him, in the first place.

Offensive Injuries Concerning For Jets

Both quarterback Mark Brunell (calf) and wide receiver Derrick Mason (knee) left the practice field today and are now questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Considering the Jets depth issues at both positions, these injuries are nothing to minimize. Greg McElroy was encouraging at times in his pre-season debut but you don’t want a rookie 7th round pick being a snap away from playing. Honestly, I don’t want Brunell a snap away from playing either and would like to see the Jets coax Marc Bulger out of retirement or maybe sign Brodie Croyle. Either way, the Jets depth at quarterback is seriously shaky.

At wide receiver, Plaxico Burress is still returning from an ankle injury and Jeremy Kerley is only a rookie. Mark Sanchez needs as many reps as possible with his new receiving core to gain the necessary chemistry. However, a Mason injury could give more reps to young players like Logan Payne, Patrick Turner, Scotty McKnight and Danny DePalma as they battle for the fifth receiver spot. All of them have shown potential at times, and the spot remains wide open.

Injuries at an increased rate were to be expected with this messed up off-season, however quarterback and receiver are areas the Jets especially need to stay healthy at.

TOJ Roundtable: Strongest and Weakest Position?

Welcome to the TOJ Roundtable, where a collection of our writers debate a pressing Jets question of the day –

What is the strongest position on the Jets current roster? The weakest?

Joe Caporoso: The strongest position on the Jets roster is cornerback. I would go with offensive line but I am little concerned about Brandon Moore missing so much time this pre-season, while they are breaking in a new full time right tackle in Wayne Hunter. The offensive line is still strong and if Hunter is anywhere near what Damien Woody was the past few years and Matt Slauson continues to improve, this will be their strongest unit. Yet, their corners led by Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, the league’s top starting duo in my mind, takes my vote at the moment. Let’s not forget nickel back Kyle Wilson was a first round pick last year for a reason and veteran Donald Strickland provides excellent depth if Wilson struggles. Marquice Cole has also shown flashes on defense and is more than capable of stepping into the nickel role for a few weeks if necessary.

Backup quarterback is the weakest spot on the Jets roster. If Mark Sanchez misses an extended period of time, you are kidding yourself if you think Mark Brunell is capable of taking over. He hasn’t played a meaningful snap since NFL Quarterback Club was the video game of choice. Greg McElroy is only a rookie and would be in over his head if pressed into immediate action.

TJ Rosenthal: Strongest Position: The offensive line. It contains two All-Pros in D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. The entire unit is intact from the 2010 playoff run. Few teams can boast of that continuity. No unit is as essential to the success of what the Jets want to do offensively as the guys in the trenches are.

Weakest Position: The backup quarterback position. If Mark Sanchez goes down for any extended time, we can’t say that we are comfortable with Mark Brunell, in his 19th season, running the show for any EXTENDED period of time. The backup quarterback should be a capable functional player with some NFL experience, especially given how physical the AFC East may be up front this year with the addition of Marcell Dareus to Buffalo and the new parts of the Patriots defensive line. The Jets are skating on thin ice at the ultimate security position.

Rob Celletti: The strongest position on the Jets’ roster in my opinion is cornerback.  Anchored by one of the best players in the entire league in Darelle Revis, it is an all-around solid unit.  With Antonio Cromartie out to prove something this year, and the ever-improving, aspiring Revis-clone Kyle Wilson at third on the depth chart, it is safe to say the Jets are going to be very difficult to throw on this season, at least to wide receivers.

The weakest position, and really the key to the season, is the defensive line.  The Jets will have a serviceable line under Rex Ryan’s tutelage, no question, but it is a point every fan and journalist has been harping on since the start of training camp: are the Jets relying too heavily on unproven commodities (Mo Wilkerson and Kendrick Ellis) alongside solid role players (DeVito and Pouha) without any real dominant force?  It is hard to call the position “weak”, but it definitely raises the most questions.

Free Agency Showdown: Jets vs. Dallas For Nnamdi

And there were two…(how great is that picture, by the way?)

Similar to the Houston Texans, the San Francisco 49ers have dropped out of the race for Nnamdi Asomugha, leaving the Jets to battle with the Dallas Cowboys for the services of corner Nnamdi Asomugha. It is Rex Ryan vs. Rob Ryan…an early preview of their week one Sunday Night Showdown, and it should go down in the next few hours.

Can you imagine Rex Ryan’s pre-game speech before their week one game if Asomugha chooses Dallas over them? Fire up Kissing Suzy Kolber for one of their epic parodies of Rex.

In other news, the Jets have released quarterback Kevin O’Connell. They are expected to bring recently released quarterback Mark Brunell back after this Asomugha situation shakes out. They have also signed rookie seventh round pick Greg McElroy to a 4 year contract.

NFL Free Agency 2011: Out With The Old? Jets Release Brunell

UPDATE: Kevin O’Connell has also been released and it is now being widely reported Mark Brunell will return immediately after Asomugha situation is resolved.

In a surprising move, the New York Jets have released backup quarterback Mark Brunell, currently leaving Mark Sanchez’s top backups as Kevin O’Connell, rookie Greg McElroy, and Drew Willy.

I was never a fan of Brunell as the primary backup to Sanchez but he was a better option than O’Connell or McElroy. At this point the best assumption is that this is cap gymnastics to sign Nnamdi Asomugha. Keep in mind the Jets temporarily released Tony Richardson last year to lock down the Darrelle Revis contract. I would expect Brunell to be quickly resigned after this Asomugha situation shakes out.

Unless they are targeting Marc Bulger, there aren’t many options out there and Mark Sanchez seems too close to Brunell for the Jets to let him go. Remember Scotty McKnight? Sanchez gets to keep his friends around.

Jets Are Running Major Risk At Quarterback

At the league meetings in New Orleans, Rex Ryan has surprisingly been very open with the media. Outside of his jabs at New England and Super Bowl guarantees, which this writer will never tire of reading, he made a concerning comment about the Jets quarterback position. Ryan confirmed the Jets aren’t looking for a quarterback and will stay put with Mark Brunell as the backup and Kellen Clemens likely as the third stringer.

The Jets were lucky…very lucky in 2010 that Mark Sanchez didn’t miss a single start. He probably should have down the stretch because of his banged up shoulder. Keep in mind despite only being in the league for two seasons, Sanchez has had surgery on his left knee, sprained his right knee, and a cartilage tear in his throwing shoulder.

You would think the Jets, a team who considers themselves a legitimate Super Bowl contender, would have better insurance for their franchise quarterback.

They don’t. They are content to allow Brunell, who is better suited to be a coach at this point than a player, remain Sanchez’s top backup. In case you forgot, Brunell will turn 41 years old this September and since the end of the 2006 season, he has thrown for 229 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.

Are you really comfortable with Brunell taking over the Jets offense for a few weeks if Sanchez gets banged up? If you are, you need to hop back in the time machine that took you to 1995 and get yourself into the present reality.

Beyond Brunell, it is clear the coaching staff has no faith in Kellen Clemens since they went and got Brunell to replace him after the 2009 season. Their lack of faith is probably well grounded, considering Clemens history as an incredibly mediocre NFL quarterback.

If the Jets were smart, they’d pursue any of the following: Bruce Gradkowski, Marc Bulger, Billy Volek, Luke McCown, and Tyler Thigpen, all of whom would upgrade the number two quarterback spot. They should then consider spending a late round draft pick on a developmental quarterback to groom as Sanchez’s long term backup.

12 Pack Of Jets Off-Season Thoughts: Edition #8

The 12 pack is back with a very special Thursday edition, for the the very special reason that I will be in New Orleans for the weekend and don’t plan on having the laptop out on Bourbon Street tomorrow afternoon. However, the site will still be updated throughout the weekend, make sure you are following the Facebook and Twitter page.

1. My thoughts on the report about Mark Sanchez leading the league in dropped interceptions this past season…Yes, we all saw defensive backs dropping balls that could have been intercepted and yes we all know Sanchez needs to improve his accuracy (his completion percentage shows that). However, it is foolish to try to argue that he didn’t take major strides forward in his second year. The bottom line is that he threw 5 more touchdowns and 7 less interceptions, won two more games, was substantially more consistent and routinely clutch in big games. I will take Sanchez and his dropped interceptions any day over Chad Henne, who threw the ball so accurately at the other team’s defensive backs that only one “dropped” one all season.

2. I have harped on this all off-season and will continue to do so until he is  in a Jets jersey for 2011. This team needs to find a way to bring Antonio Cromartie back next year. When you play the type of aggressive man to man coverage the Jets do, you need a big time corner opposite Darrelle Revis, especially when you have a weak pass rush. Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t coming here and the Jets aren’t spending a first round pick on a corner. If you think Kyle Wilson, Dwight Lowery, or Drew Coleman can handle being a full time starter in this system right now, you need a head examination.

3. You have to be encouraged by the reports of the work Vladimir Ducasse is doing this off-season. Hopefully, he will grab the starting right tackle job by the throat this summer because if he can’t beat out Wayne Hunter, his long term future with the team will start to become fairly cloudy. Let’s hope Joe McKnight follows Ducasse’s lead these next few months.

4. If I had to guess today who the Jets will end up with in April’s draft, I would go with either Baylor’s Phil Taylor or Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson. Both defensive lineman have a good shot of being available at #30. I am also intrigued by potentially taking safety UCLA safety Rahim Moore, just because I am anxious to see Rex Ryan finally get a play-making safety here in New York.

5. “I’d rather beat the Patriots, than maybe go to heaven” — That’s why we love you Mike Westhoff.

6. Speaking of our friends up north, Randy Moss recently said he’d be interested in returning to the Patriots. Somehow, I don’t think they will be interested. Personally, if Braylon Edwards ends up leaving I wouldn’t mind if the Jets could get Moss on a cheap, one year deal to provide a vertical threat and some size at split end.

7. It is going to take more than the draft to improve the Jets defensive line depth. Let’s hope either Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, or Matt Kroul can step up and become a quality rotation player this year, similar to how Mike DeVito did a couple of years back and eventually worked his way to being a starter.

8. Can we not forget the Jets need to address the backup quarterback position this off-season? Mark Brunell isn’t the answer and is better suited to being the #3. Clearly the coaching staff has no confidence in Kellen Clemens. It is either time to find somebody in free agency or draft a developmental backup to be a long term solution.

9. I am very anxious to see how Shonn Greene handles this season, which is really a make or break year for him as a lead back. It sounds like he will get the amount of carries necessary to show he can be a 1,200 yard type guy, let’s see if he can protect the football, stay healthy, and bring the consistency that is needed to put up those kind of numbers.

10. If you haven’t been able to tell, I am trying to be optimistic that an injunction will be ruled on April 6th and we will have football games this year.

11. As you know, we like to get off topic occasionally here — so here is wishing good luck to St. John’s in the NCAA tourney tonight and hoping the Knicks wake up sometime soon because they have looked like garbage the past week.

12. Weekend Video Clips – Assorted Highlight Tapes Edition

12 Pack of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #2

Put it on your calendar, every Friday the rest of the off-season (however long that takes) for your 12 pack of Jets thoughts…

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1. Backup Issues – It will be interesting to see how the Jets handle their backup quarterback situation in 2011. You can’t expect Mark Brunell back for another year. The Jets were lucky to make it through the season without an injury to Mark Sanchez because I still hold firm in the belief that Brunell isn’t capable at his age to hold the fort down for a few weeks if Sanchez was hurt. Kellen Clemens doesn’t appear to have the confidence of the coaching staff and I’d be surprised if they let him compete for the number two spot. The Jets need to find a quality long term backup for their franchise quarterback who has been occasionally banged up over the first two years of his career. Fortunately, it has now been revealed that Sanchez won’t need off-season shoulder surgery. It is never good when your quarterback needs surgery the first two years of his career.

2. Safety Decision – There is likely going to be a decision made at whom to keep at safety between Eric Smith and Brodney Pool. This isn’t necessarily an easy choice since both began to play better towards the end of the season. Smith has slowly developed into one of Rex Ryan’s favorite players after he was initially skeptical about him. He also has the advantage of being a core special team player. Pool might fit better alongside Jim Leonhard and did provide more big plays than Smith last year. I could honestly see this decision going either way but the reality is the Jets still need to finda bigger playmaker to pair with Leonhard long term.

3. Prime-Time – Despite not making the Super Bowl, I still wouldn’t be shocked to see the Jets end up with the most prime-time games of any team in 2011. They have become a national team and a running headline since Rex Ryan has taken over and there are plenty of intriguing match-ups to consider. Jets/Giants and one of the Jets/Patriots games both seem like prime-time locks. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets/Cowboys, Jets/Eagles, Jets/Ravens, or one of the Jets/Dolphins games were on a Sunday, Thursday, or Monday night.

4. Youth Movement – Remember how much panic there was last season when Alan Faneca, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Kenyon Coleman, Jay Feely, and Kerry Rhodes (well maybe not him) all left the team? I expect a similar reaction this year when the Jets inevitably lose a fairly sizable group of contributors from the 2010 team. You can’t keep everybody and that is why it is important for young players to step up and to draft well. This past year Wayne Hunter, James Ihedigbo, Drew Coleman, and Mike DeVito all stepped up in bigger roles. In 2011, players like Joe McKnight, John Conner, Kyle Wilson, Patrick Turner, and Jeff Cumberland may need to do the same.

5. Road Warriors – This is fairly obvious but the Jets need to find a way to win their division next year so they can get some home playoff games. They haven’t played one since 2002, which means they have played 8 straight on the road. There certainly wasn’t a home-field advantage defined by this team in the new stadium and until they can improve on their 5-3 home record, they will have to do the tough sledding on the road in the playoffs. Regardless of the past success of wild-card teams, it is such an easier road to have a bye and then host a playoff game instead of trying to string together 3 straight road wins.

6. Scary Stats – The Jets didn’t have a 1,000 yard rusher or receiver, a player with double digit sacks, or anybody with more than 55 receptions. They didn’t score a touchdown in any of their three home losses. My poor cousin went to three games this year since we split the season tickets and saw a grand total of 5 Nick Folk field goals as the Jets scoring.

7. Poetic Justice – I am pretty sure the Bart Scott post-game interview has exceeded Joe Namath’s “I want to kiss you” interview as the most popular in team history. I already have the auto-tune version on my I-Pod and if you think I won’t be celebrating every touchdown in my flag football league this spring with the airplane arms, you are crazy.

8. Super Bowl – Check out my Super Bowl XLV predictions on SeatGeek. SeatGeek is the leading ticket search engine that enables fans to discover the best deals for sports and concerts — Check out SeatGeek next season when you’re looking for NFL tickets.

9. 2011 Draft – In case you weren’t aware, the Jets have a draft pick in every single round this year except for the 2nd, which they lost in the Antonio Cromartie trade. They pick 30thoverall in the first round.

10.  Under the Radar – A few players who don’t get a ton of press but put together very good years – Brandon Moore, who many thought would finally get a chance at a Pro-Bowl in 2010 due to his consistently high level of play…Sione Pouha, who has been rock solid filling in for an injured Kris Jenkins the past two seasons…Tony Richardson who held off John Conner all year and kept paving the way for one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks…Ben Hartsock who cut down on the penalties and is a key part of the running game.

11. Here is hoping Curtis Martin gets in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, like he deserves to

12. Video Weekend Clips – Swaggerlicious edition

Thank God The Pre-Season Is Over: Jets Beat Eagles 21-17

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I think everybody can sympathize with me when I say “Thank god, the pre-season is over.” It wasn’t the prettiest of games tonight but hear is a quick recap:

Joe McKnight doesn’t deserve a spot on the Jets 53 man roster. He is going to get one because the Jets spent a fourth round pick on him but the guy has been terrible this August, simply terrible. He lost three fumbles, including another one tonight that went back for a touchdown. He doesn’t hit the hole hard and runs timid. The guy is more scared of contact than Kerry Rhodes…no wonder he wears #25. Chauncey Washington ran the football the way it is supposed to be run tonight with 56 tough yards on 12 carries. He earned a spot on this roster. Danny Woodhead added 45 yards and a touchdown. He earned a spot on this roster.

Don’t give me any BS standing up for McKnight either. Go back and watch the highlight of his reaction after he fumbled tonight. Look at the way he didn’t go after the ball and look how he hung his head, this guy has been a disaster. The Jets made an absolute mistake by parting ways with Leon Washington and drafting McKnight.

The numbers aren’t going to show it but Kellen Clemens still looked better than Mark Brunell tonight and I am still adamant in my belief that Clemens should be the number two quarterback.

Great night for Matt Kroul who locked himself down a roster spot with two sacks. Vernon Gholston had another active night and clinched the game with a bone crunching sack. I was also impressed with Brian “King Ugly” Jackson. I don’t know if he can stick on the 53 man roster but he could be a good practice squad candidate. Similar to Jackson, Larry Taylor flashed a few times but is probably destined for the practice squad.

In the end, it wasn’t the most exciting pre-season in Jets history. I am just happy it is over.

Bring on the Ravens.

Jets vs. Eagles "Backup Bowl" – What To Watch For

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1. Mark Brunell is a whopping 5/13 for 23 yards with a lost fumble this pre-season. Why is he the primary backup to Mark Sanchez again? I have said it 1,000 times this August and I will say it again, Kellen Clemens should be the #2. I hope Clemens puts together a final push tonight and claims his rightful spot on the depth chart.

2. Considering the play of Danny Woodhead and Chauncey Washington this pre-season. Is there a chance the Jets might put Joe McKnight on the practice squad? He certainly hasn’t played like he deserves a spot on the 53 man roster and is in desperate need of a strong performance tonight.

3. Larry Taylor and David Clowney will both be battling for one of the final 53 roster spots. Clowney needs to flash on special teams, which he has been inconsistent on this pre-season. Taylor is an easy guy to root for who appears to be a favorite of special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, which certainly doesn’t hurt his chances.

4. Vernon Gholston is going to get plenty of time tonight, including a good share of the reps at outside linebacker since Calvin Pace, Jason Taylor, and Bryan Thomas won’t be playing. Hopefully, Gholston continues his strong pre-season and can drop Mike Vick a few times.

5. Keep making those field goals, Nick Folk.

6. Santonio Holmes should be running circles around the Eagles backups tonight. Of course, he needs a quarterback who can get the ball into his hands.

7. How about Matt Slauson doesn’t allow a sack tonight? It would go a long way to making all of us feel better about Mark Sanchez’z safety in 2010.

8. I am looking for Jamaal Westerman to make a strong case that he deserves a good chunk of the reps Calvin Pace would play until he returns from injury.

New Episode Coming This Wednesday