Since March, these two have been part of the majority of the storylines surrounding the New York Jets and the 2012 season.
Will Mark Sanchez withstand the pressure and perform in 2012?
Will Tim Tebow outshine Sanchez in 2012 and take over?
How are the Jets going to use Tim Tebow?
What is going to happen if Mark Sanchez has a bad stretch of games?
Those are just a few of the many questions brought up in the last four months since the Jets acquired Tebow.
While on the subject of Tebow, why not begin with talking about what his 2012 season will look like? When the Jets first got Tebow, it seemed like a publicity stunt to just sell a few more tickets in their $1.6 billion stadium that they have been having trouble selling seats in since it opened in 2010.
Now a few months later, Mike Tannenbaum and the New York Jets' front office are actually beginning to look like they made a good decision in bringing one of the biggest media interests in the world to New York.
As time has passed, information about how Tebow would be used this season has progressively leaked out. Gathered from what has reached the public, the general understanding is that Tebow will see the field quite a bit this season running the wildcat. He will also be a weapon when the Jets are in the red zone.
What is listed above is just about what everyone knows, which will be a big advantage for the Jets going into this season as long as they do not let others find out about their strategy. Tebow is like a fullback with a decent throwing arm—he has great field vision when he’s running the ball and has the ability to make a good pass if needed, which he showed when he led his team to victory against the Steelers in last season's playoffs.
Having Tim Tebow run out of the wildcat gives the Jets a ton of options, especially if they need to pick up a chunk of yardage or get a big third down conversion. As soon as Tebow comes out onto the field, the defense will already be on their toes a little bit trying to figure what the Jets are going to do. They could have Tebow pass, hand it off or keep it for himself. By mixing it up, someone on the defense is bound to make a mistake.
In football, when one person makes a mistake, the opposing team can capitalize on that mistake. Tim Tebow showed his ability to cause people to make mistakes and how to capitalize on them when he faced the Jets last season. Eric Smith missed a big tackle, allowing Tebow run down the field and cap off an incredible game-winning drive that embarrassed the New York Jets defense, which had been lights out for most of the night.
This season, those expecting to see the same Tim Tebow as last season, who completed 126 passes (47 percent) for 12 touchdowns and six interceptions while rushing for 660 yards and scoring six touchdowns, you are in for a rude awakening. With Tony Sparano’s offensive gameplan relying heavily on efficiency, expect to see a more refined Tebow.
When Tebow is on the field, he will have to make the most of it, and that does not mean trying to make a spectacular play every time he steps on the field. It means making better decisions, completing a higher percentage of passes, moving the chains and helping the offense control the time of possession.
Meanwhile, Mark Sanchez is coming off of a mediocre 2011 season. Last year, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer made Mark Sanchez throwing more passes, thus expanding the playbook. Obviously that plan did not work out too well. The Jets strayed from what worked well for them in 2009 and 2010, which was the "ground and pound," by having Sanchez go 308-for-543 (57 percent) for 3,474 yards, 26 touchdowns with 18 interceptions.
The interceptions are what killed Sanchez. Schottenheimer’s play-calling and the team’s performance put Sanchez in situations where he tried to make big plays through the air; he would usually make a poor decision by throwing into a crowd of defenders leaving his intended target no chance of making a play and usually getting picked off.
As I said before, Tony Sparano is the new offensive coordinator for the Jets this year, and his focus is efficient football. For the Jets, that means ground and pound, taking it one play at a time and moving the chains.
This new system along with everything else should help Mark Sanchez this season, giving signs of hope that 2012 will be a much better season for Mark Sanchez.
Efficient football means high percentage passes; therefore he will no longer have to try and complete a 40-yard bomb that usually result in an interception. With guys like Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley, slant routes will definitely be a favorite, which the Jets deviated from in 2011. During the 2010 season, Santonio Holmes’ slants helped the Jets win tough games like the two overtime nail biters in Cleveland and Detroit.
With a speedy running back like Joe McKnight, even more high-percentage passes will come in the form of screens. Last season the Jets ran a few screens, but with the loss of LaDainian Tomlinson and the fact that Shonn Greene is not the fastest back, screens with Joe McKnight should be easy completions for Mark Sanchez.
Although the Jets lost Plaxico Burress, they have a new red zone target in Stephen Hill, a fast 6'4" wide receiver out of Georgia Tech who the Jets traded up for in the second round. Hill is expected to be the Jets' No. 3 receiver behind Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley and will hopefully help to keep the Jets' red zone woes of 2010 from returning.
Yet another sign of hope is that Mark Sanchez’s arm should be 100 percent once the season starts. According to Plaxico Burress, Sanchez’s arm was not fully healthy last season. Considering Sanchez put up solid numbers on a bum arm, think about what he can do on a healthy one with this new system.
There is one other key factor determining how well Sanchez does this season, and that is the offensive line. Since this is a preview about Sanchez and Tebow and not of Mangold and Co., I will not go into too much detail. The sad reality is that the Jets offensive line—which used to be the absolute best—gave up 39 sacks last season. It is no surprise that Sanchez was playing on a hurt arm last year and making bad decisions.
The offensive line’s ability to protect Sanchez and Sanchez’s ability to handle pressure when it comes are going to play huge roles. The fact is, when Sanchez is protected and has time, he usually makes smart decisions. When he is faced with a lot of pressure, he usually gives up the ball. Hopefully with Sparano’s new system, which will provide Sanchez with a few more “dump” options, the interceptions will be limited even if he has one or two defenders moments away from sacking him.
All in all, do not expect to see the same Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow that we saw in 2011. When it comes to the Jets offense in 2012, the quarterbacks are not going to be looked to like Drew Brees and Tom Brady are, creating almost all of the offense's big plays through the air. Sanchez and Tebow are just going to be expected to do their jobs and limit the mistakes, and this offense is a near-perfect design for that.
As a result, expect to see an improvement in their statistics, when it comes to ones that show off efficiency, like completion percentage.
Stat Predictions for 2012:
Mark Sanchez: 400 passing attempts, 240 completions, 60 percent pass completions, 2,960 yards, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions.
Tim Tebow: 65 passing attempts, 40 completions, 62 percent pass completion, 375 yards, four passing touchdowns, one interception, 80 rushing attempts, 320 yards, two rushing touchdowns.
Check out my stat predictions and analysis of the New York Jets running backs here.
Check out my stat predictions and analysis of the New York Jets Wide Receivers here.
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