I have long said that New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has all the tools to be an elite quarterback in the NFL. All that is missing is for him to display the confidence level of a top signal-caller in the league.
Sanchez received a hefty five-year, $58.25 million extension this offseason, which should give him the security he needs to step up and be a leader. Even with Tim Tebow on the roster and looking over his shoulder, Sanchez is firmly entrenched as New York's starter because of his contract. The team simply can't afford not to play him.
On Thursday, the 25-year-old quarterback firmly stated that he was in charge of the Jets' offense and that he was in command of things. That had to be encouraging to Jets fans who have been waiting for Sanchez to be more assertive over the past three seasons.
In his career Sanchez has completed 55.3 percent of his passes for 9,209 yards, with 55 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. His career quarterback rating of 73.2 is abysmal, but he hasn't exactly been surrounded by a ton of offensive weapons. His top receiver has been Santonio Holmes, who grades out as no better than a good No. 2 wideout league-wide.
But Sanchez is out of excuses at this point. He has to make it work with what he has been given. In 2011 he improved slightly. He completed 56.7 percent of his passes for 3,474 yards, with 26 touchdowns,18 interceptions and a 78.2 passer rating. All of those numbers were career highs.
In his fourth season the USC product has to make a big leap if the Jets are going to be successful. Coming off a disappointing 8-8 season Gang Green needs to improve or ownership is likely to make wholesale changes.
Sanchez needs to find the confidence he had in college. Watching highlights from his USC days you can tell he never questioned himself. He made strong, confident throws and always knew where he was going with the ball. In the NFL he often double-clutches and winds up only to think better of throwing the ball. At some point. he's got to just sling it.
The Jets won't be better this year unless they get better play out of the quarterback position. Sanchez must be better and more confident in himself to make that happen.