The Ultimate Mark Sanchez Breakdown: What Does the Tape Say About Jets QB?
Throughout his nearly four years in the NFL, Sanchez has been wildly inconsistent. Sometimes his lack of accuracy gets the best of him. Other times it's his poor decision-making.
He follows up a horrendous game with a solid, efficient performance. Then he runs into his own lineman's rear end.
Sanchez has made strides in his game. But after being surrounded by talented wide receivers and tight ends in his first three seasons, he has not improved enough to compensate for the lack of talent around him in 2012.
Here is what the tape says about Sanchez.
The Bad: Decision-Making
Sanchez has been particularly inconsistent in this area. Below is a play from the Seattle game that sums up everything wrong with Sanchez as a player.
The Jets have put together their best drive of the game, advancing to the Seattle 3-yard line. But on this play, Sanchez makes a poor decision on a poor throw with poor technique. His pass lands right in the hands of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
Sanchez has two targets, Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller, open on the play. Hill is a much easier throw. He's standing with his hands up in the middle of the end zone.
The throw he chooses to make to Keller is doable if Sanchez gets rid of the pass quickly and with velocity. He does neither:
He hesitates for some inexplicable reason, pump-fakes a throw to a wide-open Hill, then pumps again to Keller before coming back to him to throw the interception:
Notice his feet. They are not in line with where he is throwing the ball, allowing it to be intercepted. This is clear evidence that Sanchez does not trust what he is seeing.
If Sanchez liked what he saw, he would have planted and driven the throw. This is a timid attempt that never had a chance. All the proof is in the feet (and the double pump-fake).
However, Sanchez did bounce back the following week, turning in a winning performance against the St. Louis Rams. To me, the most impressive play he made was on a short pass to tight end Konrad Reuland to set up a touchdown.
The play is designed to go to the receiver running the slant. The Rams linebacker picks up on it, and drops into the passing lane:
As you can see, Sanchez pulls back from the throw, calmly gathers himself and hits Reuland, who got open past a falling Rams defensive back.
What makes this play so impressive is that Sanchez was able to not panic after the designed play failed. He made the right decision to go the other way with it. The rookie version of Sanchez probably would have thrown an interception on that play and changed the complexion of the game.
The Good: Accuracy and Timing
Sanchez has struggled with accuracy since his days at USC, and it has hardly improved since he made the transition to the NFL. However, there have been recent instances in which Sanchez's ball location has improved.
You may recall a play against the Giants last year in which the Jets were able to get Joe McKnight lined up with a linebacker in single coverage. McKnight got open, but Sanchez missed him by about five yards.
Against the Rams last week, the Jets were able to get the exact same matchup. This time, McKnight is not nearly as open. But a calm, confident throw from Sanchez finds him anyway, and the Jets are able to make a big play:
Also, notice when Sanchez releases the ball. McKnight is not open, but he still knows the matchup and anticipates that McKnight will get open. In a 3rd-and-10 situation, this is a big-time NFL throw.
Below, Sanchez throws an awful interception to Chris Clemons against the Dolphins. He actually releases the ball early, but a terribly inaccurate throw to Dustin Keller (that may have actually been intended for Stephen Hill) never gave the play a chance.
On this play, the Dolphins are bracketing Keller on the goal line, knowing that he is the Jets' primary target in this area of the field. As a result, Sanchez has Stephen Hill streaking across the goal line in single coverage.
Given his size and leaping ability, Hill has a good chance of winning a jump-ball battle for the ball:
Unfortunately, the ball is thrown right at Clemons, and the Jets' drive is stalled. A higher pass over the top of the cheating safety could have resulted in a touchdown.
What Does This All Mean?
Sanchez's career is at a crossroads. At times, he flashes the ability to be a solid NFL starter who can win games with the right pieces around him. Then, he turns around and makes head-scratching plays.
Sanchez actually played a solid game Thursday night, but a few poor plays overshadowed that.
The Jets need to decide whether his ball-security issues and rookie mistakes will ever go away. In Year 4, you expect them to be eliminated, but they continue to happen on a regular basis. He has made some strides, but he counters everything he does well with a brutal, devastating mistake.
When Sanchez makes an error, it is usually a game-changing mistake that simple practice and coaching can't eliminate.
In the end, it could be the simple uncertainties that surround Sanchez on a week-to-week basis that could end his career on a sour note in New York.
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