NFL Predictions: Mark Sanchez and Four Other Breakout Players in the AFC East
It’s a football frenzy out there.
If processing football information were a drug I’d be six feet under by now. Whether it’s on Twitter, ESPN, NFL Network, local sports radio, or the blog stratosphere, I’ve been on an unhealthy football binge lately.
I am juiced.
Finally I’ve peeked my head up out of the water for a few moments of air. Let’s break down breakout players from each team in what looks poised to be a frantically competitive AFC East. I’m going with two Dolphins because unfortunately for my poor soul it’s my team.
Just kidding. Although picking a breakout player on this squad is tough, I’m going with their animal rookie defensive tackle out of Alabama, Marcell Dareus. This 6’3″ 340-pounder is the type of player you plug on the line for the next 10 years and build a defense around him.
Now whether Dareus alone is enough of an addition to improve the Bills’ league-worst rush defense (4.8 YPC in 2010) is another question.
The Dolphins greatest strength is the defensive line. No question. From interior Goliath Paul Soliai to defensive ends Randy Starks and Kendall Langord, this unit is scary deep. But the forgotten man here is second-year end Jared Odrick, who missed most his rookie season with a foot injury.
Odrick has the ability to play end in a 3-4 front and tackle in passing situations with four down lineman. His quick first step and explosive hands will make him a factor against both the pass and run.
On the opposite trench Lydon Murtha is poised to break into the unit at some point this season. He’s been manning the left tackle position with the first team as Jake Long recuperates from injury.
Who wins the AFC East?
However, expect him to mark his mark on the right side, eventually taking the place of Marc Colombo, an atrocity on the Cowboys line last year. Reports out of Dolpins camp indicate Murtha has shown tremendous improvement from a year ago.
He’s been a project thus far in his career but the former seventh-round pick has rare athleticism for the position and appears to be ready to make an impact in the near future.
While the addition of Chad Ochocinco gives Tom Brady another proven weapon, he isn’t what he once was. He should be used more as a possession receiver in the short to intermediate passing game than as a deep threat.
The true deep threat on this roster will be third-year burner Brandon Tate, who will destroy opposing secondaries down the field. The Patriots are so good in the short passing game it forces opponents to play closer to the line than they would like and it will open up lanes for Tate and other Patriot weapons.
First off, I’d like to rant about this team.
I hate the New York Jets. I hate the Jets for having swagger. I hate them for backing up said swagger with two consecutive AFC Championship appearances despite having their quarterback throw 33 interceptions the past two seasons.
I hate the fact they have a coach who every player wants to play for and every fan wants to root for. I hate the fact this coach was actually interviewed by the Dolphins. To top it off, Bill Parcells, a man who set the organization back at least ten years, actually recommended him to the Jets. All of this went down while “Fat Tuna” was still employed by the Dolphins.
I hate the Jets so much I’ve grown to despise the color green, unless it coincides with Hurricane orange.
Okay, moving on.
From a distance there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of difference between Miami’s Chad Henne and New York’s Mark Sanchez. Henne posted a quarterback rating of 75.4 in 2010 while Sanchez was at 75.3. Both have more career interceptions than touchdowns.
The one key difference? Wins.
Henne is 14-14 without a playoff appearance, while Sanchez is 29-12 with a 4-2 playoff record and two AFC Championship appearances. Some might argue Sanchez has a better supporting cast, while I think the difference is minuscule. Sanchez also improved his abysmal 75.3 rating in the regular season to 95.5 in the playoffs last year.
Much of it comes down to intangibles.
Like Jay Fiedler during all of those Miami playoff appearances, which feel liked centuries ago, Sanchez has the winner gene. He may post ugly numbers, but somewhere at some key point in the game, he makes a monster, game-deciding play. His mobility also gives him a major advantage as a young quarterback. When a play breaks down he has the ability to turn a sure sack into a fifteen yard scramble.
Heading into his third year in the same offense at the professional level, this is the year he makes the jump into the land of quarterback consistency, a world Henne still doesn’t have a map for.
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