Mark Sanchez looked like a rookie last night. His first pass was an interception Baltimore ran back. Ray Lewis dropped a second pick six on the next drive. Early in the game, there wasn't a whole lot to like. He was staring down all of his receivers. He was freezing in the face of blitzes. It was ugly.
I thought Sanchez locked down the starting job after that with a touchdown drive. The question with a rookie quarterback isn't whether there will be moments where you want to put your head into your hands. It's how the rookie will respond to them. Sanchez showed a lot of poise on his final drive. A great example was a third and long in which nothing was open down the field. Sanchez didn't force a bad throw. He dumped it short to Leon Washington. Washington made a big run for a first down. Mark had to be frustrated, but stayed within himself, checked down, and gave his playmaker a chance to make a play. His night ended on a touchdown pass that displayed a great deal of patience. Sanchez waited for something to develop, bought time with his feet, and made a beautiful throw to Washington.
It's not necessarily going to be pretty with a rookie. This was a really stiff test. The Ravens are a top two defense. Eli Manning posted a zero quarterback rating in Baltimore as a rookie. Sanchez was shaky on the national stage in the hostile environment. He showed a lot, though, bouncing back from a rough start.
Clemens needed a monster performance to win the starting job. Instead the veteran of the competition made a rookie mistake. He tossed an interception deep in his own territory as time was running down in the first half. He wilted in the face of pressure and forced a ball instead of throwing it away. Mistakes like that are easier to tolerate from a rookie. A fourth (or seventeenth) year veteran cannot make such killer errors. Clemens did bounce back later with a touchdown pass of his own.
The night ended in a draw, but the rookie was in a tougher spot. Sanchez faced Baltimore's first string defense in the toughest test of his young career. Clemens had already played a great game on this field two years ago. Sanchez showed his youth and inexperience and responded to the adversity. Clemens looked young and inexperienced when he tossed that killer pick. He's had four years to develop.
I say Sanchez deserves to be named starter this week. What do you think?