First off, let me get something out of the way. After continuing the preseason's poor offensive play during the week one game against the Ravens I must admit I was one of the people scared that Mark Sanchez might have been in a "Sophomore Slump". It was pretty obvious that if Sanchez and the offense kept up with that type of performance then our season was doomed. To my surprise Sanchez redeemed himself against Tom Brady and the Patriots in week two silencing the critics for at least a week. Sanchez had the best game of his careers statistically and there can be no argument against that claim. He had a career high 3TD's and 21 Completions and he also had a passing rating of 124.3. Even those of you that were high on Sanchez wasn't expecting anything like this, it shocked us all. I'm not expecting many more games from him this perfect, there may be 2 or 3 more but that's all. I could see him throwing a 4TD game with 1INT or a couple of 3TD games with some INT's but 3TD's no picks, 21 for 30 isn't going to happen a lot unless he's the next Peyton Manning... There's only one way he could ever reach that kind of skill level which is all based on his development. If Sanchez develops into an above average quarterback it essentially guarantees us a Super Bowl ring since our defense is so good. With a defense like this he doesn't have to put up 40 points to keep the game close, he doesn't have to be super. If he could lead the Jets to averaging anywhere between 20-30 points per game then no one would be able to beat us unless our defense had a bad game. It's that simple. Let's take a peek at a few ideas we should implement to bring the best out of our young QB.
1) Eliminate the "checkdown, checkdown, checkdown" mentality from Sanchez's mind
During the week 1 game vs. Baltimore, Sanchez completed only 10 passes, 5 of which were divided between LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene and Tony Richardson. These short dump offs are mainly the reason why he accumulated a measly 74 yards passing. By not picking his head up and looking down the field he may have missed out on several big gains. With the great field positioning we had throughout the contest one 20 yard pass could have changed the course of the game and essentially led us to a victory. In fact, Sanchez threw the ball long (10 yards or more) 6 times, one of which was a bomb to Keller that was pulled back due to a penalty which negates that pass from counting as an attempt. Therefore only 5 passes were thrown for 10 yards or more throughout the entire game in which he threw 21 passes in. It seemed like we were scared to allow him to make a mistake. Every QB throws INT's, its inevitable in football; we shouldn't refrain from him going long in fear of a pick. The checkdown is a quality aspect of any offense but if we consistently go to it play after play it will quickly become too much of a good thing. Stop with the checkdowns, stop with the dump offs and lets pick up some yards.
2) Fire Brian Schottenheimer?
Brian Schottenheimer is known for his exotic offensive play calling and man crush on Mark Sanchez. Many have been calling for his head, friends and family alike. He calls reverses to Brad Smith on 3rd and 2 for a loss of 1000 yards, calls medium slants across the middle on 4th down with the game on the line and no time outs, it's that bad sometimes. Against the Pats he made a call me and my brothers really disliked, on 3rd and 12 with 2 minutes left in the second quarter he called a run up the middle to LT for 4 yards. We then punted the ball back to Tom Brady who can move the ball down the field in clutch moments and has proven it. What does he do? He eventually throws the Moss TD that led to Revis' injury. Nice call Shotty, nice call! I felt like we should have gone for that 1st down and let Sanchez throw. I really didn't feel comfortable giving the ball back to Brady and he proved that my uneasiness was 100% justified. It's unknown if Sanchez would have converted that 3rd down or not but I would have taken the chance. Schottenheimer can be golden at times but poisonous at times as well, whether you want him gone is for you to decide. I'm not too sure just yet, I'll wait the year out and then see how I feel about him.
3) More options, higher chance of success
After watching the first two games of the season my brother and I realized something about Sanchez and his success passing the ball. When given more receivers to spread the field with Sanchez can find the open man more easily and he showed that against New England. Having one TE, two WR's and LT out the backfield is good but not good enough. If we only give Sanchez 3 or 4 options he's going to take the checkdown 70% of the time. How about Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller and LT? Why shouldn't we run a 3WR 1TE 1HB set with those players? I would love to see that on the field and I can't wait until Holmes gets back to see how we utilize him. If you don't like those options how about a 4WR 1HB set? Holmes, Edwards, Cotchery, Smith and LT/Greene? We have options for Sanchez to throw the ball to; let's put them on the field and let Sanchez make some plays. I'm not saying run these sets all game long but I would love to see them in game and see how things work. I've watched and when we give him more options he plays better. I'm only going off of two games but there's no reason to not give him more options on certain plays. He'll definitely throw somewhere near 30 passes next week after this week's performance and if he does what he did against New England again against the Dolphins I'll be convinced for sure.
4) No more smash mouth, Passing and Running gets split 50/50
We pound the rock, we run the clock and we never stop, that's the Jets' motto so where does Sanchez fit in that style? Well right now I'd say running and passing was split to about 60/40 last season but with a year now under Sanchez's belt do we slowly begin to give him more freedom? We don't have to run the ball so much and we shouldn't if Sanchez develops or plays like he did in the playoffs. Running the ball less sacrifices our time draining possessions but if we sacrifice them and finish possessions with points instead of field positioning punts then I'm all in. The reason we play the way we do is because our offense doesn't put up enough points to win the typical football game. We run the ball and take chunks off the clock then send our top defense on the field and put our trust in them. By running the ball and cutting time off the clock we limit the opposing team's possessions giving them fewer chances to score on an elite defense which makes offense even harder for our opponents. So if their offense is more dominant than ours these tactics brings it down to our level, if their offense is less dominant than ours it makes the game that much more easy for us. It's actually a beautifully organized style and is nothing short of genius although it is as simple as a pick and roll. The point that I'm trying to make is that you can eliminate that entire way of playing but it all depends on Sanchez's development. If he can consistently lead our offense to points we wouldn't need to milk the clock or limit possessions for the other team because we'd score way more often. Therefore we wouldn't have to run as much, bring it down a notch and knock the passing game up a notch. There's nothing wrong with being balanced.
5) Continue with our current identity, run the ball and pass when necessary.
"If it aint broke don't fix it." We've all heard that note before so do you agree that no change is needed? We got pretty close to the Super Bowl last year but it wasn't an easy road, some things didn't go our way. We lost games we should have won (Dolphins x2, Bills, Falcons etc.) and won games we should have lost (...). In the playoffs we got lucky (The Kaeding Kicks) but took advantage and won a hard fought game. So were the 2009-2010 Jets already broken? We went through hell to get as far as we did last year and no one knows if we'll be able to do it twice. Then again, we have a rebuilt squad, got rid of pieces that costs us games (Lito Sheppard...!!) and replaced them with some nice talent. Maybe we can stick to our old style and have more success with our new and improved team but the question still remains, where does Sanchez stand in that kind of style? He has to throw often for him to progress; we can't keep him in a car seat and expect him to just evolve. He has to throw, find a rhythm, learn defenses; there are steps that have to be taken. We kept Sanchez chained up last season and this is why I don't believe this would be the best way to go if we wanted to develop Sanchez more. I think it's time for a change folks.
Our Super Bowl is riding on Sanchez; we have to find a way to get him to be the best player he could possibly be at this point in time. It would be great if he could reverse his Interceptions and Touchdowns from last year. 20-12, that's 8 more TD's 8 less INT's and that would make us a very lethal team. We'd score more and turn the ball over less, two factors that can easily determine victory or defeat. We beat ourselves a lot of times last year and lowering the amount of picks would be key to stop that from happening again this year. Everything is on Sanchez and that Taco Bell hat of his; let's see where this kid takes us.