Matchup to Watch: Mark Sanchez vs. Mark Sanchez

Jared Wickerham

In this upcoming game against the Miami Dolphins, the first key matchup to watch will be Mark Sanchez vs. himself.

Through his first four seasons, we've seen our fair share of highs and lows with QB Mark Sanchez. Oftentimes, he plays down to an opponent and looks painfully like a rookie all over again. Against superior opponents, he'll often step up his game and play like the franchise quarterback we so desperately want. Unfortunately, we usually don't know which Sanchez we're going to get.

In this fascinating article, Mark Cannizzaro compares Sanchez to the other quarterbacks of his draft class to find favorable results, essentially finding that Sanchez, through his career thus far, has been generally superior to the alternatives. What makes the comparison even more interesting is how Sanchez has done the past three weeks.

Houston Texans: 14 for 31 (45%) for 230 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions.
Indianapolis Colts: 11 for 18 (61%) for 82 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions.
New England Patriots: 28 for 41 (68%) for 328 yards, one touchdown, one interception.

Sanchez's foibles and failures thus far in his career have been discussed ad nauseam. But as you can see, Sanchez has become significantly more accurate the past two weeks than he was earlier in the season. A lot of that, I think, has to do with his receivers, who are getting better and healthier. Jeremy Kerley has stepped up in the past few weeks, Stephen Hill's route running has improved fairly dramatically, and Dustin Keller is finally healthy. The other big contributing factor has been the weakness of the secondaries the Jets have faced.

The last time the New York Jets played the Miami Dolphins, Sanchez went 21 for 45 (47%) for 306 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. In that game, Sanchez's only threat was Santonio Holmes, who abused CB Richard Marshall with nine catches for 147 yards.

Now, Kerley is more productive than Holmes was at any point before his injury. In those last three weeks I discussed above, Kerley is top ten in the league in receiving yards with 238, and top fifteen in targets (26) and receptions (15). He's also near the top of the league in yards per catch with a 15.86 average. Richard Marshall is probably out for the game, with CB Nolan Carroll in line to replace him. As with the last time the Jets played the Dolphins, and Sanchez's last two weeks, he does not face a particularly great secondary (28th in the league in pass yards allowed). The healthy additions of Hill and Keller, as well as the resurgence of the run game, all set up Sanchez for a better performance than he had in his last outing against the Dolphins.

The point I'm trying to get at is that Sanchez is in a great position to capitalize on his recent success and his newfound weapons to tear apart the Dolphins secondary. With the deep passing game we saw against the Texans and the Patriots, Sanchez ought to be able step up and be a franchise quarterback, at least for this one game, and lead the Jets to victory.

The question is, which Mark Sanchez will we get this Sunday? The rookie look-a-like, or the franchise quarterback?

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