Aug 15, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez (3) looks to pass the ball against the New England Patriots in the first half during the preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 42-35. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
The fifth overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, quarterback Mark Sanchez was drafted by the New York Jets to lead head coach Rex Ryan’s shut down defense and power running offense. Despite leading the Jets to two consecutive AFC Championship games, Sanchez is more known for his follies (i.e. butt-fumble, interceptions, etc.) than his post season success.
Often titled a “game manager” while under Rex, Sanchez never had the tools around him that he now inherits from the Philadelphia Eagles and the team that General Manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly have constructed. He was never given the opportunity to truly succeed in this league on his own merit.
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Things are about to change for Mark Sanchez. Sanchez now enters Week 10 behind a rejuvenated offensive line, playmakers at receiver, and a dynamic trio of running backs.
This week the Eagles lost guard Todd Herremans for the remainder of the season due to a torn biceps, but were able to activate guard Evan Mathis off injured reserve/designated to return. Losing Herremans is a blow to this team, but he was not the same in the Houston Texans game as he bravely pushed aside pain to do anything for his team to win. Now Mark Sanchez steps under center behind an offensive line of Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Matt Tobin, and Lane Johnson. Sanchez has had much worse to work with up front.
Mark’s previous lines were anchored by left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold with some interchangeable pieces throughout his career. The Eagles are now protecting him with four potential Pro Bowl caliber players up front. Sanchez now gets to play behind one of the top offensive lines in the league to provide him time to find his targets downfield.
Jeremy Maclin has taken the league by storm in 2014 as he continues to provide the Eagles with an explosive and dangerous weapon on the perimeter. He now has the fifth most receiving yards in the NFL and trails only Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb in touchdowns by a wide receiver. Sanchez also has two tall targets in Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews who are both capable of stretching the field and using their size against defensive backs. Add two athletic receiving tight ends in Brent Celek and Zach Ertz and Mark Sanchez has the tools needed to succeed at attacking every level of the defense.
Sanchez’s arguably most dangerous weapons were either an underwhelming Santonio Holmes or tight end Dustin Keller. He had very little to work with as far as playmakers during his time with New York as Rex continually invested first round picks in the defense. After the Mark Sanchez pick in 2009, Rex Ryan has gone five straight years picking defensive players in the first round. This hinderance of providing Sanchez with playmakers certainly shared some part in his eventual dismissal from the team.
Mark Sanchez has had some quality running backs to hand off to during his tenure with the Jets, but were mostly on the tail end of their respective careers in Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson. Sanchez now gets one of the best in the league in LeSean McCoy while he’s in his prime. He also gets a shifty and elusive Darren Sproles that’s been making big plays nearly every game. Tack on a healthy Chris Polk as Philadelphia’s big back who finally got some looks last week as he picked up 50 yards and a score on only eight carries, and you’ve got yourself quite the three-headed monster that defenses have to account for.
Nov 2, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez (3) during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia has now dropped back to throw the ball the fourth most times in the NFL this season heading into Week 10. Kelly will likely be revising his offense more due to the return of the healthy offensive linemen coming back than his switch at quarterback. Getting LeSean McCoy and the group of running backs more touches will be paramount to this team’s success. A strong effective running game will provide Sanchez an easier time picking up third downs and finding windows to hit his receivers.
That isn’t to say that Chip Kelly is going to have Sanchez fall back into his prior “game manager” role. Look no further than last week when Sanchez entered the game. He immediately hit Jeremy Maclin on a post route off of play-action for 52 yards in a drive that ended with an 11 yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. Overall Sanchez played a solid game coming in off the bench and is more than capable of running Kelly’s offense.
Mark Sanchez now takes over a 6-2 team with playoff aspirations and much more. He now has one of the most creative offensive minded coaches in the league to aid him and will find ways to give Sanchez every opportunity in this offense to succeed. Playing behind a stout offensive line, a litany of playmakers in offensive weapons, and a strong stable of running backs, I have every reason to believe that the best from Mark Sanchez has yet to come.