Heading into his third season, Mark Sanchez seems to be generating some of the most heated discussions among NFL observers. In his two seasons the charismatic New York Jets quarterback flashes of brilliance to go along with improved leadership skills, but has also dealt with questions about his maturity and has struggled with bouts of poor decision-making. One thing he did prove in 2010—he doesn’t blink when the game is on the line.
Sancez’s numbers certainly looked a lot better in 2010. He threw five more touchdowns than he did in 2009 (up from 12 to 17) and threw seven less interceptions (down from 20 to 13). He also threw for more yards, but also had 143 more pass attempts. The only statistic without major improvement was his completion percentage, which only rose to 54.8 percent, a one percent increase.
Sanchez detractors will be quick to point out that his numbers benefited from the increased pass attempts and the addition of Santonio Holmes. While both statements are true, the fact that the Jets gave Sanchez an increased role in the offense and still advanced to the AFC Championship game is a sign of his development. As a rookie, he was not ready to be the leader on offense, during or between snaps. As a second-year quarterback Sanchez became a better leader overall and improved his play to the point where he can be pointed to as one of the reasons the Jets are a successful team.
A test of his maturity is likely in the coming months—it is difficult to imagine a scenario where the Jets can bring back Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Brad Smith. Sanchez will need to develop a rapport with one of his lesser-used targets, and will probably lean more on tight end Dustin Keller. Of course, there are rumblings about Randy Moss joining the Green and White, but we’ll leave that untouched for now.
So, looking back at his first two years, were the Jets right to trade up and draft Sanchez? As someone who was against the pick on draft day two seasons ago, I have to say yes. Regardless of your opinion of him, Sanchez is the Jets franchise leader in playoff wins two seasons into his career, and has beaten Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, and Carson Palmer in the playoffs, all on the road. Most of all, he seems to shine brightest in clutch situations, regular season or playoffs. He still has a long way to go, and the most important thing he needs to do is improve his completion percentage—no matter who his receivers are—but Sanchez is on his way to becoming a very good quarterback in the NFL, and one capable of winning it all.
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