FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Chad Henne has been competing against Mark Sanchez every week for a few months now.
Not so much personally on the field, but through fans on sports radio and the media in newspaper columns and internet blogs comparing the two. Who has the true franchise quarterback, the Miami Dolphins or the New York Jets?
“They’re both good young quarterbacks,” Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday. “Both their futures are going to be really good in this league.”
Henne and Sanchez are coming off lousy games, and need wins when the Dolphins (6-6) come to New York to take on the Jets (9-3).
“Winning this one for us,” Sanchez said, “might settle some things.”
The comparisons are clear: Both are in their second seasons as starters, have strong arms and the fates of their respective teams riding on their shoulders.
But, that’s where the differences begin.
While both are struggling lately, Sanchez is in no danger of being benched by the Jets, a team loaded with talent. Meanwhile, Henne has already seen the sideline and leads a Dolphins team ranked last in the AFC in scoring.
“The biggest thing as a young quarterback,” Henne said, “is embracing and really trying to critique yourself and don’t shy away from what you have been doing your whole life and that’s throwing the football and being aggressive at the same time.”
Sanchez was admittedly overaggressive Monday night as the Jets fell behind the New England Patriots in a 45-3 rout. He has thrown one touchdown and four interceptions in his last two games.
“I can’t say a guy is struggling at 9-3,” Dolphins cornerback Benny Sapp said. “That doesn’t seem like struggling to me.”
But, Sanchez has been off target for a few weeks now, even in wins. Since opening the season with five straight games without an interception, he has been picked off 11 times since.
“These turnovers need to be cut down,” Sanchez said. “There’s no two ways about it.”
Against New England, Sanchez was 17 of 33 for 164 yards with three interceptions and a minuscule 27.8 quarterback rating.
“He’s a guy that traditionally has responded well,” coach Rex Ryan said. “I hope that’s what happens this week.”
In order to get off to a faster start, Ryan said he would let the offense get the ball first if the Jets win the coin toss; he has always deferred in the past.
Meanwhile, Henne is coming off a career-low rating of 37.8 Sunday in a 13-10 loss to Cleveland, in which he tied a career high with three interceptions. The last time he was picked off three times, he was benched. After Chad Pennington was injured in the next game, Henne was back in the lineup but hurt his knee later in that game, sat out the next week and has started the past two games.
“My personality and how I am, I can forget things pretty quickly,” Henne said. “Obviously, it hurts and you don’t want to go out that way in a game. Understanding your mistakes is the biggest thing and trying to correct them.”
It doesn’t help that Henne has been without several of his playmakers lately, including Brandon Marshall, who was brought to Miami to provide the young quarterback with a game-breaking target.
“I don’t think you can judge a player by one game,” Dolphins running back Ricky Williams said. “He’s young. I’ve learned the most and grown the most from my worst games and worst experiences in life, and knowing Chad, I expect him to do the same.”
The Jets traded up to draft Sanchez out of Southern California with the fifth overall pick in 2009, and he became the starter that summer in training camp. He has 28 touchdowns and 31 interceptions in 27 games, and the full support and confidence of his teammates.
Henne was selected late in the second round out of Michigan in the 2008, stayed on the sideline most of his rookie season as Pennington’s backup and took over last season. He has 24 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions in 28 career games, numbers comparable to Sanchez’s.
“What I’ve seen Sanchez do, I’ve seen Chad do,” Sparano said. “I’ve seen Mark take the game over here as of late a couple of times at the end of the game and take his team down the field and get the win. I’ve seen Chad do that here. Then all of a sudden, you hit a game like this past weekend. These two guys are both pretty resilient.”
Henne has also been solid in three career games against the Jets, completing 64 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and only one interception. His quarterback rating in those games is 101.7, compared with a career rating of 76.2.
“You’ve got a young quarterback who always plays great against us, for some reason,” Ryan said. “Let’s hope they bench him for this game.”
Good try, Rex. Not going to happen. Not this week.
“Listen, the guy’s a young player right now,” Sparano said of Henne. “He’s, I think, getting better at a lot of things. At the end of the year, we’ll have to sit down and from our standpoint, we have to evaluate the whole big picture.”
Sanchez is undoubtedly the Jets’ quarterback of the future, and has been terrific in his three games against the Dolphins. He has thrown for six touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 54 percent of his passes with a 103.3 rating. He’s hoping for more of the same success Sunday.
“You just never want to go out and have a performance like I did last week,” Sanchez said. “You do everything you can the next week to fight it and then it’s a matter of repeating that good performance over and over.”
AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Davie, Fla., contributed to this story.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.