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Eli-Esque? Jets’ Sanchez Hoping To Follow Manning’s Lead In 4th Season

Mark Sanchez (credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Mark Sanchez (credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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CORTLAND, N.Y. (WFAN/AP) — Mark Sanchez wants to be like Eli Manning.

And so far, the Jets quarterback is right on track. He’ll need one terrific finish to his fourth NFL season to keep pace, though. Super Bowl or bust? Not quite, but the pressure’s on — and Sanchez knows it.

“This whole thing is a learning process, and it really is a marathon and not a sprint,” Sanchez said after training camp practice Monday. “So, just keep your head down, keep working, smile, and have a good time with it.”

Jets coach Rex Ryan likes the changes he’s seen in Sanchez.

“It’s that natural maturation you get in your fourth year,” Rex Ryan said. “Now he’s a true pro. Four years into it, I think you expect it. You see it. … Maybe a little less messing around, a little more focused.”

The similarities through the New York quarterbacks’ first three NFL seasons are unmistakable: Doubts from fans and media that they could ever truly lead their franchise. Struggles on the field. The immense pressure of playing in New York.

Sanchez knows all this and has worked hard in the offseason, perhaps spurred on even more by the presence of Tim Tebow as his backup quarterback. One day this spring, Sanchez was curious and decided to see just how closely he and the Giants quarterback compare through their first three seasons.

— Sanchez: 9,209 yards passing with 55 touchdowns and 51 interceptions in 47 games — with four road playoff wins.

— Manning: 8,049 yards passing with 54 TDs and 44 INTs in 41 games — with two playoff losses.

Oh, and their quarterback ratings? Exactly the same at 73.2.

The difference for Manning came the following season, when he elevated his game in the postseason and began his climb to elite status.

“That fourth year, I think he threw one pick in the playoffs when they won that Super Bowl — one,” Sanchez said. “And I think he might have thrown 20 in the regular season. I’ve been there, and plenty of quarterbacks have been there, so you see the margin for error in this league is so small. And once the quarterback, the offense and the coordinator really realize that, and take advantage of that and show that on the field, you can win a lot of games and be very successful.”

Of course, that is the type of success Sanchez and the rest of the Jets franchise are hoping for. And seeing how Manning was able to handle all of it gives them all hope.

“You see guys elevate their game in the playoffs, you look at other careers, that kind of stuff gets brought to your attention, especially if you have similar career tracks as somebody else in the league or a similar upbringing,” Sanchez said. “So yeah, I looked into it, and have seen how successful (Manning’s) been and seen how he has really weathered the storm and played really well. His game is unbelievable.

“He’s doing a great job.”

Appearing loose and relaxed despite the perceived pressure with Tebow in town, Sanchez has had a good start to camp. Other than a ho-hum performance Sunday, Sanchez has been sharp and the clear leader of the offense.

“I think it takes time,” Sanchez said. “It takes a confidence level and that only happens through getting more and more reps. As guys mature and get a little older and get more familiar with the defenses they see, get more familiar with their surroundings, what a pregame routine is like, they really nail down their own routine and kind of find themselves.”

Do you think Sanchez will quiet his critics this season? Be heard in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)