Lichtenstein: Jets Final First-Half Series Highlights Sanchez’ Dysfunction
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By Steve Lichtenstein
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For NFL fans in stadiums across the country, that’s the time you stand up in anticipation of your team’s exclamation point to their drive.
Now I’ve learned a long time ago that I’m not supposed to take anything—ANYTHING—from preseason games. Everything from formations to play-calling to blocking schemes has a habit of changing once the games start to count.
However, if any of you still don’t get why I’ve been pounding the Jets for not terminating Sanchez’ employment back on June 1, the sequence of events at the close of last night’s first half against Jacksonville provided further evidence.
The Jets, who obliterated the Jaguars’ lesser units in the second half of a 37-13 win, were trailing, 13-10, in the final minute when Jacksonville returner Tobais Palmer muffed a punt that was recovered by Sanchez’ high school buddy Konrad Reuland at the three-yard line.
With 24 seconds left and a timeout in hand, the Jets were set up to head into the locker room at least tied.
On first down, Sanchez dropped back and then scrambled to his left. At that point, Jets wide receiver Clyde Gates sat down in the back of the end zone, waving his arms to alert Sanchez as to how wide open he was.
Despite Gates being right in front of him and basically firing flares in his direction, Sanchez didn’t see him. Instead, Sanchez tucked the ball and dove to the one-yard line.
Ok, though the Jets were forced to use their timeout, they still had 14 seconds to get off a few passes and, at worst, kick a field goal.
Of course, they had to make sure no one was tackled in bounds short of the goal line, which is why they were fortunate that Sanchez’ second-down pass on a quick move to the right by Jeremy Kerley was a little off target and incomplete. With the ball not reaching the end zone, the clock likely would have run out had Kerley come down with it.
So now it’s third down with ten seconds left. In a similar situation earlier in the second quarter, Sanchez threw an egregious interception trying to stick one into multiple-covered tight end Kellen Winslow in the end zone.
Maybe that’s why offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was slow to get this play into the huddle. Whatever, Sanchez showed no awareness of the play clock and no urgency until he got to the line. Though Sanchez did well to get the snap off in time, it wasn’t before the Jets had come set after shifting. Even if Sanchez’ dart over the middle to Stephen Hill hadn’t been broken up, it would not have counted.
The Jaguars took the penalty to move the ball back to the six-yard line with six seconds remaining. Since it was a preseason game, I would be wrong to kill coach Rex Ryan for not taking the three points right there. This was practice, and he KNOWS his kickers can make chip shots. It was still third down, so why not give Sanchez another opportunity to make a play? There was a chance that there would still be a tick or two should another quick route fall incomplete.
Except that Sanchez has no clock in his head. He dropped back, looked, moved to his right, and looked some more.
By then the clock hit zero. If ever there was a time where Sanchez could try to thread a needle without repercussions, this was it. The field goal was no longer an option as this would be the final play of the half. Throw one up and hope for a break.
What does Sanchez do? He throws it out-of-bounds along the right sideline.
The point of all this is not to whine about one ugly series in a meaningless game. This one just happened to perfectly spotlight the reason why Sanchez has not gotten to the next level after his first two seasons as a somewhat competent game manager.
It comes down to processing the game. Sanchez just doesn’t see the field the way NFL quarterbacks are supposed to.
The best of the bunch—Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Manning—make decisions at a significantly faster rate. They’re able to survey the field, go through their progressions and get the ball out to the proper target much more efficiently, never mind accurately.
When the Jets give these top passers too much time in the pocket, I dread the inevitable big gainer even before the ball is released. When it’s Sanchez who gets a few extra seconds, I can see the panic formulating in his body. I wonder, is he going to force a throw, take the sack or is he thinking that he’s supposed to throw it away? It’s why opposing defenses can bait Sanchez into picks—he often doesn’t see the underneath coverage.
This should have been obvious to anyone who has watched Sanchez’ four-year body of work. And it’s not going to get much better.
For the Jets to go into this season without a different veteran option to bridge any gap there may be until rookie Geno Smith (who hopefully recovers from his ankle injury in time to start next week against the Giants) is NFL-ready, was an insult to their fans.
Until the middle of last season, I felt Sanchez deserved the benefit of the doubt. But he’s no longer a young player—at age 26, he should be heading into his prime.
I know it won’t happen any time soon, but last night showed why I wanted to see him head out-of-town back when the Jets had the chance.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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