|Can Sanchez and Tebow coexist? So far, so good. (Getty Images)|
We're more than a week into training camp and here's what we've learned about the Jets: Tim Tebow is inconceivably popular. There's more, of course, but Tebow is all anyone wants to talk about. So it wasn't surprising that Jim Rome broached the topic when he spoke Wednesday with starting quarterback Mark Sanchez.
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Rome asked about the whole Tebow phenomenon and whether Sanchez would be able play without looking over his shoulder.
"I think that's where the discipline comes in," he said. "After being in the NFL for three years now -- going into my fourth year -- it's almost like your senior year of college, it feels like you're really ready to take that next step. Is this an obstacle? Sure. But if anybody can handle it it's me. If anybody kind of understands the kind of fanfare and things that go on here in New York it's me. You gotta play through it, stay strong, and trust your fundamentals."
Sanchez forgot to mention always giving 110 percent and playing each down like it was your last. To be fair, we can excuse the cliches because other than questions about all the training camp scraps, Tebow is the only topic the media asks Sanchez about.
"It's clear that I'm the starting quarterback," Sanchez continued, "and Tim's here for a specific role, and they think he can help us. He's a good football player, a good personality, and that never hurts a team (Editor's note: Kyle Orton disagrees). But it's been an experience having that kind of fanfare here and it seems like every year there's just something else at Jets camp that gets people excited or gets people upset at us."
Coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum said from the beginning that Sanchez is the Jets starter and nothing's changed through the first week of camp. In the spring, we wondered if the Jets brain trust my consider reordering the depth chart if Sanchez got off to a slow start (a distinct possibility given the Jets' tough schedule to begin the season).
But after hearing NFL Films' Greg Cosell talk about New York's running game -- specifically, describing Shonn Greene's as a "one-speed runner" -- we got the feeling that Tebow was brought in to shore up the rushing attack not push Sanchez at quarterback. Wherever the truth lies this much is certain: for the Jets to be successful, Sanchez has to be more consistent. Incidentally, it's a topic Cosell wrote about recently.
Here’s the short version of my analysis of Sanchez: Because of limited arm strength and inconsistent progression reading and decision-making, he’s at his best working with a strong running game that provides a play-action element. Play-action almost always gives a quarterback a defined “either-or” read, with a check-down available if needed. This allows Sanchez to get the ball out quickly, within the structure and timing of the pass game. Through three years, this is what the film shows Sanchez to be. He’s a function of the team around him. He needs a consistent running game and solid offensive line to have a chance to be a quality starter.
It's that last sentence that again makes us think that Tebow is there to bolster the running game, whether that's through conventional running plays, the Wildcat or goal-to-go situations. That said, a little arm-waving doesn't magically fix the Jets' backfield.
Cosell adds that "The more snaps Tebow plays at quarterback, the less likely it is that Sanchez will mature. … Having Tebow play four or five snaps per game is one thing; the Jets did that with Brad Smith in Sanchez’s first two seasons. However, if Tebow plays 15-20 snaps, that’s another story that will present Sanchez with an entirely different set of issues. One thing is certain: The fewer snaps Sanchez plays, the worse he will perform. That’s a given."
Not to worry, though. Ryan has everything under control. Until the season starts, anyway.
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