He’s the second most talked about quarterback on the New York Jets, but fourth-year starter Mark Sanchez holds the key to his team’s playoff hopes. Despite reaching career highs in completion percentage (56.7), touchdown passes (26), rushing touchdowns (6) and quarterback rating (78.2) last season, Sanchez became somewhat of a scapegoat for the Jets’ disappointing 2011 campaign.
The former USC Trojan committed 24 turnovers, (18 interceptions and 6 fumbles) due to a combination of poor decision making, questionable play-calling and suspect offensive line play. With a new offensive coordinator in Tony Sparano and new right tackle in Austin Howard, Sanchez is looking for better efficiency this time around. Unfortunately for Gang Green, its offense has produced just nine points in two preseason games, creating frustration in the locker room and leaving Sanchez and company searching for answers.
“On Sunday night, we want to play well, we want to play fast (and) keep up our tempo, said Sanchez of the offense’s game plan against Carolina. “And then when we get down into the red zone, we have to execute a little better. We can’t have penalties. We have to avoid penalties and turnovers in the red zone. That’s what has been keeping us from scoring.”
While the offense’s struggles have caused panic and unrest among Jets fans, the likely return of receivers Jeremy Kerley and Santonio Holmes to the starting lineup certainly puts a smile on Sanchez’s face.
“I love JK (Kerley),” said Sanchez of the Jets’ second-year receiver. "He’s quick and explosive. (We got) a mix of a little Santonio again out there today and it just felt like things have started to click again. (When) you get explosive playmakers like that back, it really can boost your offense.”
With Kerley and Holmes back in the fold, the offensive line is looking to bounce back after removing their embattled right tackle Wayne Hunter from the starting lineup.
“I know Wayne knows that swing tackle position better than anybody, said Sanchez of Hunter’s new role. “And he’s comfortable in that position. The most important thing I think both of those guys would say it is, what’s best for the team.”
As New York tries to establish an offensive identity and build momentum heading into the regular season, Sanchez is eager to lead Gang Green with a vengeance this year.
“It’s a big year for all of us," admitted Sanchez following a mediocre 2011 season. “We’re all ready just to start playing again. I think the guys are excited. I said it earlier in spring, there’s just a good vibe around here. So, regardless of any outside pressure, we’re putting a lot of pressure on each other, on ourselves, so it’s good.“
Rick Laughland covers the New York Jets for Greenandwhitereport.com
You can follow him on Twitter @rlaughland
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