- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the fifth part in a nine-part review of the 2011 season, a position-by-position analysis:
Overall grade: 6.5
Depth chart: Mark Sanchez (16 starts/1103 plays), Mark Brunell (0/23), Kevin O'Connell (DNP), Greg McElroy (injured).
2011 headline: Third Time's Not a Charm
Gold star: N/A
Stat check: Sanchez accounted for 32 touchdowns -- 26 passing, six rushing, a franchise-best for a quarterback. The previous mark was 30, set by Vinny Testaverde in 1998.
Analysis: In his first two seasons, Sanchez demonstrated winning intangibles, including the ability to perform in the clutch. This was supposed to be the season he added the tangibles, blossoming into a legit, well-rounded quarterback. It didn't happen.
Sanchez regressed in a number of areas, namely pocket awareness, game management and reading defenses. His mechanics got sloppy as the season progressed. By the end of the year, he was throwing off his back foot as soon as he sensed pressure. The basic fundamental of ball security also suffered, as he lost eight fumbles. All told, he committed a league-high 26 turnovers.
Some people think he never fully recovered from the beating he took in Baltimore in Week 4. That game, no doubt, prompted the coaches to change their offensive approach. Clearly, the lack of a running game and consistent pass protection hurt Sanchez. One opposing scout said Sanchez throws better against eight-man fronts because it's easier for him to read defenses with a single-high safety.
Play-action passing is supposed to be his strength, but he didn't light it up there, either, completing only 56.6 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His overall accuracy improved by a hair, but the damning statistic is how he fared on passes of 10 yards or fewer -- only 62.4 percent, with 10 interceptions. That tied with Philip Rivers for second-most in the league, behind Ryan Fitzpatrick (13).
Some in the organization think Sanchez struggled with Brian Schottenheimer's complicated system, and some believe that Schottenheimer stubbornly tried to make Sanchez a pocket passer instead of maximizing his strength -- moving the pocket, letting him throw on the run.
All that is history; Sanchez enters a make-or-break season with a new coordinator -- assuming he's the starter, not Peyton Manning. He needs to re-dedicate himself in the offseason (no more GQ photo shoots) and resolve any lingering issues in the locker room -- i.e. Santonio Holmes. Sanchez wants to be good, now he has to show it.
Sanchez's backup/mentor, Brunell, is history. The Jets will acquire a viable No. 2 to push Sanchez, keeping McElroy in the mix.
2012 free agents: Brunell (UFA), O'Connell (UFA).
On the bubble: N/A
Note: Play counts, which include penalties, provided by Pro Football Focus.
4dField Yates and Rich Cimini