Jets Insider: Debunking Sanchez myth

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
9:06
PM ET
Mark SanchezJeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesMark Sanchez was actually one of the better protected QBs in 2011 -- and yet he still had 18 INTs.
Mark Sanchez was afforded terrific pass protection Sunday and he responded with arguably the best regular-season performance of his career. So, naturally, Rex Ryan said Monday, "I think when he has time to throw the football, he can be as good as anybody."

Actually, that's not always true.

This may surprise some folks who believe the offensive line was Public Enemy No. 1 last season, but Sanchez was actually one of the better protected quarterbacks in 2011 -- and yet he still had 18 interceptions. He was hit or under duress just 86 times, the fifth-lowest total in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

He threw so many interceptions, in large part, because he made poor decisions and struggled with accuracy, especially on short passes. In fact, 10 of his 18 interceptions came on throws of 10 yards or less, per ESPN Stats. Moral of the story: Good protection doesn't always add up to great passing.

On Sunday, Sanchez had it all going. He made quick and decisive reads. He found open receivers. He delivered the ball on point. He played confidently. He elevated the play of those around him. And, yeah, his protection was nearly flawless -- he was hit only once.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sanchez's game was his accuracy. He completed seven of 11 passes (63.6 percent) with two touchdowns when throwing more than 10 yards down field, according to ESPN Stats. It was his second-highest single-game completion percentage of his career on such throws (min. 10 attempts). Obviously, that can't happen without protection, but it also takes a quarterback with mind and body working in sync.

And that was Sanchez in Week 1.

TRULY SPECIAL TEAMS: Sanchez got most of the headlines, but the special teams also played a huge role. They came up so big that, after one week, the Jets have the No. 1 special-teams unit in the league, according to ESPN's statistical rankings.

ESPN has developed a system that uses statistical data on every aspect of special teams -- field goals, extra points, blocking punts and kicks, returning punts and kickoffs, along with punting and kicking to put opponents in bad field position.

Thanks in large part to Jeremy Kerley's 68-yard punt return for a touchdown, the Jets are No. 1, followed by the Dolphins and Saints. New punter Robert Malone pinned the Bills at their 4-yard line, which also helped the Jets' cause.

QUICK STUDY: One of the under-the-radar storylines in Sunday's win was how the Jets were able to integrate two newcomers into key backup roles -- OT Jason Smith and TE Konrad Reuland.

Reuland, acquired on waivers from the 49ers just eight days before the opener, had only four practices to get up to speed. He learned two different positions, the Y (tight end) and fullback, also contributing in the Wildcat package. He ended up playing 23 snaps on offense. Obviously, he didn't get the entire playbook, but it takes a smart person to learn that quickly. Maybe his Stanford education helped.

"It probably didn't hurt," he said.

Smith, acquired from the Rams in the Wayne Hunter trade, had one preseason game (a half, really) and five practices. He played 20 snaps as the extra blocker/jumbo tight end while also contributing eight plays on special teams.

A lot of credit has to go to their position coaches, Mike Devlin (TEs) and Dave DeGuglielmo (OL). Whenever an 11th-hour arrival contributes, it usually means his position coach did a heck of a job of coaching him up.

ODDS AND ENDS: In his weekly spot on WFAN, DT Mike DeVito said this is the best defense of the Ryan era ... This week, the Jets return to Pittsburgh for the first time since losing the 2010 AFC Championship game. Only 23 players (43 percent) of the roster remains from that team ... If you're wondering about old friend Hunter, he played 14 plays in the Rams' season-opening loss to the Lions. Former Jets C Rob Turner played the entire game for the Rams.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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