Mark Sanchez confident in camp

Updated: August 17, 2012, 9:12 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Quarterback controversy? What quarterback controversy?

Mark Sanchez survived the first phase of Tebow-mania, breaking training camp Thursday with a loud and clear message to the New York Jets and their followers: This is "my huddle."

Sanchez also said he expects to be a top-10 quarterback this season, agreeing with teammate Bart Scott's statement from Wednesday.

"Sure, you have to think that, you have to play like that," Sanchez said. "As soon as you step on the field, you have to be the baddest guy out there -- the toughest, the best, the most accurate, and you have to want to win."

Sanchez When you come in the huddle, not to be selfish here, but this is my huddle. Don't talk, name your position quickly and let's go get lined up.

-- Mark Sanchez on taking charge in the Jets' offense

This wasn't exactly Eli Manning declaring himself an "elite" quarterback, but it was a step for Sanchez, whose status as a team leader was questioned at the end of last season.

When he reported to camp three weeks ago, Sanchez was besieged with questions about a potential quarterback controversy. It's still early, but there have been no signs of flinching, with the popular Tim Tebow behind him on the depth chart.

Sanchez called this "probably my most consistent camp," noting he has dramatically reduced his turnovers -- a bugaboo from last season. He also has demonstrated a take-charge attitude, claiming he's more comfortable as a vocal leader, especially with the young wide receivers.

"When you come in the huddle, not to be selfish here, but this is my huddle," he said. "Don't talk, name your position quickly and let's go get lined up."

Sanchez said he made it a point to tell teammates that it's his neck on the line when they break down, so they'd better know and execute their assignments. He admitted that it's a departure from his usual demeanor.

"That takes a little bit of leadership, a little bit of experience and it's not the easiest thing to do," he said. "It's not necessarily in my genetic makeup to start yelling at guys, but there's a time and a place to give somebody a hug ... and there are times when you have to get on guys."

It should be pointed out that wide receiver Santonio Holmes, with whom Sanchez clashed at the end of last season, hasn't been in the huddle too often lately.

Holmes has been sidelined for nearly two weeks with a rib-cartilage injury, and he won't play Saturday night against the New York Giants.

Without Holmes, Sanchez's receiving corps is filled with rookies and unproven players, no headstrong veterans. It's a dramatic change from last training camp, when Sanchez admitted that he was focused on trying to distribute the ball evenly among Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason.

Now Sanchez is one of the most experienced players on offense.

"I really think I'm navigating that a lot better now," he said.

Scott and Darrelle Revis, both defensive leaders, spoke out Wednesday, praising Sanchez's maturity and command of the offense. Scott said Sanchez is doing a better job of keeping his emotions in check. In the past, Sanchez was notorious for pouting after an interception or getting too excited after a big play.

Scott said every quarterback should have the Eli Manning poker face. Sanchez agreed -- sort of.

"I think (Manning) does a great job with his emotions, but the funny thing is -- this is sort of tongue-in-cheek -- but it's kind of the way it works," he said. "If you win a Super Bowl and rip off your helmet and throw it on the sidelines, no one is really going to say anything. You get that pass.

"But if you go 8-8, get mad and show a little emotion on TV, people are going to say, 'Oh, he's a head case.' That's kind of the way it works and he deserves that, but it's natural to have emotion out there. I'm not a robot."

Sanchez, maddeningly inconsistent last season, has a ways to go before he's a top-10 quarterback. In fact, he was the 23rd-rated passer last season. He threw a career-high 26 touchdowns, but he also had 18 interceptions, only two fewer than his rookie season.

But he has four playoff wins, all on the road.

Coach Rex Ryan declined to comment on the top-10 talk.

"I don't want to put a number out there, where you'd rank him, but I feel great about Mark, no doubt," Ryan said. "He has all the tools, he has a great grasp of the system and now he has experience, which you can't buy."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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