News Column

Mark Sanchez Suddenly a Hot QB Commodity

August 26, 2014

By Jarrett Bell, jbell@usatoday.com, USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrived in the Philadelphia Eagles' up-tempo offense. (file photo)
Quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrived in the Philadelphia Eagles' up-tempo offense. (file photo)

Kicked to the curb by the New York Jets in March, Mark Sanchez has flourished anew this summer with a fresh start after joining the Philadelphia Eagles as a backup to Nick Foles. He has fallen in love with Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense and sparkled in the preseason.

That his name was mentioned as a viable option for the St. Louis Rams after Sam Bradford was lost for the season with another torn anterior cruciate ligament reflects not only how his stock has risen but also the ebb and flow that can exist for a quarterback in the mercurial world of the NFL.

Sanchez, 27, was so hot coming out of Southern California in 2009 that the Jets traded up 12 slots to select him fifth overall.

He started as a rookie, then went to consecutive AFC title games in his first two seasons -- when Brian Schottenheimer, now with St. Louis, was his coordinator.

But Sanchez also experienced great lows, showered with intense criticism as the Jets' "problem" -- hitting rock bottom with the so-called butt fumble before the writing-on-the-wall drafting of successor Geno Smith and the torn shoulder labrum suffered behind a backup line last preseason that wiped out his 2013 campaign.

Reminded of such events as he sat at his stall in a near-empty locker room, Sanchez placed his hands at the side of his head to simulate looking through a tunnel.

"Just stay even," he told USA TODAY Sports. "As long as I'm healthy."

Sanchez isn't expected to play when his former team visits Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday, with Eagles third-stringer Matt Barkley slated to start and play extensively.

Sanchez doesn't need to risk it. In three preseason games, albeit against defenses primarily consisting of backups, he has sizzled. Sanchez has completed 80.6% of his passes while posting a 112.5 passer rating (two touchdown passes, one interception).

"I'm the most confident guy, no matter what's happened to me," Sanchez told reporters Monday. "So I know I can play in this league. Won a ton of games. Been in a lot of tough situations and done really well and done really poorly.

"I knew a fresh start might be good. And it's proved to be that way so far, but I've still got a long way to go."

The Rams, with 13th-year veteran Shaun Hill stepping in for Bradford, should be in the market for Sanchez. There is probably no better backup quarterback in the league more suited to step in for the Rams, given that Sanchez knows Schottenheimer's system and had his best success with the coach.

"I think everybody should be interested in Mark," Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.

"I think he's added a lot to this team as a football player and as a professional.

"And, you know, we're ... sure a lot of people should want him. But we have him, so that's the reality."

It's not that Sanchez, signed in March to a $2.25 million deal for 2014, wants to go anywhere at the moment. He sounds like a man who might be hard to convince that a trade to the Rams would be a good move. He seems content to play out the season behind Foles -- or at least he won't tip his hand otherwise.

Of course, he has heard the speculation. He dismisses it as hearsay.

"Nobody who would make those decisions has said anything," he said, referring to Kelly and Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. Sanchez also said his agent, David Dunn, has not informed him of any trade talks.

Even so, Sanchez must know as well as anyone how quickly fortunes change in the NFL.

Since arriving in Philadelphia, he has contended that he hoped to resurrect his career.

Well, now he has something on film that's impressive enough. Maybe the clock will accelerate for pursuing that starting job, driven by market conditions.

"I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals," Sanchez said. "I don't know anything about it, other than what they've been talking about on TV -- and that's only because my family has been telling me. They just want to know if I'm going anywhere, and I doubt it."

Still, Sanchez should keep an open mind, knowing how quickly situations can change in the NFL.



Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY


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