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A Fresh Start For QB Sanchez

Posted Mar 28, 2014

What began with two trips to the AFC Championship Game ended with some rough times, tough seasons and now, as an Eagle, Mark Sanchez has a new perspective in his NFL life ...

The Eagles added veteran quarterback depth on Friday when they signed Mark Sanchez to a one-year contract. Sanchez led the New York Jets to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons before the Jets' momentum slowed and turmoil crept into the scene in a significant way up north.

Here, Sanchez starts over with an Eagles offense that set franchise records a year ago for points scored and yards gained. It was the first year with the coaching staff, and the bar has been raised for Year 2 and beyond. Head coach Chip Kelly has already said that Nick Foles is the starter, so Sanchez joins the Eagles intent on playing his best football and competing with Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne for the backup job behind Foles.

What are the Eagles getting in Sanchez, who suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of a 2013 preseason game against the Giants playing behind a second-team offensive line and missed the entire season for the Jets? Kelly on Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando praised Sanchez for his experience (62 starts) and his athletic ability, and the Eagles certainly like that Sanchez played in a pressure-cooker environment in New York and took the Jets to the AFC title game in each of his first two seasons.

Nobody will deny that things haven't gone in a positive direction for Sanchez since. New York didn't win and Sanchez didn't put up impressive numbers and the situation in New York became untenable. It was already a struggle when the Jets selected Geno Smith in the second round of last April's draft, and then when Sanchez suffered his unfortunate and needless energy, the picture depicted by the New York media was that of a zoo in and around the Jets.

Free after the Jets released him prior to signing Michael Vick last week, Sanchez found a new home quickly and looks to get his game back on the right track.

It wasn't that long ago that Sanchez was regarded as an up-and-coming young quarterback after his early success with the Jets. The numbers were never off the charts -- Sanchez has completed 55.1 percent of his career passes -- but those in the game understood that the Jets were challenged from a talent standpoint in the passing game and that Sanchez' ability to limit his mistakes and lead late in games (he has 10 fourth-quarter comeback victories and 12 game-winning drives) stood out.

Said former Jets quarterback Joe Namath of Sanchez in 2011: "Mark is real. He convinced the staff and his teammates from day one that he's a football player and that his No. 1 goal is to win a championship. I've been elated with Mark's progression. ... My man has already played in a bunch of big games -- and won them. Come on, the guy is a good quarterback."

Former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington praised Sanchez for his ability to win on the road -- he notched four road playoff wins in those two seasons -- and the efficiency of doing what's most important: winning the game rather than building statistics.

"He learned how to win football games," Pennington said. "That's the biggest difference I see. There's a difference between winning football games and putting up stats. This isn't fantasy football, it's about winning. Mark, in a short period of time, has come to understand how to play the game to help his team win games. At the end of the day, that's how we're judged. That's pretty impressive for a young guy to grasp that concept. Plenty of guys are just concerned with the stat sheet."

So what happened to the Rise Of Sanchez In New York? There are many theories, and most of them point to the surrounding cast offensively. The Jets were a run-oriented team in 2009 and 2010 and Sanchez stepped up and delivered in the passing game when he needed to do so. Then New York changed offensive coordinators and altered its approach and the results weren't pretty for Sanchez, or the Jets.

Wrote Mike Garafolo for USA Today in 2012 about Sanchez and his performance: "Sanchez is 25 years old – twenty-five – and already has two AFC Championship Game appearances on his resume. The guy can play. A quarterback doesn't throw nine touchdowns to only three interceptions in the postseason -- the way he did in 2009 and '10 at the ages of 23 and 24, only to then forget how to play the game as he's heading into what should be the prime of his career.

"No, that's a sign that what's surrounding him isn't fostering his growth as a player.

"Mark Sanchez isn't screwing the Jets up. The Jets are screwing up Sanchez."

Nobody here is interested in entering the what-happened-to-Mark Sanchez conversation. The Eagles are concerned only with how Sanchez makes them better moving forward. The team is still high on Barkley, who succeeded Sanchez at USC, and they want to see what Barkley looks like when he reports back for his second season. Kinne is also on the roster and he's going to complete as well.

With Foles, Sanchez and Barkley, the Eagles have three young quarterbacks -- Sanchez is only 27 years old -- who are going to get massive reps in training sessions to see how  it all shakes out.

The Eagles needed to replace Vick, who signed with the Jets last Friday, and did so by bringing Sanchez down the New Jersey Turnpike to play in Philadelphia. He has clean slate. Kelly is excited to have him, and how can you not trust that eye for talent that Kelly has already shown us?

Sanchez, the fifth overall draft pick in 2009, is healthy after missing all of 2013 and he's eager to get going in this offense. It won't be long before we see just quickly he fits into the scheme and adds to the competition behind Foles at the quarterback position.

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