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Is Mark Sanchez ready for prime time?

Mark SanchezIt is NFL kickoff weekend and there is one team that dominates the AFC conversation. The New York Jets are a team coming into the season with almost as much hype as the New Orleans Saints. Yet after all of the headlines die down, is Mark Sanchez the yellow elephant in gang green’s room?

Hard Knocks, the Darrelle Revis negotiations, superstar NFL free agent signings, Rex Ryan’s cursing it was something every week in the preseason. Missed in all of these sexy stories was the sophomore year of Mark Sanchez. In a division with teams that can light the Jets up, they won’t go anywhere without a capable QB. Is Mark Sanchez that guy?

Darrell Revis and Rex Ryan were the focus of Hard Knocks: New York Jets. Yet there was another story that fascinated me for several weeks and that was the Sanchize How would a kid who has been handed the keys to a juggernaut handle the pressures? Would Mark Sanchez enter training camp focused and ready for the challenge? Is Sanchez the leader that other Super Bowl winning quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Kurt Warner were? New York Jets fans may not like my answers.

Mark Sanchez is a 23 year old kid who has been the toast of his towns for five years. He came into USC with a lot of hype but had an arguably disappointing college career (at USC it is definitely a career). He only played in one full season at USC and had to compete hard for his starts. His coach Pete Carroll suggested that Mark wasn’t ready for the NFL. The New York Jets disagreed and traded up to draft him five. Win or lose, he was Rex Ryan’s guy.

Sanchez was great early on last season. In his very first NFL game, he beat the Texans in Texas but more importantly converted critical third downs throughout the game. It didn’t end there. Sanchez became the first rookie to win all three of his first starts. Unfortunately he ran into a bulldozer called the New Orleans Saints and the honeymoon took a bit of a break.

It appeared that the Jets and Rex Ryan used Sanchez as more of a game manager. Sanchez was rarely put into position to win games. The Jets relied on a brutal running game. It worked. In the postseason, Sanchez had a QB rating of 139.4 in his first playoff game against the Bengals, yet only threw for 182 yards. Sanchez won the following week against the San Diego Chargers before losing in the AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Good news is that other than a Super Bowl, he couldn’t have had a better rookie year. The bad news is that if the pressure on him was heavy in his rookie year, he now has the pressure of bettering an AFC title game in his sophomore year. It couldn’t be any tougher for Sanchez unless he won the Super Bowl. So with this said, I was fascinated to see how Sanchez would respond through Hard Knocks and preseason play. Needless to say, as a quasi-Jets fan I am a bit worried.

Mark Sanchez seems like a very nice guy. But, Mark Sanchez seems incredibly immature for the position of starting quarterback for the New York Jets. Sanchez seemed a little more interested in playing practical jokes on his teammates and coordinators than he did in studying. There was a scene in which Sanchez showed up at an offensive meeting without a binder to keep his notes organized. It was a glimpse into the immaturity of a kid who at 23 is expected to be a leader in a man’s world. I can’t imagine that Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady would be spending this much time playing practical jokes or showing up at meetings disorganized.

I can get past the shenanigans in the locker room, but compound this with his preseason play and there is a lot to worry about. Look, I know it is preseason for a reason but Mark Sanchez looked terrible. In three games combined he had a 62.8 QB rating. He had two terrible interceptions and five sacks. He did have two touchdowns but his play was sporadic to say the least. For a guy who was expected to come back improved, hungry, and ready for the challenge, Mark Sanchez hardly looked like that guy.

Tonight’s Monday Night Football game against the Baltimore Ravens will be a quick indicator as to whether the Mark Sanchez we saw in preseason is the same Trojan who will captain the ship in the regular season. The fact that the Jets are kicking off the Monday Night Football season tells you everything you need to know about expectations. Yes, the Jets can run Shonn Greene and L.T. all game long but at some point whether it is tonight or next week Mark Sanchez is going to have to make a play. Can he make that play, what happens if he doesn’t, and how will he react the first few times he is booed in New York/New Jersey? These are questions that have scary answers.

The idea that Mark Sanchez and the Jets are going to repeat what they did last year is almost impossible. NFL quarterbacks all genuinely go through a sophomore slump. Sanchez would be bucking the trend to avoid those pitfalls and there is nothing I have seen on or off the field that leads me to believe he will be that guy. The ball hasn’t even been snapped but I think I have seen enough to worry for hardcore New York Jets fans. Unless Mark Sanchez was putting on a show this preseason, he is not the guy I would want leading my football with Jets’ expectations.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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