Mark Sanchez was asked Tuesday about his feelings of being in the NFL postseason along with the big-name quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
"And Philip Rivers," he added of his Chargers counterpart, before stating, "It’s pretty cool. It’s great. But at the same time you don’t want to just be there. Just like those guys, they don’t want to be mentioned with all the other players you just mentioned — they want to win it, just like I do."
How would Sanchez feel about being lumped in with QBs Matt Moore and Jake Plummer? Actually, that’s a cool thing, too, because Moore, who finished up the season replacing Jake Delhomme as Carolina’s QB, and Plummer, Denver’s QB in 2005, are the last two NFL signalcallers to achieve what Sanchez and the Jets will be trying to do Sunday in sunny San Diego: go four games without turning the ball over once.
The Jets rookie is already among a handful of QBs since 2002 to go three games without a giveaway. But four in a row? As we mentioned Monday, the Jets have done that only once in their history, early in the 2001 season. They went 3-1 in those games, Plummer’s Broncos went 4-0 in his flawless stretch, and Moore’s Panthers closed strong at 3-1.
"I think I’ve gotten better with it," Sanchez said when asked if it was a struggle for him to realize he had to give up giveaways to be successful in the NFL. "I’ve got a lot of work to do. I don’t want to feel like I’ve got everything covered and I’ve figured it out. I just think that working to eliminate turnovers has really helped. We’ll just keep going from there."
The numbers say he has figured things out. In the first 10 games he personally turned the ball over 19 times (16 interceptions, three fumbles), 1.9 a game. But in the last six games his personal turnovers have dropped to four, or 0.7 game.
The team performance in turnover margin is equally dramatic: a minus-6 margin in the Jets’ 4-6 start, a plus-9 in the current 6-1 run into the playoffs.
The no-gift trend is perhaps part of a larger issue with Sanchez, which is that he’s become comfortable enough to even give his two cents’ worth on the sideline, such as when he jumped into the fray with head coach Rex Ryan and OC Brian Schottenheimer at the AFC Wild Card Game in Cincinnati when he didn’t like the timeout the coaches called from the sideline.
"It was one of those situations where I felt so good and so comfortable, and then we stopped everything. I was like ‘Man, why the heck did you do that?’ " Sanchez said. "It’s all right, though. They knew I was into the game in the heat of the moment. Obviously nothing is personal. We’re all trying to win, so it was fine."
"He was ready to lead that team. That’s who he is," said Ryan. "When we called that timeout, it was so funny. He was mad. I said, ‘All right kid, you’re not head coach yet.’ But he’s ready to roll."
"Now I just feel more comfortable," the QB said. "It’s easier, I guess, to start yelling."
As long as the yelling is over the next victory and not the football that the offense just turned over to the other guys, Jets fans will be all right with that.
Leon Can’t Wait
Leon Washington is sharing in the limelight of the Jets’ postseason locker room, as he should, and Tuesday he had some great news that could impact on the team’s quest for the next postseason — he expects to be on the field for the Jets’ season opener in 2010.
"Everything’s looking on the up and up and I’m looking forward to when I can start jogging," Washington told reporters. "I’ve got a long way until the season starts. I’m on pace to be there for the opening game of the season, so I just try to not push myself too much."
Washington, who broke his leg in the first quarter of Game 7 at Oakland, was given a timetable of six months to 12 months to heal. He said recently he’s been hitting his rehab targets every week.
And who can forget Leon coming out of the tunnel at the regular-season finale at the current Meadowlands stadium on crutches, then waving the crutches up and down to the roar of the crowd, as if he was ready to fly back into this season.
"It’s tough because I feel like I could be out there and doing something to help us be better," he said Tuesday. "It’s definitely fun to watch from a fan perspective, though."
It’s too soon to be worrying about the NFL Draft. But we thought we’d mention a change in the draft that will affect the Jets, and we’re not talking about the event being stretched over three days for the first time.
Procedures for establishing first-round draft order have been redesigned. In the past, you’ll recall, all teams with the same regular-season records were bunched in the same "segment," with playoff teams dropping to the bottom of the segment. So under the procedures of previous years, the Jets and Ravens, both at 9-7, would have dropped to 21st and 22nd this year regardless of how far they went in the postseason.
But for the first time, playoff teams have been taken out of those segments and put in their own playoff sections. By that I mean slots 1-20 go to the teams that didn’t make the playoffs, 21-24 to the Wild Card Round losing teams, 25-28 to the Divisional Round losing teams, and 29-30 to the Championship Game losing teams.
Since the Jets have already advanced to the AFC Divisional Round, the earliest their first-round pick could come on Thursday night, April 22 (the new date for Round 1) is 25th, which is where they would select if they were to lose at San Diego on Sunday. (They would be 25th regardless of which other teams would lose this weekend based on their 9-7 record.)
A win on Sunday and a loss in the AFC title game would mean the Jets would pick 29th. Make the Super Bowl and the Green & White would be choosing 31st or 32nd.
The latest top pick the Jets have had in any draft came in 1969, the year after they won Super Bowl III, when they went 26th and last and selected Ohio State OT Dave Foley, no relation that we’re aware of to one of the Kids in the Hall.
Tags: Drew Brees, Leon Washington, Mark Sanchez, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Rex Ryan
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