It was a typical Wednesday practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center this afternoon.
Yet from an outsider’s perspective it never appeared that way.
Two days of uncertainty regarding who the Jets’ starting quarterback at Jacksonville would be came to an end this morning when head coach Rex Ryan announced that he would be sticking with Mark Sanchez.
“It wasn’t too big of a shock to the guys,” wide receiver Jeremy Kerley said.
“It really was no news to take in,” right tackle Austin Howard added. “Personnel decisions are made by Rex, the GM and the owner. They’ve been here a long time to make those decisions.”
Just three days ago, as the Jets were facing the Arizona Cardinals, Ryan decided in the third quarter that it was the appropriate time to pull Sanchez from the game. The QB had struggled mightily all afternoon, throwing three interceptions in his first nine pass attempts, and also was sacked three times. The benching proved to be the first time the fourth-year QB had been taken out of a game as a pro.
“I think quarterbacks get a lot of the blame for everything, good or bad,” Kerley said. “But I think it falls a lot on his shoulders, good or bad. But we’re an offense. We don’t point fingers. We take the blame for what we put out there.”
With backup quarterback Tim Tebow unavailable to go due to broken ribs, third-stringer Greg McElroy entered the game and led the Jets to the come-from-behind 7-6 win.
“I think for Greg, it just gives him the confidence,” tight end Konrad Reuland said. “Whenever his number is called in the future, he has the confidence to go out there, and he knows he’s led a comeback victory already in his career, threw a touchdown pass on his first drive. So I don’t know how you wouldn’t have confidence after the way he played. I think in the long run, it might make this team stronger, because now we have three quarterbacks that have experience what it’s like to lead teams to comeback victories and win games in the NFL.”
On Monday, Ryan said he needed more time to make his decision and he wanted to make sure to get feedback from several of his coaching counterparts before announcing anything.
“It was Rex’s decision,” cornerback Ellis Lankster said. “We’re not mad or anything. We’re just going to follow Rex’s decision and going to play behind him.”
The players had the previous two days off from practice, but that didn’t mean the QB chatter wasn’t heard around them.
“I was walking into stores and people were asking me about it,” Lankster said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t been to practice or anything yet.’ So I didn’t know what it was going to be.”
Other players simply ignored the matter.
“I don’t really pay much attention to it,” guard Brandon Moore said. “It’ll get figured out. That’s why Rex is the head coach and he makes those decisions. I’ve got to worry about the game plan.”
While the decision wasn’t an easy one for Ryan to make, it’s clear that year four for Sanchez hasn’t been as smooth as many anticipated it would be. The Jets offense ranks 31st in the NFL and No. 6 has thrown 13 interceptions and had 18 turnovers through the team’s 12 games this season.
“I think everybody does the best job they can,” rookie WR Jordan White said. “Nobody goes in there and wants to mess up at any position. You just do the best you can. Some things might not go your way sometimes, but what can you do but come back to work the next day and get back to it. That’s what everybody’s done.”
The issue with Sanchez has never been his drive. Many of teammates say he’s one of the most dedicated people inside the locker room.
“Mark’s a very hard worker,” fullback Lex Hilliard said. “Week in and week out, he’s here constantly, sometimes till 10 or 11 o’clock at night.”
Reuland, who also was Sanchez’s teammate at Mission Viejo High School, described a story of when their school lost in a California Interscholastic Federation championship game during Sanchez’s junior year and how that loss inspired the QB.
“They didn’t have a state championship in California back then,” Reuland said. “But it was basically as far as you could go. It was a big loss and he bounced right back the next season and led us to a No. 2 ranking in the country, undefeated [season]. He bounced back from that.
“That was definitely an adverse situation because we were expected to win it all. But I don’t think he would be here, at this level, if he didn’t know how to overcome adversity. Look at his career at USC. He battled for three years before getting a chance to start. As soon as he did, he took advantage of it.”
The players were going to support Ryan’s decision either way. But now that it’s been made, everyone was pleased it didn’t drag out.
“I think the clarification is good on all parts, receivers, tight ends, running backs,” Kerley said. “The whole offense, we needed that.”
And what seemed to impress Sanchez’s teammates most was the way the quarterback processed the situation he’d been dealt.
“Hats off to Mark,” Howard said. “He handled it like a pro.”
“He was very supportive of Greg,” Reuland said. “And I know it was tough for him, but at the same time he was very supportive. I feel like Mark just wants to win like all of us. Obviously deep down, it’s got to hurt a little bit. But at the same time, I think he did a good job of cheering us on and I feel like he’s going to bounce back.”
While many probably have lost belief in Sanchez, the people who truly count most have not.
“I got a lot of faith in him,” Lankster said.
“He’s going to put his best foot forward and give the team the best shot he’s got,” Hilliard said. “So that’s all you can really ask for.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Sanchez performs Sunday in Jacksonville. But one big question was answered today and people have to accept it one way or another.
“I think with Mark, it’s literally just he’s a couple of great plays away from being right back to where he’s been in the past,” Reuland said. “Everyone in here has been through a time where they were a little down on themselves or whatever and all it takes is one or two plays to get right back out of it — ‘Oh, wait, yeah, I can do this.’ So I think that’s going to happen. I think that’s going to happen in this game.”
Wednesday Injury Reports
The Jets’ injury list is at 22 players today. New to the list: WR Stephen Hill didn’t practice with a knee injury, DT Mike DeVito (shin) was full-go and so was FB Lex Hilliard (finger). Two other DNPs were WR Clyde Gates (concussion) and TE Dustin Keller (ankle). Four limited players: RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle/ribs), G Brandon Moore (hip), NT Sione Po‘uha (back) and QB Tim Tebow (ribs). The Jets’ full injury list can be found here.
The Jaguars listed eight players who didn’t practice today, among them RBs Maurice Jones-Drew (foot), Greg Jones (thigh) and Rashad Jennings (concussion), centers Brad Meester (foot) and Michael Brewster (hand), WR Cecil Shorts (concussion), CB Aaron Ross (calf) and DE George Selvie (concussion).
Limited were CB Derek Cox (hamstring) and DE Austen Lane (foot). Full were DT Tyson Alualu (calf) and CB Rashean Mathis (groin).
The Elias Sports Bureau has revised the scoring of three plays, all of them sacks, in the Jets-Cardinals game. The Cards’ final offensive play of the game was originally scored a split sack between DE Muhammad Wilkerson and LB Bart Scott, who swarmed rookie Ryan Lindley, but upon further review, the full sack has been given to Wilkerson, which lifts him past Bryan Thomas’ 2.5 sacks and into the team lead with 3.0 sacks.
The other two sack revisions were both on Arizona takedowns of Mark Sanchez. The early-second-quarter sack split between LB Sam Acho and DT Darnell Dockett now goes fully to Acho. And the late-second-quarter sack divvied up between S Adrian Wilson and DT David Carter now goes all to Wilson.
Tags: Austin Howard, Brandon Moore, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jeremy Kerley, Jordan White, Konrad Reuland, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan
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