Film Room: A Study Of Mark Sanchez Under Duress

It's no secret some pundits and fans have misgivings about QB Mark Sanchez playing in Denver. In today's film study, MHH Publisher Chad Jensen breaks down some of Sanchez's game film from his time with the New York Jets.

For all the grief Mark Sanchez gets, much of it is unfounded. It's easy to take an embarrassing faux pas on the grid-iron and capture a comical GIF or MEME. 

But a funny GIF or a single play does not a bad player make. 

Many fans fail to recognize the obstacles Sanchez was faced with in his time with the New York Jets. After earning himself a formidable name among the professional ranks in his first two seasons, Sanchez experienced a sharp decline in performance and statistical output. 

It also translated to the Win/Loss column. Did Sanchez suddenly unlearn everything he'd been taught? Was he hexed by the Football Gods, drained of all his natural talent? 

The answer is no. When one studies the best quarterbacks in the business, there are many traits that they'll all have in common. One of the most key, however, is continuity. 

Continuity is so important for a QB. Not just from a coaching/scheme standpoint, although that is critical. But also from a supporting cast and weapons standpoint. 

Sanchez shined as a young player in Brian Schottenheimer's offense. Sanchez was able to play within himself and wasn't asked to do more than he was capable of as a young signal-caller

Sanchez was asked to rely on New York's excellent supporting cast. When Schottenheimer left, he was replaced with Tony Sporano. Callahan was the offensive line/assistant head coach for each of Sanchez's first three seasons. He left following a 2011 season that saw the Jets barely miss out on the postseason, after back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship game. The move to new O-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was less than seamless. 

Changes in offensive line coaching and offensive scheme can have a tectonic impact on a young, developing QB. Such was Sanchez's fate. He was asked to lead a team in shambles—a team that had suddenly gotten old—all the while playing in a new system that was frankly terrible. 

Sanchez's best weapons either left via free agency (Braylon Edwards), retired (LaDainian Tomlinson), or couldn't stay healthy (Santonio Holmes). It was painful watching the 2012 Jets offense. And although Sanchez deserves some of the blame, he certianly doesn't deserve all of it. 

It wasn't long after Sanchez departed New York that Rex Ryan, the man who coined "Sanchize", was fired by owner Woody Johnson

A couple weeks ago, I broke down some of Sanchez's film from his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. I focused on one of his best games of 2015. 

Here, I've chosen to highlight one of his worst games as a Jet from Week 15 of the 2012 NFL season. The Jets were on the road vs. the Tennessee Titans, still in the hunt for a playoff berth. 

First Quarter

Play 1

Situation: 3rd-&-6

Defense: Nickel, Cover three zone

(Shotgun): The Jets are working to keep the drive alive, lining up trips left (3WR), before sending the slot receiver Jeremy Kerley in motion right. Sanchez takes the snap, and first looks left. He has to climb the pocket due to edge pressure, re-sets and fires on a shallow cross to WR Braylon Edwards for the completion and first down.

Analysis: Sanchez shows poise in the pocket and good awareness. The pass pro is well-blocked and although the Titans botch their zone coverage, leaving the WR wide open, Sanchez uses his eyes well, and goes through his progression to find the open WR.

Second Quarter

Play 2

Situation: 3rd-&-6

Defense: Nickel, zone blitz

(Shotgun). The Jets begin with two WR split right. Sanchez signals motion for the RB Bilal Powell, who ends up in the middle of the bunched 3WR set. Tennessee is moving around, trying to confuse Sanchez and New York’s offensive line, and they eventually blitz, sending five guys. Sanchez finds the hole in the zone, hitting RB Powell with a great throw outside the right hash for a first down.

Analysis: Here we see Sanchez’s arm and accuracy, pushing the ball outside the numbers right into the hands of the target. The QB saw two guys covering three on the right side. Sanchez knew the down and distance. Another third down converted.

Play 3

Situation: 1st-&-10

Defense: 4-3 base

Note: The Jets paid the price for keeping Sanchez off the field on the previous possession. Tim Tebow quarterbacked a series ending in a punt. It allowed Sanchez to get cold and lose the rhythm of the game.

(Under center, 12 personnel): Jets in an offset I formation with two tight ends. It’s play-action bootleg. Sanchez rolls out right. But he waits too long to make the throw. He targets the WR Kerley. But the late decision to target the WR buys the Titans DB time to jump the route. Interception.

Analysis: The play offers up only one open target—the fullback in the right flat. But Sanchez likes his WR matchup on a deep comeback but the WR has to win one-on-one. The interception is a combination of a late decision by Sanchez and poorly run route by the WR. Kerley did not explode out of his break to gain separation. The DB had all the time in the world to make a play on the ball. Sanchez probably should have thrown this ball away.

Third Quarter

Play 4

Situation: 2nd-&-20

Defense: 4-3 base, single-high safety

(Under center, 12 personnel): The Jets run another TE-heavy formation. TE Jeff Cumberland motions right-to-left and back again to the right side. Sanchez executes the play-action fake but stares down the TE, throwing it down the right seam into double coverage, but floats the ball high. The backside corner has drifted over and makes the interception.

Analysis: Sanchez did two things wrong here. He stared down his receiver, allowing the backside corner to read his eyes and get into position to take the ball away. And he floats the ball high. When he released the ball, Sanchez likely planned to err high, giving his target the opportunity to get under it and factoring that the deep safety had drifted over to provide help over top of the right corner. What Sanchez didn’t figure was that by telegraphing his throw, the backside corner had plenty of time to get behind the play.

Play 5

Situation: 3rd-&-6

Defense: Nickel, man coverage, safety blitz

(Shotgun): Tennessee SS Michael Griffin flies down into the box, trying to time the snap. But the QB sees it and changes the protection. Tennessee sends six rushers, and the Jets pick them all up. Under pressure, Sanchez hits WR Kerley on an out route to move the chains.

Analysis: Sanchez recognizes the blitz. Knows how to change the protection to buy him time. Sanchez quickly goes through his progressions, before finding Kerley. It’s not a prefect throw. But it’s made under duress. Sanchez gives his WR the chance to make a play on the ball and he does. Move the chains.

Fourth Quarter

Play 6

Situation: 1st-&-10

Defense: 4-3 base, single-high safety

(Under center): From the offset I formation, Sanchez executes the play-fake, and looks for his once-trusty downfield target, WR Edwards. After some hand fighting, the WR does gain some separation, but Sanchez is late to make his decision and the throw is a little too far inside. Sanchez’s delayed decision buys the deep safety time to play centerfield and pick the ball off.

Analysis: This was a play destined for nothing. After grounding and pounding it, the Jets try to stretch the field here, but the Titans have good coverage. This should either have been a throw-away by Sanchez, or an opportunity to get outside the pocket and try to pick some yards up with his legs. Instead, it leads to his third interception of the day.

Play 7

Situation: 1st-&-10, down by 4 at Tennessee 23 with two minutes left

Defense: Nickel, delayed blitz

(Under center): The Titans bring the heat and Sanchez pumps, looking at TE Cumberland deep down the right seam. But he pulls it down again, resets and unloads at the same target, who’s in double coverage, with a safety over top. A ridiculously bad decision by Sanchez.

Analysis: By this point, Sanchez had been beaten up both mentally and physically. Three previous turnovers, hit, sacked and knocked down multiple times. He was quarterbacking a team that would take two steps forward and one huge leap back. Mark Sanchez epitomized that team deficiency this game. 


Again, Sanchez received little help from his coaches and offensive teammates. He has the skill-set to succeed. He just needs the right coach, system and teammates. 

Playing for Gary Kubiak's Denver Broncos will make a world of difference for Sanchez. He'll be returning to the West Coast offense he had so much success with at USC

And of course, his locker room features arguably the most talented football team in the NFL. As disheartening as some of the plays above were, when you scrutinize them in context, they're not as condemnatory. 

Mark Sanchez still has a lot of good football left in him. After all Sanchez tape I've studied, I'm still high on him fitting in well with the Broncos. The defending World Champs can win with Sanchez at the helm. 

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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