Four Downs: Four Questions Heading Into Camp

With a busy off-season behind them, the Jets focus on looking ahead to camp. The second part in a series of questions about where the Jets' offense stands.

Heading into camp at Cortland State this August, the Jets hope that their offense is the efficient, mistake-free unit that won five of their last six games heading into the playoffs and not the group that four times last season, scored 16 or fewer points. The Jets have some new pieces and some old ones coming together in Cortland, and this on paper could be a dynamic group of athletes.

On paper, that biggest piece is Mark Sanchez and his surgically repaired knee.

Four Downs of Questions About the Offense Heading Into Camp

2. Mark Sanchez Is Back And Healthy, Isn't He? – The definitive answer to this question is a resounding "YES." Sanchez, the franchise – the "Sanchise" – is ready for August camp and fully recovered from off-season knee surgery. He showed good mobility and strength in his leg movement, answering any and all questions about his ability to move around in or out of the pocket come the season.

There wasn't one throw that Sanchez couldn't or wouldn't make during camp. He showed complete mobility, maybe even more than during the early points of his rookie season.

More than anything though, Sanchez showed that he wanted to be out there. To be perfectly honest, the keys to the offense and this team were handed to their quarterback very early in the process with precious little grooming. Yes, he has poise and the benefit of a terrific pro-style offense at USC where he was developed into a high pick in the NFL Draft, but the jump from college ball to Sundays is still steep. And doing that in the pressure cooker that is New York only magnifies every mistake.

So it would be easy to think Sanchez might be too young to take over a veteran offense. But one thing is clear and it is that Mark Sanchez does not coast. He could have easily sat back during OTA sessions and mini-drills, but Sanchez participated as fully as the team would allow him too – he even snuck onto the field for 11 v. 11 drills when no one was looking. It is clear from this off-season that he is committed in every way, shape and form to being a better quarterback.

The truth is that Sanchez is physically ready for the rigors of the NFL season, based on his mini-camp performance. But a quarterback who is often in the spotlight for his celebrity romance and just the fact that he is quarterback of a New York franchise showed something else this spring. He's more than just a player, more than just a face of the franchise.

"Actually, Mark has really stepped up as a leader on this team," tight end Dustin Keller told GreenAndWhiteReport.com. Keller was asked who would fill the leadership void on this team and he didn't blink in his answer. "He's come in here and has shown that he wants to be a leader on this offense, on this team."

Analysis: An observer of an OTA session or mini-camp had to be impressed with Sanchez's movement, both vertical and lateral. Sanchez looked good and fluid in his drop back too, showing no signs of a knee injury that plagued him the final half of his rookie year. It's clear that the surgery was needed and that the Jets' signal caller is now playing pain free.

Sanchez was never the most mobile of quarterbacks but he was oddly effective last year when he took off from the pocket during a broken play. There should be no concern from Jets' fans that Sanchez can take a hit to the knee or that he can take off down the field when need be. He's 100% ready.

Positives emerged from camp this year for Sanchez, and it wasn't just that his surgery was a success.

Also noticeable for Sanchez was a tighter spiral, perhaps the result of a new release. Sanchez was getting the ball out of his hand much faster than last year, something that surely is a good thing with a pass catching option like LaDanian Tomlinson now coming out of the backfield and ready to snag balls. That quicker release can turn a broken play into a first down or a big gain.

Sanchez seemed to immediately develop a good rapport with wide receiver Santonio Holmes, an off-season acquisition. The fact that Braylon Edwards looked like a pass-catching animal surely doesn't hurt his options either. Homes was getting open over the middle and Sanchez was nailing his throws to him. Edwards was the deep threat in mini-camp and has appeared to have earned the second-year quarterback's trust.

The Jets' quarterback will return a solid offensive line, a unit that could be top five in the league again if it stays healthy and performs to expectations. If they can open up holes for Shonn Greene, a player who loves to run downhill, then Sanchez should have the time in the pocket to find the likes of Edwards, Holmes, Keller and Tomlinson and simply let them make plays.

Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012


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