With the Jets in Detroit this afternoon, it seems an appropriate time for Mark Sanchez to give his best Isiah Thomas impression. The Green & White are in need of a collective rebound and their second-year passer can lead the way by dictating tempo, making the right decisions and setting his teammates up for easy layups and dunks.
"It's about getting as many assists as possible, if that makes sense, from a pointguard perspective," said Sanchez this week.
Turnovers are a no-no for any quality facilitator and Sanchez has been charged with four interceptions the past two games. The second-year passer completed just 42.1 percent of his throws in a Week 8 shutout loss to the Packers and no regular QB starter in the professional ranks has a completion percentage less than Sanchez's 53.0.
"I need to be more accurate and that's been the emphasis this week: get completions," he said. "I passed up a couple of easy completions and left a lot of easy throws out on the field going down the field with some shots that we didn't really need to take. There were a couple of chances where I could've run, so there are plenty of decisions that I need to make better and I definitely will."
Numbers don't tell the Jets pointguard's entire story. It's awfully difficult to drop dimes when your teammates are shooting woefully from the floor. The coaching staff charged Sanchez's targets against Green Bay with eight or nine drops — five in the fourth quarter alone — and if they were their regular selves, then maybe we're talking about the Jets aiming for their seventh consecutive win today and Sanchez coming off a much more impressive stat line with more than 300 yards, close to 65 percent passing, no turnovers and a TD or two.
Despite a substantial wind, Sanchez threw the rock well in last week's second half and now he's moving indoors to Ford Field. He's a work in progress, but the video doesn't lie and he's getting better.
"I think his fundamentals have been outstanding. He's had better footwork," said head coach Rex Ryan. "I thought he was poised in the pocket last week. He wasn't as accurate as he normally is."
Sanchez, who played both basketball and baseball at Mission Viejo HS in Southern California, got in trouble last year for not perfecting the slide. But Ryan is not discouraging him from running, and sometimes even a pass-first pointguard has to call his own number and score to keep the opposition honest.
"When you have a quarterback that can run for a couple of first downs, that's extra possessions," Ryan said.
"Even if you get 3 yards, it's like running the ball," added Sanchez. "It's fine. It's OK to do that. Just get down, slide, run out of bounds and keep the chains moving. Do what's absolutely best for the team."
The Jets, who own the NFL's third-ranked rush offense and have a number of talented receiving targets, somewhat surprisingly head into Week 9 with the NFL's 27th-ranked pass offense. Many people have wondered if Sanchez has felt pressure getting the ball to all his personnel since Santonio Holmes returned to action in Week 5.
"We're not counting. We're not making tally marks, and nobody has to hit a certain number of catches," Sanchez said. "It's catch-by-committee."
Lions QB Matthew Stafford, selected No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft four spots ahead of Sanchez, has completed 54.5 percent of his career passes with 17 TDs and 21 INTs for a 64.8 passer rating. Those numbers look remarkably similar to Sanchez's regular-season stat line of 53.5 accuracy, 21 TDS and 24 INTS for a 68.9 rating.
Searching for the most glaring statistical difference between the two youngsters who will be forever linked? Go to games played as Sanchez has already started more games (22) than at USC while Stafford, who separated his right shoulder in Week 1, will get his third start of the season today and 13th of his career.
Just like the Jets, the Lions are high on their young franchise passer, and head coach Jim Schwartz didn't sound overly concerned when asked about Stafford lining up against the pressure-heavy Jets.
"I probably worry about the young quarterback getting out of his car, stepping in the shower and everything he does. That's not just him, it's everybody on the team. But when you go out and play, you don't think about things like that," Schwartz said. "You respect your opponent and you do your best to prepare for an opponent during the week. We've faced good pass rushers just about every single week."
The ball rests with the two pointguards today. If Sanchez gets his team moving fast, distributes to the right skill people, doesn't turn it over and calls his own number occasionally, the Jets' losing streak will probably end at one.