Mark Sanchez's preseason is over. After completing 64.6 percent of his passes in preseason play, the quarterback's only physical work Thursday in Philadelphia will come hours before kickoff.
"It's a little different," Sanchez said today after the midday practice at the Atlantic Health Jets training center. "I know we're working on some conditioning. A lot of the starters who aren't playing are doing stuff before the game, during warmups, to get a workout in, which is smart and good for us. It's about supporting guys when they're playing , helping them when they come to the sideline with anything we see that we can help them with — just like they do for us."
But Jets head coach Rex Ryan sprang a Sanchez surprise after the locker room media period, saying his second-year signalcaller would call some offensive plays when the Jets and the Eagles wrap up their August slates at Lincoln Financial Field.
"Just to understand the reasons we make the calls we do," said Ryan when asked what he hopes Sanchez will learn through the coaching experience. "Red, yellow, green: hoping he sees the big picture and let him have at it. We'll see, I'll ask Schotty [offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] what he wants do. I haven't even told him yet."
Turning over playcalling duties to his players during the summer was something Ryan, a former Ravens defensive coordinator, did in Baltimore with both LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed. Sanchez and the first offense have already spent this week preparing for the Ravens as Sept. 13 is now less than two weeks away.
"This was a good practice week of our routine and study for Baltimore," the QB said. "That's what I've been doing, watching first and second down and then third down and red zone and goal line, going through my routine all the way through and practicing that way."
A year after the Jets finished the regular season first in rushing and 31st in passing, the expectation is there will be more balance in Sanchez's second season.
"I think that will just depend on my continued growth and maturation. I think after this training camp, they feel a lot better about it than last year, that's for sure," said the USC product. "It's got to keep growing and it can't stop and each week we have to go with what we feel great about. Things that are questionable and we feel like we don't need them to win — throw them out and do what we do best. Be able to run the ball always and hopefully it will open up a little bit."
Despite moving the ball well at times throughout the preseason, the Jets' offense scored two touchdowns on 18 possessions. But they took a vanilla approach and Schotteheimer repeatedly praised Sanchez for his work throughout the offseason.
"I think it will be a little different but that's because I've shown so much improvement," said Sanchez. "Now it's just when we get those extra plays and different packages, we still make those right decisions like we did towards the end of the year even though we've expanded the playbook."
In his first professional season, Sanchez completed 53 percent of his passes and tossed 12 TDs against 20 interceptions. But he was steady if not at times stellar in the playoffs, upping his accuracy above 60 percent while throwing four TDs and just two INTs.
Season 2 is just days away. If the 23-year-old Sanchez, who appears on Sports Illustrated's Northeast regional cover on Wednesday along with C Nick Mangold, plays well over the next four months, the Jets feel they can take another step.
"We're confident, we're excited about this next challenge," he said. "We know it's time to get going and we have a little over a week to prepare so we can play that way and show that we're ready."