Mark Sanchez was impressive at his first Jets practice today, but it would have been a surprise if he was just average. He always is thinking ahead. He's a young man who has continually excelled in preparation throughout his life.
Even though this is just a rookie minicamp, Sanchez called his unit together for a talk even before they actually touched the field.
"There were no meetings yesterday but everybody got a playbook," said rookie Jets head coach Rex Ryan. "Well, I guess there was some guy that we had on offense who got the entire offense together and installed the day's offense. I guess you can figure out who that was."
Six days ago, the Jets traded up in the first round to grab Sanchez with the No. 5 overall selection. And less than a week later, he was calling his own number and immediately set the weekend tone.
"I've only know the dude for less than 24 hours," said rookie receiver Britt Davis from Northern Illinois, "but we had the chance to meet last night as an offense and it was just the players. We met in the hotel. And just the way he commands the offense and commands the knowledge of all of us — he was in charge, he was drawing stuff up on the board and it was precise. Learning from a player will allow you to definitely catch on a lot faster."
And with more than 50 media members in attendance at today's first session, Sanchez didn't blink. The heralded rookie took the majority of reps, displaying good zip his passes, nice touch and tremendous feet.
"It's difficult when you first come in and it's a new system. You want to just try to speak the language as soon as possible and I'm trying to get all the terminology down," Sanchez said during the noon hour. "Me being tough on myself, I wanted it right every time, but it's not always that way, especially the first weekend. But this is a very successful first day, so it was a good experience."
Due to threatening weather, the Jets practiced inside their fieldhouse at the Atlantic Health Training Center, so Sanchez had a controlled environment to toss the ball around. But he was also working with many players who don't know this offensive system.
"Not throwing any picks, that's a big deal. That's a win for a quarterback any day. But we didn't have any fumbles, either, and no false-start penalties," he said. "Everybody was in tune and in sync. We moved the ball pretty well and had some big completions. There are always a couple of plays you want back, but I'll see them on film and correct them."
During 7-on-7, Sanchez unofficially completed 10 of 15 passes. That included a number of checkdowns, but there was a pretty rope to Marcus Henry (which probably would have resulted in a 60-yard TD) on a seam. Earlier in the morning session during 1-on-1 work, Sanchez got CB Marquice Cole to bite on a pump fake, giving WR Paul Raymond plenty of separation, and they nicely hooked up for a long score..
"It's clear that he's a talented player," Raymond said of Sanchez. "He has a strong arm and a nice ball. It's good just to be here getting some work in the offense along with everybody else, getting some work in and getting better as a team."
There were a couple of occasions when Sanchez was throwing a little inside on out routes. Ryan wants to see those balls in a different location. Otherwise, there will be turnovers.
"On those comebacks now, you have to throw the ball more to the outside, more so on this level, especially because it will be a boomerang and it will come right back at you," he said.
You know Sanchez will make the adjustments necessary because he is a perfectionist. At an early age he learned from his father, Nick Sanchez, that he would only succeed if he could deal with adversity, and the Jets are already challenging the former Trojan.
"When you would shoot free throws or you were running routes, my dad would hold up fingers and make you see the fingers to go through your reads correctly," he said. "[Brian] Schottenheimer was holding up fingers over here, knowing that we're going to our second read and we have to drop back and look at our first read to make it real, and then say 'OK, he's holding up five' and throw to the backside."
After watching Sanchez throw for a couple of minutes, you can appreciate his attention to detail. Even if there is no defender in play, he looks off an imaginary safety in one direction before coming back and delivering a toss in another.
In addition to calling an offensive unit meeting last night, Sanchez hosted an individual practice in his own room.
"I'm practicing play calls in the mirror last night in the hotel, just so I can see it and hear what it sounds like to me, and just keep reviewing, keep studying and bring guys along with me," he said.
Don't clear out a space in Canton just yet for Sanchez. The regular season doesn't begin until September and there will be so much to prove even before then. But he's made a wonderful first impression with his new team.
"He's just himself out there. With all the cameras and with all the media and with everything else here, it never bothered him one bit," Ryan said. "He's just stepping in there and he doesn't know any different, and that's why I think we have the right guy."