2009 Draft Jets First Round Pick - Mark Sanchez
Linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard are not only familiar with playing alongside a rookie quarterback but winning with one. Just four months after the two former Ravens made an AFC Championship Game appearance with Joe Flacco at the controls, the two new Jets are practicing against heralded Green & White rookie signalcaller Mark Sanchez.
"I hope it's a similar situation as far as his development, but they're two different quarterbacks," Scott told newyorkjets.com after an OTA practice this week. "We are trying to get a defense going here and the offense here has been kind of successful for a while. Maybe a little bit [similar situation], but you already have quality players, proven guys and one of the best O-lines in the NFL. He doesn't have to come here and try to re-create the wheel."
Sanchez, who graduated from Southern Cal last Saturday, rejoined the Jets on Monday and will have practiced with his veteran teammates three times this week, including today's OTA. The Jets are going to have a very aggressive defense in 2009 and they're not going to scale back installations to make life easy for the No. 5 overall selection in April's draft.
"You have a young guy who doesn't have experience at this level, you want to make it as hard as possible as a way of kind of testing him," Leonhard said. "It's going to make him better. Some guys either rise up to the occasion or they crawl in their hole. You're able to learn a lot about someone when you turn the heat up a little bit."
Ever the talker, Scott has already given Sanchez some of the "Madbacker" treatment.
"I was letting him know the other day that he has to speed it up because he really doesn't have that much time," Scott said of a presnap situation. "We'll poke fun at him and a competitor will respond, have something to say back. To try to block it all out and ignore it is tough, but you put it out there and that's how you develop players."
Break Him Down, Build Him Up
The thinking is to make practice as adverse as possible, so Sanchez — and everyone else on the roster — will eventually be able to easily react and have fun on gameday. Quarterback pressure can come in various mental or physical forms, but advice will be given eventually as well.
"It's up to me to go up to him and say 'This is what we're doing and this is what you need to look for.' You break him down but then you build him up," Scott said of the 22-year-old Sanchez. "So what if he has a more successful practice? That makes our team better. You have to tell him what to look for, what to understand: 'Hey this is the weakness of this particular defense. We're going to hit you with this, and this is what we were trying to do.' "
Sanchez, who has handled the second-team reps this week, will battle for the starting job with veteran Kellen Clemens. The Ravens didn't expect Flacco, selected No. 18 overall out of Delaware, to start until Troy Smith fell ill last summer.
"What do you do? You go to your first-round draft pick," Scott said of Flacco. "He was shaky a little bit at first, but I think he didn't make the same mistake twice and he was a student of the game. He didn't get rattled, he didn't get shook. After a bad play, he didn't get down on himself, he moved on to the next one. And in this league you have to have a short memory — whether it's good or bad."
With all the media outlets out at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center today, you'll be sure to get all the "stats" and expert analysis on every Sanchez throw. But the media will only be allowed to watch roughly half of Sanchez's throws this spring and the people who will best judge his development are the coaching staff and his teammates.
"It's too early to tell," Leonhard said of what he sees in the young QB. "You can tell he's got an arm. He has the physical ability to be a great quarterback. It takes a little time. You'll learn more once he gets in different situations, which they'll put him in this entire off-season. Physically he's more than capable of being a great quarterback. We just have to work on the mental side."
Scott also thinks Sanchez needs work on his wardrobe. He wasn't terribly impressed with the rookie's "Built for the Beach" feature in GQ.
"Some of the things that are cool in L.A. really don't translate to the East Coast. We have to get him some Tims [Timberlands] and a polo. You can't be coming with the belly shirts and all that stuff," said the hard-hitting 'backer. "I'd do a polo shirt, but he has to realize he has creative control about what he puts on. There isn't anybody controlling what he puts on. Lesson number one is men don't wear white jeans. White linen pants are cool — white jeans not so hot."
Rolling with the Punches
As players walked to the locker room early this week, they couldn't help but notice a bare-chested Sanchez photo from the GQ shoot on the videoboards.
"I think he took everything in stride," Scott said. "He understands he is going to get more attention than the other guys and his job is to take some of the attention away from the others and take it himself. I think he has a good personality, a personality that can roll with the punches."
Leonhard also thinks Sanchez has responded well to the trash-talking he's received.
"You can tell he's real light-hearted about it. That's a good thing, that's a good quality," he said. "I saw that in Joe Flacco last year. You can say anything to him and there's no emotions, he's dead-faced. It's good to have an emotional quarterback, but sometimes if they can't control it, it really hurts them. You can tell with Sanchez, he handles it well, he can take it and he's going to try to rise to the occasion."
If Sanchez does eventually earn the starting position, he will inherit as good a situation as you could possibly hope for as a rookie. The Jets already have a solid foundation in place, and head coach Rex Ryan wants to win with a solid defense and an all-weather offense that features the running game.
"If you look at guys like Peyton [Manning] and [John] Elway, those guys didn't really have success early in their careers because they were on bad teams. He comes to a place where we were 9-7 last year and are really a playoff-caliber team," Scott said. " He won't be asked be to be Superman, he won't be asked to make immaculate throws all the time. He just has to play within himself every week as he gets more and more comfortable and try to take it to the next level."