Jets’ Sanchez using legs to help make plays lately

Mark Sanchez has become quite the scramblin’ man.

The New York Jets quarterback is using his legs a lot more this

season to keep plays alive, giving his receivers more of a chance

to get open and make big catches.

”When you look at it, Mark looks more comfortable when he’s

scrambling or doing something unorthodox,” Braylon Edwards said

Wednesday. ”That’s interesting to say, but you watch him on film

and he’s having fun when he’s doing that.”

Sanchez attributes a lot of his confidence to a new, batty drill

introduced by backup quarterback Mark Brunell after the Jets’ 9-0

loss to Green Bay three weeks ago. As Sanchez drops back to throw

in practice, coaches or the other quarterbacks use foam-padded bats

to take swipes at him, simulating the pressure he feels in the

pocket.

”At the beginning, I thought it was just an excuse for them to

hit me,” a smiling Sanchez said. ”But now, I’m seeing the result

of that kind of practice.”

Brunell, a mobile quarterback during the prime of his career,

started using the bats while he was in New Orleans the past two

seasons.

”Drew Brees liked the drill, so I bought a couple of them in

the offseason for my camp for young quarterbacks to teach ball

security,” Brunell said. ”I thought, ‘Shoot, maybe this would be

good for Mark.”’

So, Brunell floated the idea to quarterbacks coach Matt

Cavanaugh, a former NFL quarterback, and the team has been using

the bats since.

”I think it’s great because your eyes are downfield and you’ve

got to be conscious of holding on to that ball because you

certainly don’t want to fumble it,” Brunell said.

Sometimes it’s Cavanaugh and other coaches taking whacks at

Sanchez, and Brunell and backup Kellen Clemens getting their swings

in at others.

”It’s pretty realistic because guys swipe at the ball, they hit

your arm a little bit and you’ve got to move,” Sanchez said.

As a result of the drills, Sanchez is more comfortable moving

vertically in the pocket instead of just side to side.

”A lot of times as a quarterback, you think, ‘OK, somebody is

grabbing me. I’ve got to go down,”’ Sanchez said. ”You don’t have

to. You can kind of move a little bit.”

Sanchez by no means reminds anyone of Michael Vick, of course,

but he’s showing just enough elusiveness to keep opposing defenses

guessing. Several times in the Jets’ 26-20 overtime win at

Cleveland last Sunday, Sanchez made plays out of what initially

appeared to be nothing by scrambling.

”Mark has a rare ability to keep the play going with his legs,

just keep on running,” tight end Dustin Keller said. ”He also

throws the ball really well on the run, so when he’s doing that, I

think the defense starts to panic and we can kind of play street

ball a little bit.”

On one of last Sunday’s most memorable plays – Jerricho

Cotchery’s diving catch moments after tearing his groin – Sanchez

squirted past defenders to give his receiver an extra moment to get

free.

”He’s one of those guys, one of those quarterbacks that’s

learning that aspect of the game,” Santonio Holmes said, ”which

is to continue to keep making plays when everything else breaks

down.”

The impressive thing against Cleveland was Sanchez was on the

move even more after bruising his right calf in the third

quarter.

”I think his adrenaline was just running and I don’t even know

if he knew the calf was an issue before the game was over,” Keller

said. ”He definitely kept a lot of plays going that most guys

would’ve taken the sack.”

The calf shouldn’t be an issue Sunday against Houston. Sanchez

said it was just a bad bruise and he should be fine for the game –

his first against the Texans since his regular-season debut last

season.

”Brunell was laughing at the tape from the Houston game last

year, just how jittery and everything I was,” he said. ”I

probably could’ve paid $1,000 in fines in that game just on film,

let alone the TV copy. So, it’s good to see that growth.”

Especially with all the tips Brunell – whom Sanchez has almost

accidentally called coach Brunell a few times – provided him.

Brunell also recently started a fine system to help Sanchez cut

down on bad body language during practice.

”Everything he’s done is good,” Sanchez said. ”He’s like an

oracle.”

Notes: Jets K Nick Folk said he, punter Steve Weatherford and

long snapper Tanner Purdum will spend part of Thursday’s practice

at the New Meadowlands Stadium to get better reads on the wind

patterns there.