Something went noted talking to Mark Sanchez last week in Florham Park, N.J., at Jets mini-camp. He had an edge. He had an attitude. It was in a good way. It was totally different from any other conversation we’ve had since Sanchez became a pro.
Sanchez knows the deal. He didn’t play well last year during the Jets collapse. The Jets lacked chemistry. The whispers about Sanchez’s leadership were spoken so frequently, they felt like a shout. The Jets smartly traded for Tim Tebow. It is easy, and accurate, to say he represents an upgrade over Brad Smith and Mark Brunell as a wildcat threat and backup quarterback. But this is Timothy Richard Tebow, with the hoopla and scrutiny that come with it.
Enter Tony Sparano.
Rex Ryan likes to say the Jets are a ground-and-pound team. Yet, he let former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer ruin Christmas, chucking the ball over 60 times with Sanchez in a Christmas Eve loss to the Giants. Sparano shares Rex’s vision. He will run, run, and run some more. He will run with the Jets’ running backs and absolutely run with Tim Tebow. I asked Sanchez about the pressure and scrutiny of Tebow, especially when Mark throws that inevitable first pick.
Sanchez said: “Coach Sparano has my back, and I lean on him. I love working with him.”
Sanchez has worked very hard this offseason. He has impressed with his leadership and his play. Sanchez hasn’t said anything foolish. It’s early, but he’s responded very well to the Tebow trade and Sparano’s coaching.
The Jets defense will be much better this year. If Sanchez can keep his focus and his wits about him, the Jets will bounce back and make the playoffs.
2) No mercy for Percy
Percy Harvin was back at Vikings practice on Thursday after causing quite a stir, demanding a trade. The oft-injured and talented receiver has two years left on his deal, making $915,000 this season. He’s picking the wrong battle.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman told us on the SiriusXM Blitz yesterday that he won’t entertain the idea of trading his best receiver. And with a thin receiving core, he shouldn’t. Spielman also sent Harvin and his agent a message when he said, "We approach our core guys (for extensions) going into their final year."
Spielman added, "Harvin might be the most competitive guy I’ve ever been around."
Harvin better recognize reality, be a good teammate and develop a rapport with young Christian Ponder.
3) No Saints
Can we please stop hearing from Saints players, from media types, from anyone with a platform, that Roger Goodell doesn’t have evidence in the Bountygate scandal? He has over 500 pages. The snippets that were leaked on Monday prove it existed.
Debate the length of suspensions. Jon Vilma didn’t deserve to get whacked for a season. But let’s not pretend it didn’t exist. A program that rewards injuries from bone-crushing hits is bush league. Gregg Williams and those involved deserve the penalties.
And can Drew Brees stop talking?
I know he apologized for his “weapons of mass destruction” tweet, but Brees has said some goofy things, from the lockout, to the passing record, to his contract, to Bountygate.
4) Matty Ice
QB Matt Ryan was incredibly honest and impressive when we talked on SiriusXM NFL Radio. He knows the blurred line between perception and reality.
Ryan, head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff have changed the culture in Atlanta. Their regular-season success is impressive. Their playoff success is nonexistent.
Ryan told us he wants the Falcons improve in the red zone and with the “little things that help you win,” ranging from “attention to detail and notes in meetings to routes on air.”
Wide receiver Julio Jones is a star in the making. Ryan raved about new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who will get the scatbacks involved out of the backfield. Dimitroff drafted two potential starters on the offensive line. I think the Falcons will take advantage of the Saints ‘chaos and Ryan will finally win a playoff game.
5) MJD running the wrong way
Maurice Jones-Drew is bright. He’s one of my favorite guys in the league. This holdout is illogical. He’s under contract for two more years, making over $9 million per. Jones-Drew is the best and most popular player on the team ranked dead last in the most recent Harris Interactive Poll.
The Jaguars won’t give him new money. They won’t trade him. Jones-Drew doesn’t have the hammer. His deal isn’t up. Ray Rice and Matt Forte can’t get the money they crave. Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson got mega-buck deals and it backfired. It’s not Jones-Drew’s turn.
6) On the prowl?
This offseason, the Panthers have been an en vogue choice as a surprise team. In fact, offensive tackle Jordan Gross told us on the SiriusXM Blitz that he expects to win the division. I don’t see it.
While I loved the Luke Kuechly pick, I still think the Panthers are short on defense and paper-thin at receiver. For the record, I’d sign Plaxico Burress to aid Cam Newton in the red zone.
If there’s a surprise team in the NFC South, it is Tampa with the new attitude under Greg Schiano. The Bucs have legit talent, too. They added five significant players this offseason in Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Eric Wright, Mark Barron and Doug Martin.
7) Team to beat
Dom Capers is one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL. He’s the right man to fix the Packers’ D. I believe the young picks like Jerel Worthy and Nick Perry will immediately help. But, as Packers coach Mike McCarthy stressed to us on the SiriusXM Blitz, the team has the ability to improve, especially the young veterans.
The Packers are the best team in the NFL, on paper.
8) Titanic battle
Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck told us on the SiriusXM Blitz that he actually suggested to Tennessee coach Mike Munchak at the end of last year to open up the quarterback competition. I think this is clearly the best quarterback battle in the NFL.
Hasselbeck, in my opinion, was great last year under the circumstances, when you factor in the lockout, the Kenny Britt injury and Chris Johnson’s lack of interest. But Munchak drafted Jake Locker in the top 10, with his first-ever draft pick. If it is even, I think Locker wins the job. And even if he isn’t the Week 1 starter, I think Locker will start more games than Hasselbeck at quarterback in Tennessee this year.
9) Send in the clowns
After the Dolphins signed receiver/clown Chad Ochocinco to star in their HBO reality show, I was truly doubled over in laughter. Listening to the Miami receiver/sideshow act tell reporters to get ready for the show, I was in pain.
Chad had 15 catches playing with an all-time great quarterback and for an all-time great coach. Good luck with the Dolphins’ three-headed monster at quarterback and a neophyte head coach.
There is no chance Chad makes it work in Miami. To quote one of my favorite reality stars, “Child, please.”