Jets hoping Sanchez-Tebow is a winning combination
All eyes have been on the New York Jets.
Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan have been in the headlines
for months. After all, the NFL’s most talked-about bunch is
fascinating, entertaining and controversial. Now, the Jets will
find out if that translates into a winning combination.
”It’s a big year for all of us,” Sanchez said. ”We’re all
ready just to start playing again. I think the guys are excited. I
said it earlier in spring that there’s just a good vibe around
here. So, regardless of any outside pressure, we’re putting a lot
of pressure on each other, on ourselves, so it’s good.”
Sanchez has certainly felt it for a while now. From his feud
with Santonio Holmes last season that highlighted a locker room of
dissension to the Jets’ flirting with the idea of going after
Peyton Manning and then deciding to trade for Tebow. And that was
after Sanchez received a contract extension.
While Manning has been a major preseason story line in Denver,
there has been perhaps no other quarterback situation followed as
closely as the Jets’ dynamic – and potentially combustible – duo of
Sanchez and Tebow. The Jets have insisted for months – since they
acquired Tebow from the Broncos in March – that Sanchez is the
undisputed starter at quarterback with Tebow a do-it-all backup
who’ll have a major role in Tony Sparano’s offense.
”As much as people are trying to make it a quarterback
controversy, it’s not,” Ryan said. ”Mark is our starting
quarterback, and Tim is an excellent football player.”
But some are skeptical that the two can coexist, with many fans
and media speculating that Tebow will eventually supplant Sanchez
as the starter. Some have even predicted it will happen by Week 6,
after a few tough matchups with solid defenses such as Buffalo,
Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Houston.
For now, Tebow will work in some wildcat-style packages that the
Jets have yet to unveil in a game, and serve as the personal punt
protector on special teams. Pretty unusual for a quarterback who
was a Heisman Trophy winner in college and took the league by storm
last year with several dramatic comeback victories.
”I don’t know that I necessarily think like a lot of other
quarterbacks do,” Tebow said. ”I just think whatever I can do to
help this team I’m going to do – have a great attitude, be a great
Tebow has said all the right things since coming to New York,
and so has Sanchez. And the Jets think having Tebow will be worth
all the attention, especially when he gets rolling in the
”You have Rex, who from the day he walked through the door has
said defending 11-man football is hard – when the quarterback can
run the ball, that’s hard,” general manager Mike Tannenbaum said.
”You have Tony, who coached him at the Senior Bowl and obviously
had success with the wildcat in Miami. So, from a football
standpoint, the interesting part of that trade is that it made
sense from both sides of the ball. You have a defensive play caller
who can’t defend it and an offensive play caller who has had
success with it.”
But the focus in Week 1 will be whether the Jets’ offense –
Sanchez, Tebow or whoever – can get into the end zone. The
starters, along with Tebow, went three preseason games without
scoring a touchdown to become the first team since the 1977 Atlanta
Falcons to do so.
The Jets aren’t concerned by the offensive ineptitude, saying
it’s still only preseason and that the playbook hasn’t been fully
opened. Well, we’ll see how different things look when they kick it
off for real against Buffalo on Sept. 9.
”We just feel like there’s good stuff right around the
corner,” Sanchez said.
That’s reassuring, especially to the defense, which figures to
be the strength of this year’s team which is looking for a return
to the postseason after going 8-8 last year. Ryan believes this
unit has a chance to be special, and it starts with the defensive
line which is deeper than it has been in any of Ryan’s previous
three seasons with first-round pick Quinton Coples joining Muhammad
Wilkerson, the Jets’ top choice last year, and veterans Sione Pouha
and Mike DeVito.
”Numbers-wise, we think we’ll be in the top 5 because that’s
what you go on,” Ryan said. ”Will we have the best defense in the
league? I don’t know. There are a lot of good defenses out there. I
certainly think putting out that kind of defense is a goal of ours
every year. We’ll see. I feel good.”
Ryan’s improved secondary is another reason. All-Pro Darrelle
Revis and Antonio Cromartie form perhaps the league’s top
cornerback tandem, and the safety position was revamped by bringing
in veterans LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell. The two are
hard-hitting presences who might help the Jets defend better
against an increasing number of teams relying on tight ends –
including AFC East-rival New England.
”I was talking with Revis, and I was like, `You know, right now
it seems like we’re dialed in on the communication part of the
game, and that’s huge,”’ Ryan said. ”That’s when you can play
fast. Even your young defensive linemen are getting into it. We’re
seeing very few mental mistakes over there. That allows you to play
But the Jets know this season will likely come down to how
Sanchez performs, and whether he and Tebow can cause headaches for
opposing defenses – instead of double trouble in New York.
”I think more than anything, your No. 1 goal has to be how can
we win games and how can we make this team better?” Tebow said.
”And I think if that’s your No. 1 goal, I think it can definitely
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