Sanchez looks to get Jets' offense back on track
Mark Sanchez is used to all the criticism by now.
The New York Jets quarterback sure has gotten plenty of it during his short career, and that's OK with him.
''You know, that's a part of this job and what you sign up for playing in New York,'' Sanchez said Thursday. ''If you can handle the praise and everything going well - playing in the AFC championship game, beating the Patriots in the divisional game and playing well - you've got to be able to handle the flip side. And when things don't go right, you're still the guy that takes the praise or the blame. So that's the way it goes and I just need to play better and help these guys execute.''
With his team in a three-game skid and fighting growing speculation that the season is on the brink of taking a terrible turn, Sanchez knows the doubters are in full force right now.
Can he carry the team in his third season? Can he step up his game? Can he fix this offense?
''I'm not worried about proving anybody right or wrong,'' he said. ''I'm worried about playing for these guys on the team and playing well for the players in this locker room. It's not about setting the record straight or anything. That's the last thing on my mind. I'm worried about getting completions, taking care of the football and I thought we made great strides on that last week. We just need to do it earlier.''
While he might feel the Jets are close to solving their woes, wide receiver Santonio Holmes said the team is heading into its game against the Dolphins with ''a feeling of desperation.''
The Jets (2-3) have lost three straight on the road and have a game against the winless Miami Dolphins (0-4) on Monday night. Sanchez acknowledged that he hadn't anticipated going through such a tough stretch. He also knows he's been part of the problem, as his 56.1 completion percentage ranks him 28th in the league.
New York has tried a few things to help improve the tempo of the offense, including using buzzers at practice to make sure Sanchez gets passes off faster and the receivers are quicker to complete their routes.
''You try to find what it is,'' coach Rex Ryan said. ''Last year, was it warming up more, come out to throw 100 balls? I don't know. We're still looking for it.''
Ryan said Sanchez got to the stadium late before games and never warmed up as part of the plan to change up the routine.
''We're looking for anything,'' Ryan said. ''It's just one of those things, because he's been absolutely terrific as the game goes on. We just have to find that groove.''
Sanchez said everyone can talk about routines, buzzers and everything else, but the keys to success are getting off to faster starts and converting on third down. The Jets were just 3 for 11 on third-down opportunities in last Sunday's 30-21 loss at New England.
''You lose three games, people are searching,'' Sanchez said. ''Everybody wants an answer, everybody wants one thing that you can fix. ... Our routine, we know our routine. If we win these games, nobody is questioning anything.''
Holmes said the team believes in Sanchez as its leader, and acknowledged that the quarterback is far from the only one at fault. The Jets have seldom thrown deep passes this season in offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's system, and Holmes believes the offensive line needs to play better for that to happen.
''The big guys know it: If they give Mark enough time to sit in the pocket and complete passes, I think everything changes,'' Holmes said, reiterating comments he made two weeks ago. ''The routes that are being run are short routes: `Hey, let's get the ball out of Mark's hands quick, let's move the ball down the field, let's go from there.' But if you can't protect the quarterback for 4 or 5 seconds, then there's no point of dropping back 7 yards to throw a football when he doesn't have enough time.''
Sanchez has also had to work with a fairly new set of receivers this season, and now one of them is gone with the trade of Derrick Mason to the Houston Texans. Mason made some pointed comments about the offense having ''cracks'' that needed to be fixed, but the team said it parted ways with him not because of his mouth but because he was not performing as they expected.
Holmes said the trade ''shook up a lot of guys,'' and added that he had ''not one clue'' why Mason was traded. Sanchez spoke to his teammates early last week about maintaining a good locker room, where criticisms of individuals would not leave team meetings.
Still, Holmes did all he can to keep from speaking his mind about the Jets' problems, saying ''I can't go that route with you.'' But, he then offered up his opinions about the offensive line being a large issue. Holmes was then asked if this might be the game where New York might throw a few deep against Miami's 31st-ranked pass defense.
''Obviously, it doesn't make a difference on our team because New England was ranked what in pass defense, and what did we do against those guys?'' he said, referring to the Patriots being ranked last entering last Sunday. ''So, it really doesn't matter what defenses are ranked. It's according to how well guys play on the field at that time.''
The Jets have only 15 pass plays of 20 or more yards, tying them for 18th in the league. They also have just one of 40 or more yards, tied for last, and that was a 74-yard catch by LaDainian Tomlinson - who turned a short pass into a huge gain.
''We have to honestly run with the plays that are being called,'' Holmes said.
Sanchez is saying all the right things, though, and insists the offense will be fine, and so will the Jets.
''We rattle off a couple of wins in a row, all that criticism and doubt, that stuff kind of fades away, and guys are confident again and ready to play,'' Sanchez said. ''I'm not too worried about it.''