Can The Eagles Win With Mark Sanchez at Quarterback?
Philadelphia Eagles 2014
Good enough for win against Texans
Eagles backup quarterback Mark Sanchez was forced into action on Sunday when Nick Foles went down with a broken collar bone. The game was tied when Mark Sanchez entered the game, and even though he threw two interceptions, his two touchdown passes were enough to lead the Eagles to victory. After being a starter for multiple seasons with the Jets, Mark Sanchez was ready when called upon to take over at the quarterback position for the Eagles. With Nick Foles now likely to miss six weeks or more, questions arise about whether the Eagles can win with Mark Sanchez playing quarterback for them. Mark Sanchez was relegated to a backup role in Philadelphia after his time with the Jets did not end well, but he did have some moments that suggest he can play the quarterback position at the NFL level. Under head coach Rex Ryan, very few quarterbacks have had success in the offensive system. Whether this is a result of the talent around them or the system they are in, remains to be seen, but talented young quarterbacks have not had success with the Jets in recent years. Under head coach Chip Kelly, Nick Foles was able to emerge last year, and in 2014 another young quarterback may emerge in his quarterback friendly offensive scheme.
Can the Jets coach young quarterback talent?
The Jets have had only three different starting quarterbacks under head coach Rex Ryan, and with each quarterback the game plan has always been the same. As a great defensive mind in football, Rex Ryan focuses most of his attention on getting his team to play great defense. As a result, this includes a very conservative game plan that does not ask the quarterback to make many throws. When the running game has not worked for the Jets, there has been no easing of young quarterbacks into the offensive scheme. Mark Sanchez and most recently Geno Smith were asked to drop back to make downfield throws against teams dropping players into coverage and bringing exotic blitzes when they know the Jets will be passing. Since there was no middle ground between asking Mark Sanchez to do too little or too much, the learning experience with the Jets was not a smooth one for Sanchez. Sanchez went from 364 pass attempts in his first season with the Jets, to 507 the following year and 543 pass attempts in his third season. With a defensive head coach leading the team, there was not enough focus on the development process needed for quarterbacks to reach their ceilings with the team. For these reasons, quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez may be able to continue their development and find success in a better offensive system.
Chip Kelly's system
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly believes that his system can have success with any quarterback who has the talent to play at the NFL level. With first round talent at quarterback, the return on investment would typically be larger though if the talent pans out. A look at what Nick Foles was able to accomplish in Kelly's quarterback friendly system, can tell more about what type of success could be in Mark Sanchez's future in the next few weeks with the Eagles. Last season with Nick Foles making quick decisions and anticipating certain throws being open, he was able to complete over 64 percent of his passes to go along with 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. While Mark Sanchez has already thrown two interceptions with the Eagles this season, and it would be unrealistic to expect him to produce at the rate Foles did last season, the chances of him having success with the talent around him are very high. Kelly's system provides the quarterback with plenty of easy throws, such as bubble screens on both sides of the field to athletic playmakers such as Jeremy Maclin and Darren Sproles. Downfield throws are made easier with big targets who run great routes, such as Zach Ertz, Jordan Matthews and Riley Cooper. The downfield throws and quick screen passes help to open up for a spread formation running game that can provide huge chunks of yardage on the ground when the offense is able to force the defense to respect all areas of the field. In Chip Kelly's system the quarterback becomes just like the other guys when his job is just to get the ball quickly into the hands of the playmakers in space.
Even though the Eagles lost a valuable piece to their offense in Nick Foles, the abilities of Mark Sanchez could prove more than adequate to fill the void during his absence. With the Eagles already winning one game under the leadership of Mark Sanchez, they can continue to do so if he buys into making just the throws that system asks him to make. Mark Sanchez has gotten himself into trouble in the past when he has tried to do too much, but under Chip Kelly his skill set has a chance to thrive. With the Eagles having a difficult portion of the schedule upcoming, the importance Mark Sanchez's play will be the key to the Eagles maintaining the success they have had in the first half of the season. Ultimately Mark Sanchez possesses the arm strength and athleticism necessary to do exactly what will be required of him to win in Chip Kelly's offensive system.