Mark Sanchez: From Disgraced Backup to Guaranteed Starter?

mark-sanchezWith all but two teams eliminated from NFL title contention this year, many players have an eye towards the offseason and free agency. New York Jets backup QB Mark Sanchez is one of these players since he’s coming off a year where he didn’t play a single snap, yet he makes $8.25 million a season. Add in the fact that he’s due a $2 million signing bonus in March, and it only fuels speculation that the Jets will part with the 27-year-old.

With New York likely sticking to their second-year QB Geno Smith, there’s little reason to keep an overpaid backup. Sanchez hurt his shoulder in a preseason game while working behind the second team offensive line. He remained injured the rest of the season, though, it was largely reported that Smith had already won the starting job in the preseason anyways.

Assuming the Jets do cut Sanchez, there’s at least one team that guaranteed they would make him a starter. An anonymous head coach told the New York Post the following regarding the five-year veteran, “We’d take Sanchez. He’d be the starter as soon as he walked in the door for us.”

When looking at Sanchez’s numbers over the four years that he started, they don’t exactly scream high-profile free agent. He’s thrown just 68 touchdowns against 69 interceptions and has a career passer rating of 71.7%. But despite the subpar numbers, Sanchez’s talent has always intrigued teams.

mark-sanchez-1He was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and quickly assumed the Jets’ reigns in his rookie season. He also started twice in the AFC Championship game, just missing out on trips to the Super Bowl both times.

Given his experience, there are multiple teams that would be interested in a player like Sanchez. The Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders all enter the offseason with huge questions under center. It’s very possible that one of these teams could have the mystery head coach with Sanchez on his wishlist.

When you put Sanchez up against some of the other free agent QB’s this year, he’s especially attractive. Michael Vick and Josh McCown lead the 2014 free agent class, while Josh Freeman, Chad Henne, Shaun Hill and Matt Schaub (likely to be cut) will all draw interest too. Top NFL draft picks that’ll warrant heavy consideration among the league include Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr.

Still, that’s only 10 total quarterbacks when you consider both free agency and top-flight draft picks. So it’s no wonder that at least one head coach is already discussing how he’d start the veteran Sanchez in a heartbeat. The QB is currently rehabbing his shoulder in Birmingham, Alabama after having surgery last October. Assuming he can get back to full strength by the summer, there’s a great chance that he could land a starting job somewhere.

Best Bet to win Last AFC Wild Card Spot in 2013

new-york-jets-wild-cardIn most cases, NFL Wild Card teams need at least 9 or 10 wins to secure a postseason berth. However, this year is shaping up to be quite special since eight teams have a legitimate shot at grabbing the last AFC Wild Card spot. And this has created quite a bit of excitment heading into the last few weeks of the season.

Looking at all of the teams that have records ranging between 6-6 and 4-7, an 8-8 record might even be good enough to grab the AFC’s sixth seed. So which of these mediocre teams could find themselves competing against the league’s elite in the postseason? Let’s take a look by ranking the eight teams that still have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

1. New York Jets (5-6) Geno Smith may be playing terrible right now, but he hasn’t killed the Jets’ playoff chances yet. This is especially the case when you consider that they have the easiest remaining schedule out of any other team. They face Miami (home), Oakland (home), Cleveland (home), Carolina (away), Cleveland (home) and Miami again (away). The two games between New York and the Dolphins could potentially decide the Wild Card. Look for the Jets to go 3-2 or 4-1 the rest of the way, with road losses to Carolina and maybe Miami.

joe-flacco2. Baltimore Ravens (6-6) – The Ravens seemingly have the best chance on this list since they boast the top record and have head-to-head wins over the Jets and Dolphins. However, it’s hard to like their remaining schedule, which includes games against Detroit (road), New England (home) and Cincinnati (away) to close out the season. Their only cupcake is Minnesota at home, which could potentially be their lone win in these four contests.

3. Tennessee Titans (5-6) – Before Baltimore won, Tennessee was sitting in the Wild Card spot since they hold all of the tiebreakers. Their schedule ranks somewhere in the middle with two easy games in Jacksonville (away) and Houston (home) to end the year. But they must win at least one of their next three contests (@Indianapolis, @Denver, Arizona) for these final two to matter.

4. San Diego (5-6) – The one saving grace for San Diego is that a couple of their toughest games are at home, as they host Cincinnati and Kansas City. They also play the Giants and Oakland at home, but must travel to Denver in a couple of weeks. San Diego stole a win in Kansas City; can they do it again at Mile High?

5. Miami Dolphins (5-6) – Most people wrote the Dolphins off after the Richie Incognito bullying scandal. But they’ve since stayed in the hunt by going 2-2. Their remaining schedule isn’t impossible, but it does include three road games. Here’s a look at how they finish out the year: @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh, New England, @Buffalo, NY Jets.

cj-spiller6. Buffalo Bills (4-7) – Based on record alone, the Bills are going to have a tough time making the postseason. However, they come out of the bye week with a healthier CJ Spiller and a somewhat favorable schedule: Atlanta, @Tampa Bay, @Jacksonville, Miami, @New England.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) – Pittsburgh lost the big matchup against Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day, and now find themselves needing to win at least 3 out of 4 to make the playoffs. The best thing that they have going in their favor is scheduling: Miami, Cincinnati, @Green Bay, Cleveland. However, Aaron Rodgers should be back for the Green Bay game.

8. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – The Browns caused some excitement earlier in the year after starting 3-3. But they’ve since cooled off, having lost 4 out of their last 5 games. They could jump back into the playoff picture with a home win over Jacksonville this weekend. But it’s entirely possible that they lose these four games to end the year: @New England, Chicago, @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh.

Whoever make the playoffs out of this list will be a big underdog in their first-round game. Of course, this could still make for some interesting spread betting and live wagering opportunities, depending upon what the playoff matchup ends up being.

Should the New York Jets draft a QB in 2014?

geno-smith-jetsWhen the New York Jets took Geno Smith with the 39th overall pick this past draft, many thought New York was drafting their quarterback of the future. Sure there were questions regarding Smith’s professionalism and late-season decline at West Virginia. But his talent was evidently enough to warrant an early second-round draft choice.

The buzz around Smith only grew as he beat out a banged-up Mark Sanchez for the starting QB job. The young signal caller fared pretty well in his first game, completing 24-of-38 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown. Smith also showed off his 4.59-forty speed by adding 47 yards on the ground. More importantly, he led New York to an 18-17 win over Tampa Bay.

Since this time, Smith has been up and down, with mostly downs to speak of lately. His statline reads of a quarterback who’d normally be benched by this point: 2,227 passing yards, 8 TD’s and 18 INT’s.

It’s worth mentioning that Smith has also added 178 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. But this isn’t nearly enough to make up for the 18 interceptions that he’s geno-smith-jets-1tossed so far. The last four games have been particularly bad, with Smith throwing for zero touchdowns and 7 INT’s. And if the Jets had a reliable veteran at quarterback this season, you have to wonder if they’d be much better than 5-6.

This might be the question that New York management asks themselves throughout the offseason. Going further, is it already time for the Jets to start thinking about taking another quarterback next year?

It’s certainly too early to completely write Smith off at this point. After all, starting in the NFL as a rookie is an extremely tough task, especially when you’re not a guaranteed franchise savior like Andrew Luck. But if Smith is to truly be the Jets’ QB of the future, he’s going to have to make some significant improvements in accuracy and getting rid of the ball on time.

It doesn’t help the former Mountaineer’s case that the 2014 NFL Draft is loaded with talent at the quarterback position. There are potentially 5-6 signal callers who could be major game-changers at the next level. Fresno State’s Derek Carr, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd lead the seniors, while Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley head up the draft-eligible underclassmen.

geno-smith-jets-2The latter three prospects are virtually guaranteed a first-round selection, while the three seniors could go late in the first round or at some point in the second round. In any case, the Jets are going to have plenty of chances at drafting a good QB, even if they don’t trade up in the 2014 Draft.

Of course, everything is up in the air for New York right now. Geno Smith could suddenly come out and play much better, leading his team to several more wins and instilling some confidence among management. Given that the Jets are still very much alive in the AFC Wild Card race, Smith leading them to the postseason would really boost his stock.

But at the moment, with his 7 interceptions in the last four games, he’s really going to have to show something over the next few weeks. Or the Jets could be welcoming their new QB of the future on the draft podium next spring.

Ed Reed cut Loose after ripping the Texans

ed-reed-cut-houstonIn his 12-year NFL career, Ed Reed has proven to be one of the greatest safeties of all-time. And after winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens last year, he was expected to bring this greatness to the Houston Texans. However, the 35-year-old was more of a bust than anything, and now he’s been cut loose by the Texans after some controversial comments.

Following Houston’s 27-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Reed said that his team was “outcoached and outplayed” during Sunday’s game. When asked if he still believed this on Monday, the nine-time Pro Bowler confirmed his assertion that Houston was outcoached. Reed also added that the offense “can’t keep going three and out, and put your defense back on the field.”

A large reason for Reed’s comments may have come from the fact that he was left out of the starting lineup for the Cardinals game. And he played just 12 snaps throughout the entire four quarters.

Of course, this should come as no surprise to those who’ve been watching the Texans all season since Reed has continually gone downhill. He began 2013 with some minor injuries, and when he did play, it wasn’t exactly inspiring. So when you combine Reed’s lack of playing time with his negative comments about the coaching staff, it was a fairly easy decision for Houston to let him go.

ed-reed-cut-houston-1This is yet another blow to the Texans dismal season, which began with Super Bowl aspirations. In fact, Reed was brought in as a missing piece to a team that had most of the components needed for a strong defense. He signed a three-year, $15 million deal in what was one of the biggest offseason acquisitions.

But for the few million that he received before getting cut, all Reed provided was 16 tackles in seven games. Gone was the ball-hawking safety who’d piled up 61 interceptions and seven touchdowns through his first 11 seasons in Baltimore.

So what’s the next stop for this aging safety who quickly wore out his welcome in Texas? Well a return to the Ravens isn’t out of the question since Reed carved out a very successful career here. A contender like New England wouldn’t be a surprise either since Stephen Gregory is out, and Bill Belichick might be looking for a veteran replacement. The New York Jets could be another possibility because Reed’s former defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, is always looking to add good defensive players to the Jets.

As for the Texans, they are looking towards next season with a 2-7 record. Case Keenum has officially taken the starting QB job from Matt Schaub. And Arian Foster has been put on the injured reserve list since there’s little reason to keep trying to play him. All in all, this has been a nightmare for a team that went 12-4 in the 2012 regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs, losing to New England 41-28 in the Divisional round.

New York Jets QB Disaster: Sanchez injured, Smith has 3 INT’s

mark-sanchezGoing into the 2013-14 NFL season, nobody expected the New York Jets to have a dominate passing game. The incumbent starter, Mark Sanchez, has failed to make this HIS team, thanks to mediocre numbers over a four-year career. The other candidate, Geno Smith, is a rookie who’s raw and doesn’t seem quite ready to start an entire NFL season.

And if anybody had forgotten about how dismal the Jets’ quarterback situation was, they were issued a full reminder in the New York Giants game last night. Smith didn’t look like he was ready to start for an Arena League team as he tossed three interceptions, and stepped on the back of the end zone for a safety.

Later in the evening, Rex Ryan decided to insert Mark Sanchez in during the fourth quarter. Letting him play in meaningless garbage time was a baffling decision, especially since Sanchez still had an opportunity to win the starting quarterback battle. Plus he had backup lineman blocking for him who were just trying to land a roster spot.

geno-smith-jetsRyan’s poor decision was thrust onto center stage when Giants backup defensive tackle Marvin Austin nailed Sanchez’s right shoulder and sent him out of the game. There’s no word on the severity of the injury because the fifth-year veteran just had X-rays, and he’ll undergo magnetic resonate imaging today.

Following Saturday night’s debacle, Ryan seemed extremely annoyed at all of the questions sent his way regarding the QB situation. “We will make the announcement of the starting quarterback when we think it’s the appropriate time,” he said. “Not when you, not when this person, or this person, or this person (thinks it’s time). I can say anything I want – beauty of this country.”

The Jets headman received further questioning regarding his decision to play Sanchez in the fourth quarter. “That was my decision – that was coach’s decision all the way,” he said. “If it wasn’t important, then I wouldn’t have put him in there. I would have not put Mark in there if it wasn’t important. Well, after the injury you always have reservations. I understand being second-guessed and stuff when an injury happens – certainly I understand that – but that’s football.”

If Sanchez’s shoulder injury turns out to be anything really serious, fans will be questioning Ryan every step of the way. This is even truer if Smith opens the season as the starter and fails to produce solid results.

When New York picked Smith with the 39th overall selection in the draft, they were selecting a guy whom they thought could quickly overtake Sanchez and become a franchise player. It’s still quite early to tell if the Jets’ hopes will come to fruition. After all, there’s another preseason game left to play, and based on Sanchez’s injury, Smith could get a second start to prove his worth.

His first preseason start didn’t exactly yield desirable results since he completed 16-of-30 passes for 199 yards, one TD, three INT”s, a safety, and just a 45.7 passer rating. Hopefully Smith can come out next week and provide some assurance that he’s ready to start in the NFL if he gets the nod over Sanchez.

What will the New England Patriots do with Tim Tebow?

tim-tebowJust last month, reports surfaced that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick “hates” Tim Tebow as a player. Given all of the unwarranted animosity towards Tebow by the rest of the NFL, it didn’t seem like a far-fetched story.

But just days ago, Belichick came out and said that the reports of him hating Tebow’s game were completely false. “I wouldn’t get into the probability of us pursuing any free agent. Every single player has strengths and weaknesses but regardless of that, for anyone to have represented that is the way I feel about Tim Tebow is completely untrue, baseless and irresponsible,” Belichick told ESPN. “It is unfortunate that something so inaccurate was reported.”

Perhaps this statement foreshadowed what was later to come as Belichick and the Patriots signed Tebow to a deal. This is a very interesting move, given that some people wondered if any NFL teams would even want the former New York Jets backup quarterback.

tim-tebow-1The Patriots current offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, probably had a lot to do with convincing the New England organization to sign Tebow. After all, McDaniels got Denver to draft the Florida product in the first round. And now that the Patriots have Tebow, the question is what they’ll do with him.

Last year, the Jets claimed that they were going to use number 15 quite a bit in Wildcat packages. But in reality, he rarely saw the field and generated just 75 passing yards and 102 rushing yards throughout 2012. Given what happened in New York, the Patriots aren’t making any guarantees about Tebow’s playing time or role with the team.

Belichick said, “Tim is a talented player, is smart and works hard. We’ll see how it goes.” When asked about what position he’ll play, Belichick added, “We will see.”

One thing that has been revealed about Tebow is how he’s been signed as a quarterback. He’ll compete with Ryan Mallett and any free agent(s) the Patriots bring in for the two backup spots behind Tom Brady. New England cut third-string QB Mike Kafka on Monday, thus giving Tim a better opportunity to make the roster.

Divisional Playoffs - Denver Broncos v New England PatriotsAssuming he makes it, Tebow won’t have to worry about the pressure of fans calling for him to start like in New York. Brady is arguably the NFL’s best quarterback and is completely solid in his role. This is a different story from the Jets’ Mark Sanchez, whose shaky play caused a controversy when some fans thought that Tebow should start.

Since he obviously won’t be starting, some people think that the former Broncos and Jets QB was brought in to handle short yardage duties. However, it’s worth mentioning that Brady has the best QB sneak percentage on both third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations since 2006. He’s converted 97.8% of his attempts, which is far higher than second place David Garrard (91.7%), who retired this offseason.

Another thought is that, given the Patriots’ injuries to the tight end position last year, they could use Tebow here. Sure he has nothing on Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski because they’re two of the NFL’s top tight ends, But if they were to miss significant time again, some believe that Tebow could step in and provide help.

Belichick isn’t entirely above doing this since he’s used wide receivers Troy Brown, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater as defensive backs. But making the switch from backup quarterback to tight end is a little more of a leap, and Tebow may not be quite as good as somebody who’s trained for this position their whole life.

In the end, signing Tebow seems like more of a development move than anything. Belichick and McDaniels are great at taking projects and shaping them into usable on-field talent. Tim Tebow is still young enough to where he could be groomed and take over for Brady – or at least be trade bait – if his throwing mechanics significantly improve. And if this doesn’t work out, well then, the Patriots can simply cut their losses like they did with Chad Johnson and Albert Haynsworth.