Enter Mark Sanchez. The butt fumble. The terrible throws. The guy who has seen his share of ups and downs and thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. After one start and a half game after Nick Foles’ injury, it looks as though Sanchez will thrive in Chip Kelly’s system.
I was at the game on Monday night against the Carolina Panthers and saw the Eagles dominate every facet of the game. The defense? We’ve seen those guys step up all season. Connor Barwin showed his speed and pass rushing abilities by taking down a hobbled Cam Newton for 3.5 sacks. The special teams? They’re the best special teams unit I’ve ever seen. Darren Sproles with another punt return touchdown? One of the most exciting players in the league. What really stood out,though, was the offense led by Sanchez.
His quick feet, quick decisions, and ability to zip the ball into tight spaces was what we were missing with Foles. The first half of the season, Foles seemed to lob the ball up to his playmakers, and he was hesitant in the pocket. We didn’t see the confidence he showed in his efforts last year. So when Sanchez entered against Houston and led them to victory, he received praise from Chip Kelly—maybe some undeserved praise—but that’s what a coach needs to do. It was a confidence booster. The media and Rex Ryan in New York put every blame on the shoulders of Sanchez—maybe that’s why he injured his shoulder! Was the blame justified? Probably, but that derailed his confidence and after one hurt shoulder for a couple of weeks, he was replaced by Geno Smith. Smith, by the way, has since been benched in favor of Michael Vick. Ah, the circle of quarterbacks.
At any rate, Sanchez showed Philadelphia crisp passing and good decision making. The up-tempo Kelly offense seems to suit his game. Rolling out of the pocket, passing in the pocket, the pitch to McCoy and the inside handoff, he looked great. Was it a small sample? Sure. But he split his targets up nicely. Jordan Matthews had a big game, an excellent game. Brent Celek showed his face. I felt bad for Zach Ertz who saw 1 catch on 3 targets as he celebrated his birthday. If Sanchez can go through his reads that quickly as the season rolls on, and avoid the lazy pass by just throwing it out of bounds when there is nothing there, then I think Sanchez is an upgrade from Foles.
The real test is next week against the Packers in Lambeau. The top 3 teams in the NFC right now are the Eagles, Packers, and Cardinals in no particular order. This game will be a true indicator for both Sanchez and the Eagles as to whether or not they can compete with the big boys. If it was in Philadelphia, you know I’d be there.