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Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez passes test in Jets' preseason opener

BY Rich Cimini


Saturday, August 15th 2009, 4:00 AM



As he barked signals on his first NFL play, Mark Sanchez lost his mouthpiece. It fell to the turf in mid-cadence, and he heard laughter from the Rams' defense.

"What an idiot!" he thought, chiding himself.

Sanchez overcame the rookie hiccup in dramatic fashion Friday night at the Meadowlands, finishing that first play with a long spiral that lit up the sky like a bottle rocket - a 48-yard pass that fell gently into the hands of David Clowney.

Quarterback competition over? Quite possibly.

With one loud completion to start an impressive, albeit brief outing in a 23-20 loss, Sanchez moved closer toward locking up the Jets' quarterback job. He outplayed Kellen Clemens, completing three of four passes for 88 yards in his only series - an eight-play, 93-yard touchdown drive.

Rex Ryan said he's not ready to name a permanent starter - he wouldn't name the starter for next week's game in Baltimore - but all signs point to Sanchez.

"For a rookie to step in on the first play and unleash one, it was pretty impressive," the coach said, admitting he was "shocked" that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called a deep pass from the Jets' 7-yard line. "He showed us everything we needed to see. ...I mean, shoot, he completed everything."

It was a Hollywood beginning for the quarterback from Los Angeles. When Sanchez returned to the bench after his long ball, the final play of the first quarter, he teased Schottenheimer, "I'm coming off the bench cold and shooting three-pointers. What's the deal?"

The deal is this: Unless he implodes Aug.24 against the Ravens, Sanchez is a virtual lock to win the job. Clemens (4-for-4, 24 yards) didn't play poorly, although he did lose a fumble on a sack, but he can't compete if Sanchez continues to excel.

Entering to loud cheers from the half-filled stadium, Sanchez took over at his 7 to start the Jets' third series. Instead of calling a conservative handoff, which would have been the safe play behind an injury-depleted line, Schottenheimer sent in a 'Go' route for the speedy Clowney (four catches for 102 yards).

"I was like, 'What the heck is that? Let the guy warm up or something,'" Ryan said, laughing.

Clowney, who later scored on a 50-yard pass from Erik Ainge (10-for-17, 148 yards), beat backup cornerback Justin King. Sanchez pump-faked to Dustin Keller, drawing the safety to the middle and leaving Clowney in single coverage. The pass traveled nearly 40 yards in the air and hit Clowney in stride.

"It was almost like it was written," linebacker Bart Scott said.

Sanchez wasn't a one-hit wonder. Operating a relatively vanilla game plan, he found a wide-open Keller for 14 yards. Two plays later, third-and-10, he faced a blitz and hit Keller (three catches for 52 yards) just short of the first-down marker. The tight end broke a tackle and took it for 26 yards. Thomas Jones finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown leap.

Curiously, Ryan pulled Sanchez after one series, claiming he didn't want to risk injury behind backup linemen. The Jets played without three starting linemen, Alan Faneca (finger), Nick Mangold (knee) and Damien Woody (concussion).

Clemens (14 plays) didn't do anything to lose the job, per se. His first possession ended with a fumble on a strip-sack by Leonard Little, who blew past right tackle Wayne Hunter. On his second possession, Clemens led the Jets to a field goal to cap a 10-play, 61-yard drive highlighted by Brad Smith's 28-yard run on a reverse.

But this was the Sanchez show.

"It was only one series in a preseason game," the $50million rookie said, "so it's nothing to get too excited about."

SACKS FULL: The Jets' starting defense played well, recording three sacks in three series. David Harris, Calvin Pace and Donald Strickland had one sack apiece....Ryan was "embarrassed" by the third-string defense, which allowed a 77-yard TD run by Samkon Gado. ... CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring), NT Kris Jenkins (calf) and FB Tony Richardson (hip) also didn't play for the Jets.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/jets/2009/08/15/2009-08-15_rookie_quarterback_mark_sanchez_passes_test_in_jets_first_preseason_game.html#ixzz0OFlg63GT

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HAPPY DAYS: Mark Sanchez, who went 3-for-4 for 88 yards in his NFL debut, is all smiles after completing a 48-yard pass to receiver David Clowney during the second quarter of the Jets' 23-20 preseason loss to the Rams.

August 15, 2009

Sure, it was one series, one throw, one moment.

But Mark Sanchez's flashy NFL preseason debut last night's 23-20 loss to the Rams sure had the look of the beginning of the end of the Jets' quarterback competition.

Sanchez, lighting up the Meadowlands night with his first NFL throw a 48-yard sideline bomb to David Clowney, made a bold early statement in his quest to become the Jets' starter as a rookie.

"I think he came out and set the tone not just for the game but for his career," Jets receiver Wallace Wright said.

Indeed, when the Jets' $50 million man trotted onto the Giants Stadium field with 28 seconds remaining in the first quarter to spell Kellen Clemens, there was a palpable buzz in the house.

Judging by his sterling debut, this was merely the first of many buzz moments Sanchez, who finished 3-of-4 for 88 yards while playing only one series, will deliver to Jets fans.

"It was fun to watch," Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "First play out of the gate he comes out and throws a perfect pass. I guess he was ready to come in. In the NFL you've got to have a lot of confidence in yourself and he has it.

"He's a relaxed guy," Cotchery said. "Even after throwing that first pass, he came right back in the huddle relaxed. Sometimes rookies get so excited after making a play they can't calm down, but he was ready to move on to the next play."

Sanchez laughed his mouthpiece falling out of his mouth while he was barking signals on the play, saying some of the Rams' defensive players laughed at him.

With the Jets backed up on their own seven-yard line when he got into the game, Sanchez conceded he was "a little surprised" offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called that play to start the drive.

"I said to him later, 'Man, I'm coming off the bench shooting three-pointers,' " Sanchez said jokingly.

Sanchez, showing his even-keel side, said he doesn't "want to set ahead" of himself with this performance. "It was the first game, one series, basic stuff," he said.

Rex Ryan, who called Sanchez "pretty impressive," didn't say who would start the Jets' next preseason game, Aug. 24 in Baltimore. But suffice it to say if Sanchez performs against the Ravens the way he did last night, it's going to be difficult for Kellen Clemens to win the job. Clemens, who was 4-of-4 for 26 yards, performed well, but lost a fumble on a sack.

Tight end Dustin Keller, who caught two passes from Sanchez, said he wasn't surprised by Sanchez's start.

"Mark has a tremendous arm and his accuracy is just ridiculous," Keller said. "He's not scared to go for it on his first play in the stadium. You'd think he's been out there a thousand times before. He was calm and collected. That's what you want to get out of your quarterback."

Added receiver Brad Smith on Sanchez: "You could tell he has some skills. That's obvious. To put that ball on the money like he did that was great. I guess you could say that play was a jolt."

When Sanchez's one and only drive of the game was complete, he gave the Jets a 10- 3 lead by engineering a scoring drive climaxed by a one-yard Thomas Jones touchdown run.

Let the hype begin.

That the Jets lost the game hardly mattered.

This night was all about Sanchez's NFL debut, and he didn't disappoint.

Sanchez has not been named the starter, but this seems only a matter of time unless Clemens wins the job by knockout with a standout performance in Baltimore.

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Wow! Jets' Sanchez on the mark

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The Record


EAST RUTHERFORD - As he was calling the signals for his first NFL play, Mark Sanchez's mouthpiece fell out.

Sanchez recalled somebody laughing. He thought it was someone on the St. Louis defense, although he said, “it might have been someone on our team.”

No matter. Like a versatile actor, Sanchez showed he can switch from comedy to drama in an instant.

The rookie quarterback from Southern California threw a 48-yard completion to David Clowney on Sanchez's first NFL preseason play, sparking the Jets' only touchdown drive of the first half. They lost to St. Louis, 23-20, in the preseason opener for both teams at Giants Stadium.

Sanchez may have taken another step forward in his ongoing position battle with Kellen Clemens, although coach Rex Ryan said he was “really happy” with all three quarterbacks who played, including third-stringer Erik Ainge.

Ryan also wouldn't commit to starting Sanchez at Baltimore on Aug. 24 in the Jets' next preseason game, saying only, “we'll see.”

Sanchez finished 3-for-4 for 88 yards, while Clemens was 4-for-4 for 24 yards in two series preceding Sanchez's appearance. Clemens directed the Jets to a field goal, but it was Sanchez who got them in the end zone with an eight-play, 93-yard drive started by his completion to Clowney. The Jets were backed up at their own 7, yet offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer gave Sanchez a chance to make a big play.

“It worked out right, exactly the way we wanted it to,” said Sanchez, a California native who had his family in the crowd. “Obviously, I was ready to handle it.”

But Sanchez cautioned: “It's still very early. There's a lot of work to do.”

As for whether he'll start against the Ravens, Sanchez said, “Who knows? That's up to Coach Ryan. I think Kellen did a good job as well.”

Sanchez used a pump fake to tight end Dustin Keller to allow Clowney to beat single coverage by Justin King on a go route, and Sanchez said Clowney ran a “great route.”

Later on that drive, Sanchez hit Keller over the middle for 15 yards and on third-and-10 from the 28, he again connected with Keller, this time for 26 yards.

Two plays later, Thomas Jones vaulted over from 1 yard for a touchdown and a 10-3 lead with 11:40 left in the second quarter.

That was Sanchez's only series. Ryan indicated he didn't want to risk using him further, considering the Jets were without three starting offensive linemen.

Ryan added, “I think [sanchez] showed us everything we needed to see.”

Clemens wasn't as flashy, but was effective in his two series, except for one play.

The first series of the game ended when right tackle Wayne Hunter, filling in for Damien Woody (head), allowed a strip sack to Leonard Little. James Hall recovered at the Jets' 27 to set up a field goal.

“I had a little pressure from the front side,” Clemens said. “I have to do a better job of protecting [the ball] and stepping up into the pocket.

“I thought overall it was a good starting point for us offensively,” Clemens said.

Clowney, who impressed in the first two preseason games last year before suffering a broken clavicle, picked up where he left off. He had three receptions for 102 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown on play-action from Ainge in the fourth quarter.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez got the play call from the sideline and looked at his New York Jets teammates, a bit surprised.

The rookie quarterback was being asked to air it out on his first play in the NFL."I said, 'Here we go, man!" Sanchez said. "'Let's go! Let's do it! Dial it up!"

Sanchez, who came in with 28 seconds left in the first quarter, completed a 48-yard pass to David Clowney on his first snap and engineered an early scoring drive in New York's 23-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Friday night."When Mark came in, he looked like he's been looking in practice," said Rex Ryan, whose head coaching debut was spoiled by the loss. "He stepped in and it wasn't too big for him."The play was drawn up by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who also surprised Ryan with the bold call.

"I had no idea," Ryan said. "I was shocked by it, like, `What the heck was that? Let the guy warm up a little bit.' It just shows you the kind of kid he is, a cool customer."Sanchez, the former Southern California star selected with the fifth overall pick, had a rookie moment, though, seconds before zipping the ball down the right sideline and into Clowney's hands."As soon as he caught it, I was really excited -- and then I was looking for my mouthpiece because I dropped it, mid-cadence," Sanchez said, grinning. "I said, 'Green-30,' and boom, my mouthpiece came out and the defense was laughing. I thought, 'What an idiot."Seven plays after the pass to Clowney, Thomas Jones took a handoff and leaped over the pile from a yard out, the ball crossing the goal line before Todd Johnson knocked it out of Jones' hands.

St. Louis' Steve Spagnuolo, a winner in his head coaching debut, challenged the call, but it was upheld by video review.Sanchez, with several family members in attendance, completed three of four passes for 88 yards. Kellen Clemens, competing with Sanchez for the starting job, completed all four of his pass attempts for a total of 24 yards and was sacked once in two series.Ryan, disappointed with the loss, said he wasn't yet ready to name a starter for the team's next game at Baltimore on Aug. 24."We'll just continue to compete and improve until (Ryan) is ready," Clemens said. "And, hopefully after that, we'll have a clear No. 1 and 2."Trailing 20-16, St. Louis took advantage of a muffed punt return by the Jets' Paul Raymond to get the ball deep in New York territory. Rookie Keith Null, who came on in place of the injured Brock Berlin, put the Rams back ahead three plays later on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sean Walker with 7:32 remaining."It's good to win a football game," Spagnuolo said. "It's good to win anything that you compete in, so we're happy about that. We've certainly got a lot of work to do. This was only a beginning."Spagnuolo, who interviewed for the Jets job, won in his return to the Meadowlands for the first time as a head coach. Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator for the Giants the last two seasons."I have great memories here," Spagnuolo said. "I was not wrapped up in that. I just kind of get into a little bit of zone."

Erik Ainge, 10 of 17 for 148 yards, put the Jets ahead 20-16 with 10:27 left when he playfaked and found Clowney wide open down the middle of the field for a 50-yard touchdown.St. Louis scored first, taking advantage of a turnover when Leonard Little had a strip-sack of Clemens and James Hall recovered. Four plays later, Josh Brown kicked a 48-yard field goal, the first of three on the night, to give St. Louis a 3-0 lead.Samkon Gado avoided a tackle attempt by James Ihedigbo and zipped 77 yards into the end zone 25 seconds into the third quarter to give St. Louis a 16-10 lead."I saw the safety and I gave him a little move," Gado said. "I'm not really known for my moves, but after that, it was just me and the end zone."Ryan's defense gave up a couple of big plays, including Laurent Robinson's 50-yard catch from Marc Bulger, but was aggressive early with three sacks. Bulger was 4 of 4 for 77 yards in three series.

Game notes

It was the first preseason meeting between the teams. ... The Jets played without six starters: CB Darrelle Revis (left hamstring), NT Kris Jenkins (left calf), FB Tony Richardson (hip pointer), C Nick Mangold (right knee), LG Alan Faneca (broken finger) and RT Damien Woody (head). ... The Rams were without WR Donnie Avery, who's out four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot. DT Adam Carriker also missed the game because of an injured ankle. G Jacob Bell left with a head injury, but Spagnuolo said he'd be fine.

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