Things are still up in the air with a potential Colin Kaepernick trade, which makes the newly acquired Mark Sanchez our de facto starter, at least for the time being. While his presence on the roster has received a lot of attention from the media and the butt-fumble has been hashed and re-hashed (to the point where Emmanuel Sander's grandma got in on it), I got curious about how Sanchez actually looked last year, and what he brings to the table.
Thus, I'll attempt to walk through some of Sanchez's throws last year and highlight what I see. Disclaimer: I am by no means a scout, and QB play has so many facets that is hard to get a clear picture from just a few plays/games. Nevertheless, I'll do my best to provide, if nothing else, a breakdown of what is happening and let you decide what kind of grade Sanchez gets.
Let's get to it. Today we are breaking down a drive from his first game action in week 10 of last year.
Above you can see the situation. Bradford got hurt (shocker) near the end of the 3rd Q. Sanchez had a few plays on that drive but it stalled due to penalty and he was mostly throwing screens and short stuff.
Here's the All-22 angle. The Dolphins are in nickel with the Eagles in 11 personnel with Celek split out in the left slot. It looks to me like a cover 1 look from Miami and the weakside linebacker is going to blitz. The strong side LB has responsibility for the RB and so he gets sucked in by the play fake. Everyone else is in man coverage, with the safety covering Celek doing a terrible job, so much so that it took me awhile to decide if he actually was supposed to cover him.
Once the ball is snapped and the play action executed, the big thing to notice is the defensive end is unblocked. I assume this is by design to sell the run fake and the QB is just supposed to get rid of it quickly.
With that in mind, I see the reads as 1) being the quick hook route by the outside WR, and 2) being Celek across the formation. You can see how much space each of those receivers have, and Sanchez is looking at the hook. He may have been able to fire this in there before the DE got to him, but neither of the routes were developed enough, in my opinion. So, with both reads getting close to wide open, Sanchez buys some time and actually shows some good elusiveness avoiding the DE.
After avoiding the DE he is on the move to his right with the WR at the 25 wide open, and Celek just as open at the 30. So he takes the deeper route and puts in a nice throw on the move to Celek for the 1st down.
One thing I noticed and we will see in throughout these plays is that Sanchez seems pretty comfortable throwing on the move. Actually, a good bit of his throws in this game came on the move; partly by design and partly because the Eagles line is just really bad. Sanchez and Bradford were often running for their lives or getting pummeled behind this line.
Case and point on this play from later on in the drive. Sanchez again scrambles and makes something happen.
Here's the All-22 breakdown of the play above. Sanchez checked into this play from shotgun and goes under center in 12 personnel. Miami is in cover 1 again and the corner covering Ertz as he goes across the field lost from the beginning as he has outside leverage and Ertz easily took the inside leaving the corner chasing the whole play. The deep safety is late to react as well. Sanchez feels/sees the pressure from the DE who is being blocked by a TE and steps up in the pocket and kind of just flings it out there to Ertz as Suh is grabbing his jersey. The ball ends up being pretty close to on the money even though it looks bad. First down Eagles.
I'm not going to break these plays down for length and time sake, but here are 2 potential TD throws that happened on this drive as well.
This one Sanchez had all day to throw and looked like he was going to go to the middle of the field, then saw Austin deep at the last second and decided to go for it all. It was a pretty good throw, maybe a little high. Austin didn't drag a toe and juuuussst steps on the chalk.
This one is another great play with Sanchez on the move again. Alas, it was called back by an illegal shift. That was a pretty ball though.
The Eagles would end up settling for a field goal on that drive, making it 20-19 with Miami still in the lead.
After a few punts, the Eagles are driving again with only 5 minutes left in the game.
Sanchez once again makes a nice play with his legs and shows good accuracy on the move. This moves them into sure field goal range.
This last play breakdown is where Mark Sanchez gets his bad reputation.
As a QB, that's the last thing you should let happen in that situation where a field goal puts you ahead. Let's take a look at what went wrong.
The Eagles are in 12 personnel again with Ertz and Celek bunched up together on the left side of the formation. Miami switches to what looks like a quarters coverage on this play. This is a play action pass designed to get the defense moving right while the QB and all the routes work towards the left. They didn't get the movement they were looking for from the LBs as they were not fooled by the fake.
Ertz runs a corner route with Celek blocking and then releasing in the flat. Miles Austin is going to work across the field and ends up being Sanchez's target, with Jordan Matthews (I think) running a slant(ish) on the outside.
I've been trying to figure out what went wrong here. I don't think the zone coverage fooled Sanchez because he had plenty of time to see the free safety pick up Austin. I think he just thought he could fit it in and forced the ball into coverage. Now if you look at the other angle below, it doesn't look like that bad of a throw, it almost seems like Austin quit on the route or didn't attempt to go up and fight for it, but I can't really tell.
Bottom line, it was a poor decision by Sanchez. He has to know the situation and know that you cannot under any circumstances turn the ball over. A field goal puts you in the lead, and the Dolphins offense has looked pretty bad all game. You take a sack before you throw that into coverage. Plus, he had 3 better options on that play. Ertz had outside leverage on his man, he could have thrown it up to the back pylon where only Ertz can get it or no one does; he has Celek right in front of him in the flat, check it down; or, just throw it away and live to fight another down.
There were some things to like from Sanchez in this game. He seemed in control of the offense, and surprised me with his mobility and ability to throw it on the run. He seems to project well into our play action/movement based scheme from what we saw in these clips. His achilles heel, however, is decision making in key situations. If he can manage the game and not try to be the hero, I think he'll be a suitable backup or maybe even a decent starter for us depending on how things shake out the rest of the off-season.
What do you think Broncos country!? Let me know in the comments below.
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