200 Miles From the Citi

August 25, 2009 1:24 AM


The worst thing that could have happened to Mark Sanchez is a 48-yard completion on the first pass he threw in a game in a Jets uniform.

The best thing that may have happened to Mark Sanchez is a poor performance, including an interception returned for a touchdown, in his first start.

Even the most level-headed rookie, which I think pretty well describes Sanchez, might get a bit worked up over the kind of success he had in his first pre-season game last week. Big hype, big city, home crowd - I'm sure it goes to your head a bit.

But the NFL's not that easy. If it was, we might have been sitting through Browning Nagle's press conference this year after he decided to come back for one more season because he just couldn't hang them up and end a Hall of Fame career.

On Monday night, Sanchez got a taste, or more like a mouthful, of what the NFL is like. And it should pay off in a big way.

First possession - Sanchez gets drilled by Ray Lewis and throws an interception that's returned for a touchdown. Second possession - he throws another pass that should have been picked and returned for six the other way.

Sanchez took a couple of hits, threw a lot of incompletions, threw a costly interception, and faced a tremendously difficult defense. And you know what? None of it counted. It's the best-case scenario. It's about the most difficult test a young quarterback can be put through, a game against this Baltimore Ravens defense, and it's usually a test that players have to face when the games count in the regular season.

I'm no expert, but what Mark Sanchez went through Monday night was probably more difficult than 85% of what he'll face during the regular season. It was just a really good practice.

And this is where Sanchez and the coaching staff will show what they're worth. Because the tape of this game is tremendously valuable. Sanchez can probably spend the rest of the pre-season learning from the mistakes he made on this tape, and figuring out what to do the next time he is in these situations.

He showed that he might have made some adjustments even in the game, as he rebounded to throw a touchdown pass on his last possession in the second quarter...and his replacement, Kellen Clemens, showed that he hasn't learned a tremendous amount during his four-year career, let alone from watching Sanchez's performance, as he threw an awful interception right before the half that was also returned for a touchdown.

So the first start of Mark Sanchez's career, although it was pre-season, was pretty terrible overall. And I think that's just great.

OTHER NOTES: I'm writing this at halftime, but I've seen enough to say that I'm not sure what to make of the defense. It's supposed to be the side of the ball that keeps the Jets in games this year, but the Ravens seemed to move the ball way too easily on them Monday night. Add in that Calvin Pace will miss the first four games of the regular season due to suspension and Shaun Ellis will be suspended for that first game as well, and it seems like the defense will struggle....Looks like Leon Washington hasn't missed a beat from last year. He'll be exciting to watch this season.

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