If Mark Sanchez is a better quarterback this year, it might be because he doesn’t have Tony Sparano to kick around any longer.
Sparano, the Jets’ offensive coordinator for last year’s 6-10 season, oversaw Sanchez’s nosedive in performance. The quarterback had his worst statistical season since his rookie year, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns.
Now with Marty Mornhinweg calling the plays, Sanchez is hopeful he can bounce back. The experienced offensive coordinator has a reputation for maximizing a quarterback’s potential and he will be charged with rebuilding a fledgling career now at an all-time low.
“I just feel like this coaching staff is going to get the best out of me — just rededicating yourself to the game, rededicating yourself to your preparation and just being excited about this system and what it can do for a quarterback,” Sanchez said. “I think just in these early stages we strung together a couple good days of OTAs. We just got to keep it rolling, stay positive and keep on improving. But I like our attitude and I like the coaching we’ve received so far. I think it’s only going to continue to grow and get better.”
A season ago, the Jets were going to return to the ground game under Sparano and the acquisition of quarterback Tim Tebow to run the Wildcat only underscored that Sanchez’s arm was on the outs in a run-heavy offense. But the ground game sputtered and was inconsistent and injuries beset the wide receivers, leaving Sanchez without a running game or bona fide targets.
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It also didn’t help that Sanchez struggled with his progression and regressed to a one-read quarterback as a result of an unimaginative offense lacking playmakers.
Sanchez wouldn’t blame an offense that under Sparano was No. 30 in total offense last season or last year’s coaching staff.
“I don’t know about that. Each system has its own pros and cons. A lot of that stuff is timing and there’s a million things that come into play,” Sanchez said. “At the end of the day, I just have to worry about what I can control.”
What may not be a good sign is that he continues to lose the turnover battle. On Wednesday, Sanchez threw three interceptions, one of which was picked off by nose tackle Damon Harrison.
Sanchez laughed off being intercepted by a player who has been nicknamed by the coaching staff as “Big Snacks” due to his size, but Ryan sounded concerned even if it is only May.
“Yeah it is, absolutely [concerning]. It was a good thing the defense made some plays but I’d rather him not turn the ball over once,” Ryan said. “He did some great things but at the end of the day those are the things that get you beat.”
There is, of course, extra pressure on Sanchez this year as he not only has to improve but he’s engaged in the first true quarterback competition of his professional career.
Geno Smith took the second-most reps in practice after Sanchez and felt he showed “subtle improvement” this week. After a strong rookie minicamp two weeks ago, he struggled with his accuracy and timing.
Part of it is the adjustment to an offense where he is under center, unlike last year at West Virginia where he operated primarily out of the shotgun.
“It just takes reps. Overall, I feel that I’ve been able to pick up on my reads, figure out my depth and drops and how it should be done,” Smith said. “As I said, there’s a total difference in the systems and it’s just a process I have to go through.”
Jets notes ...
» The Jets lined up first round pick Sheldon Richardson in the 3-technique today, which he told Metro during rookie minicamp was their ideal spot for him. In college, Richardson primarily played on the edge.
» Smith announced he will be represented by Roc Nation Sports, the agency started by rapper Jay-Z. Head coach Rex Ryan didn’t seem too concerned about his second-round pick going with such a high-profile agency.
“He knows he has to focus on the job at hand here. I’m confident that will happen,” Ryan said. “I don’t even think about who he hired.”
» Second-year wide receiver Stephen Hill was held out of OTAs on Wednesday due to swelling in his knee. He rode the stationary bicycle along with wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who did not practice as he continues to recover from last year’s foot surgery that ended his season.
A team source told Metro New York on Wednesday morning that Holmes “is not expected to be able to run till training camp. His injury is coming along fine but don’t expect him for OTAs or minicamp next month.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.