Weekend Reading: The Sanchez Question

With the Birds not playing until Monday night, here’s some links for your Sunday afternoon.

If you’ve navigated around the sports web this week, you’ve probably noticed the inundation of Mark Sanchez photos and headlines on every page. Most analysts have a positive outlook for the Eagles with Sanchez under center but someone must play devil’s advocate.

The analytic wizards at FiveThirtyEight use advanced metrics to conclude that not only the loss of Nick Foles but the substitution of Sanchez will lead to late-season turmoil for the Birds.

Making matters worse for Philadelphia, the numbers say that Foles is better than the typical starting quarterback — and that Sanchez is far worse. Since his NFL debut in 2012, Foles has been the sixth-most efficient passer in the league, according to adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A). Meanwhile, over the years in which Sanchez was the New York Jets’ starting quarterback (2009 to 2012), he posted the worst ANY/A in the NFL among QBs with 800 or more attempts…

There’s no question that the Eagles are worse off because of the injury to Foles, and it makes a material difference to their playoff odds going forward. But things may not be quite as dire for Philadelphia as they seem.

Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News believes the Eagles have the edge in the NFC East even with Sanchez under center:

The Eagles are alone in first place in the NFC East because they had a good backup quarterback plan — and the Cowboys didn’t.

While Philadelphia wasn’t fazed by losing starter Nick Foles early to win at Houston, 31-21 on Sunday, Dallas couldn’t without starter Tony Romo, falling hard at home to Arizona, 28-17. While Mark Sanchez provided a spark for the Eagles, Brandon Weeden turned out the lights for the entire Cowboys’ offense.

The Eagles might need to roll with Sanchez for the second half of the season with Foles facing a long-term clavicle injury. The Cowboys know they might get Romo back from his bad back as soon as next Sunday in London…

Weeden on the other hand struggled, forcing the ball to wide receivers when plays weren’t there, wilting versus pressure, making bad decisions and holding back the Cowboys’ elite running more than being facilitated by it.

Here’s what those two second-string events revealed, however: The Eagles don’t need everything to be ideal to win games. They can afford to be a little messy, because they are loaded with the ability to recover. The Cowboys have their share of weapons, but they’re not as creative and aggressive with them.

Football Perspective gives projections for the Eagles in the Mark Sanchez-era:

Sanchez was sacked on 6.3% of his dropbacks with the Jets, and lost 6.5 yards per sack. If we incorporate those numbers into Mike’s projections, we would get 20.9 sacks for just under 136 yards, which comes out to a 5.27 ANY/A average. That, of course, would not be good: Derek Carr is averaging exactly 5.27 ANY/A per pass, and ranks 29th out of 33 qualifying passers.

The issues with Sanchez have always been accuracy (as evidenced by his ugly completion rates) and his ability to read defenses (as evidenced by his ugly turnover rates). He averaged 4.78 ANY/A with the Jets, and I would think he should have no problem besting that just because (a) he won’t be playing under Rex Ryan, (b) he will be playing under Chip Kelly, (c) he won’t be playing with the Jets, and (d) he will be playing with Jeremy Maclin, Darren Sproles, LeSean McCoy, and the rest of the Eagles.

So what’s a good projection for Sanchez? Besting Foles’ 5.92 ANY/A rate would not be shocking, although I would certainly take the under. I’m inclined to agree with Clay’s numbers, and project Sanchez to finish with around a 5.3 ANY/A average for the rest of the year. But I’m even more curious to hear what you guys think.

Peter King of the MMQB mentions Mark Sanchez and Jeremy Maclin as two of the “Ten Things I’ll Be Watching For This Weekend”:

9. Jeremy Maclin, in prime time. Appreciate him, people, on Monday night against Carolina. He has the most catches without dropping a pass this year, 45, of anyone in football (via Pro Football Focus).

10. The Sanchize—in prime time again. Reacquaint yourselves, people, with Mark Sanchez on Monday night. It’s his first NFL start since his 13-TD, 18-pick 2012 season with the Jets. He played the last three quarters (starting hot, cooling off) of the Eagles’ win at Houston last Sunday, and Chip Kelly will give him everything in the game plan this week.

Pro Football Focus published its Midseason All-Pro Team which features a few Eagles:

Punt Returner: Darren Sproles (PHI) – Leads the league in punt return yardage and in our punt returner gradings. Sproles is still more than capable of making defenders look very silly.

Honorable Mentions – WR Jeremy Maclin, OT Jason Peters, S Malcolm Jenkins

An Associated Press article (via Sporting News) talks about the must-win situation the Panthers are faced with against the Birds:

Panthers coach Ron Rivera hopes the return of two starting offensive linemen will give Cam Newton more time to make plays in the passing game.

Carolina is mired in a three-game losing streak entering Monday night’s game at Philadelphia and is 1-5-1 in its last seven games.

Newton has struggled during the last three weeks, held to 527 yards passing and one touchdown with three interceptions during that span. Many of his throws are sailing high or wide or his intended target.

Part of the issue is Newton has been under siege in the pocket, sacked 10 times in the last three games.

The return of left tackle Byron Bell and left guard Amini Silatolu – who both practiced full on Thursday and aren’t listed on the team’s injury report – should help an offense that ranks 26th in the league. Starting right guard Trai Turner is also improving, but may still be another week away.

Graphic Designer and “Sports Fanatic” Mark Avery-Kenny has released his cross series of Disney characters and NFL logos. Here’s his take on Monday night’s matchup:

Disney x NFL series – Donald the Philadelphia Eagle @philadelphiaeagles #disney #nfl

A photo posted by AK (@ak47_studios) on

Disney x NFL series – Lilo and Carolina Stitch @panthers #disney #nfl #thursdaynightfootball A photo posted by AK (@ak47_studios) on

Matt Cassidy is a journalism student at Temple and an intern at Birds 24/7.