Sanchez Back At Controls Of ‘Fast-Break’ Offense

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

The Eagles offense under Mark Sanchez might best be described as frenetic: fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way.

That was certainly the feel on Sunday against the Dolphins. The tempo appeared to pick up noticeably when Sanchez entered the game for the injured Sam Bradford as the Eagles moved down the field in bursts. It also felt wobbly and went off the rails at precisely the wrong time, neglecting to brake entering the turn.

Sanchez’s career has fallen along those lines. The former No. 5 overall pick out of USC has reached some respectable heights in this league and shown the ability to move an offense and make plays, but has had trouble reining it in when necessary and has been unable to keep the turnovers off him as a result. He’s averaged 16 interceptions per year (81 total) in five seasons, including 11 in nine games last season with the Eagles and a critical one Sunday against Miami.

“There is a fine line,” said Sanchez of being aggressive but not overly so. “We use the analogy of a fast break in basketball. Just because you have a fast break doesn’t mean you can throw the ball out of bounds or lead a guy on a lob for a dunk and he’s not thinking that. You’ve gotta be on the same page with these guys and that’s the most important thing; and then understand where you’re at, what the situation is and what that specific play is calling for. When all those things fall in line, you usually have a positive outcome.”

Adding to the degree of difficulty in this situation is that the offensive roster has been overhauled quite a bit since Sanchez last played meaningful snaps. There are new offensive linemen in front of him, new running backs behind him and two new receivers in Miles Austin and Nelson Agholor beside him. The lack of reps together showed up at times last week, highlighted by the exchange issues he had with DeMarco Murray. (Sanchez and Murray have been working to smooth that out at practice this week.)

On the flip side, Sanchez arguably has a greater comfort level than Bradford not only with this system, but with some of the playmakers in it such as Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews.

“He’s always been practicing with us the past two years and when he was the starter last year, it’s kind of the same energy he brings. He’s a very motivational guy, he’s going to talk a lot, get guys going, hold guys accountable. I think that’s what you want in a quarterback, a leader of this team,” said Ertz.

“We practiced a lot last year. I was with the twos all offseason, he was with the twos, Jordan was with the twos, so the three of us have had a lot of good chemistry going back to last year. He’ s got a lot of faith in me and I’ve got a lot of faith in him to throw the ball where it needs to be.”

Ertz’s 15-catch, 115-yard performance against Washington last year came with Sanchez at quarterback. Matthews had 35 catches for 559 yards (16.0 avg.) over the second half of last season while working with Sanchez compared to 32 catches for 313 yards (9.8 avg.) over the first half of the season with Nick Foles as the rookie got his feet wet. That average is down to 10.8 yards per catch this season with Bradford.

Signs appear to be pointing to Sanchez starting against the Bucs this week. If that’s the case, he feels that he’ll be operating an offense that is prepared to kick things up a notch.

“We’re reaching a point in the season where I think the comfort level is growing for everybody and we’re all anticipating what Coach is calling instead of just reacting to it,” said Sanchez. “And that’s the whole point of being on the offensive and really attacking. I think guys really understand that and it’s only growing and getting better.”

The trick will be to attack while staying under control — easier said than done to this point in Sanchez’s career.