Jets' Bart Scott, Darrelle Revis believe in Mark Sanchez
As the Jets quarterback prepares for his fourth year in the NFL, his teammates won't mince words about what's at stake this season and what they expect from him.
"To take the next step to being one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league,'' Scott said Wednesday.
Revis has Super Bowl aspirations and knows Sanchez must lead them there.
"We're counting on Mark to do that," the Pro Bowl cornerback said. "Everybody has to do their job, but if we lose, it falls on Mark. If we win, it falls on Mark. So I think the biggest thing is, we're very confident in Mark. And we know he can lead us. He's done it in the past.''
After an offseason that exposed strife in the locker room, raised questions about Sanchez's work ethic and brought Tim Tebow to New York, teammates believe Sanchez has come out stronger and more respected.
Those who have spent time around Sanchez this offseason have seen the transformation, not only in his body language, but in his demeanor. Now the face of the franchise finally is the Jets' unequivocal leader.
He led them to AFC title games his first two seasons before going 8-8 and missing the playoffs. Now comes the pivotal fourth year for a player with the weight of the organization on his shoulders. Scott sees no reason why Sanchez can't make that leap. "Last year you saw Joe Flacco take the next step," the linebacker said. "And you can see Mark do the same.''
There will be "little hiccups" as Sanchez adjusts to new coordinator Tony Sparano. But Scott said the game tends to slow down for quarterbacks in "year four," so Sanchez's growth and production should be much improved. Just as Eli Manning's was.
It took the Giants quarterback almost four seasons to finally silence his critics. Manning's two Lombardi Trophies are proof that it can be done.
Rex Ryan went out of his way to temper any comparisons between Sanchez and the two-time Super Bowl MVP. Scott said it's unfair to compare quarterbacks but noted that unlike Manning, Sanchez has tended to overreact to bad plays.
"You look at Eli, he has the ultimate poker face," Scott said. "His happy face, his sad face, his excited face is all the same. And I think that's a strength because if defenses see that they've gotten to you, then it's only going to pile on."
But the Jets' renewed confidence in Sanchez is clear in the way they describe him now.
"I think everybody has seen a difference in how he handles it if he throws a bad ball, how he carries himself," Scott said.
"Mark's always been a guy that you can see how he's feeling about himself by his facial expressions. I think now he carries himself upright and sticks that chest out like a peacock and I think that inspires his players because they respond because he's their leader, and they're going to go as he goes."
No longer is he uncertain and insecure. Instead, Sanchez is self-assured and the unquestioned authority in the huddle. Even with Tebow around.
"When he was young, he was given a spot,'' Scott said. "Now, he's worked on earning the spot."