Jets' Mark Sanchez rolls with punches as he prepares for Colts
If you take Mark Sanchez at his word, the mounting scrutiny has no effect on him or his game.
He would like us to believe that he has tuned out the speculation about his job security, along with the boos that accompany every one of his errant throws and turnovers.
For that to be true, the Jets quarterback must have a high tolerance for slights and insults. But we must take him at his word.
So that means the Jets' 2-3 record and Sanchez's 48.4 completion percentage and 66.6 quarterback rating are his to shoulder. And it'll be up to the fourth-year quarterback to prove he can steer his team to a much-needed win over an emotionally charged Colts team today at MetLife Stadium.
Indianapolis (2-2) won last week under interim head coach Bruce Arians, who is filling in for Chuck Pagano as Pagano undergoes treatment for leukemia. And while the Jets have done their part to support Pagano -- in the form of "Chuckstrong" T-shirts and prayer -- they'll need to curtail the Colts' mission to "win one for Coach."
"They're feeling good about themselves," Jets running back Shonn Greene said. "And that always makes for a dangerous team."
The Jets, on the other hand, haven't been a dangerous team since they confronted Buffalo at full strength in their season opener. In the weeks that followed, they have wilted under Rex Ryan's grandiose proclamations about his defense and Tim Tebow.
But when given the opportunity to be boastful during the week leading up to the Colts game, Ryan opted to leave the door open when it came to Sanchez. Ryan's tepid "He's our starter this week" endorsement fueled speculation that the leash on Sanchez has shortened significantly. But Sanchez insisted he puts "the blinders on," inserts "some earplugs" and keeps playing whenever the negativity builds.
Sanchez's counterpart Sunday will be Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall draft pick in April. He has completed more passes (54.2 percent) and thrown for more yards (1,208) than Sanchez (1,043).
In theory, the Jets, led by a head coach who is a defensive guru, should be able to confuse Luck with an array of exotic looks and pressures, and Sanchez should be able to thread the football through the Colts' 19th-ranked defense.
After two straight weeks of facing the 49ers and Texans (Nos. 2 and 3 overall, respectively), the Jets will face a much less heralded defensive unit. The Colts also will be without their sack leader, Robert Mathis, who will miss two to three weeks with a sprained knee.
That, of course, should make Sanchez's afternoon far more manageable. In theory.
Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said decision-making has not been the quarterback's issue this season. Sanchez, who has been forced to compete with a limited arsenal of offensive weapons because of injuries, hasn't gotten the protection -- both from his offensive line and the extra blockers -- he needs in the pocket. Plus the Jets average only 83 rushing yards a game, rendering play-action ineffective.
But Sanchez is expected to get two much-needed weapons back Sunday: tight end Dustin Keller and rookie wideout Stephen Hill, who haven't played together since Week 1 because of nagging hamstring injuries.
"Once you get a full stable there, I think that helps a little bit too," Sparano said.
But to defeat the Colts -- and to quiet the "Tebow Time" chatter -- Sanchez knows he must be on his game.
Winning is the fun part, he told reporters. But the Jets haven't done so since Sept. 23 in Miami.
"We'll get things rolling here," Sanchez said. "When you win games, you get a lot of praise, and a lot of things you failed to do in a win get swept under the rug. But when things don't go right . . . then there's a problem. That comes with the territory. That's the nature of this game and playing quarterback in this league. I can handle that. I'll just keep improving and keep preparing like I do and hopefully get a win this week."
If that's the case, Ryan surely will declare again: "He's our starter this week."