Rex Ryan is seeing something oozing out of his rookie quarterback at a level he's yet to witness: confidence.
The Jets coach said today Mark Sanchez is as confident now as he's ever seen him, partly due to his grasp of the system.
"I think these last two weeks have really helped, just turning things around," Sanchez said when I asked him about Ryan's comments. "Making the playoffs, it's like a new life, a breath of fresh air really. We made it out of a tough stretch during the season where I was being careless with the football and now I don't want to say I've hit my stride. I don't want to say anything like that yet, but I just feel a little more comfortable.
"So I feel great and I know that when I do feel good like that, I'm able to be a little more loose in practice. I'm able to have a little more fun and that's the way these last few weeks have been. So I think Rex has really seen that."
Sanchez added a little something to his wrist in Sunday's game and we aren't talking about Rex's color-coded system. Check out the picture above this paragraph and look at his left arm. He used a wristband filled with all the plays for the first time and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer thought now was the time to go that route. Remember, you see a lot of veteran QBs reading numbered plays off their wristband.
"Well, sometimes when you're putting in an offense or whatever, sometimes you almost make the guy say it and hear you and say it and all that," Ryan said. "Sometimes, they can process it, process it a little better. But now going into these type of situations, where the fans are obviously going to be pumped up, you're playing on the road, it's going to be loud. It's just much easier to go, 'No. 3.' You know what I mean? And he can read it. I think it's just something that Schotty felt good about, making the switch and going to the wristband."
I asked Sanchez about his new piece of equipment and whether he liked it or not. He said it was beneficial and talked about his it simplified things for him.
"It's great, it's made things a lot easier," Sanchez said. "I think it helped because as the season has gone on, I've gotten better with repeating the play calls and understanding what we are trying to do with each play. And now instead of constantly hearing the plays, I can just say them myself and just get the [play] number through the headset. So it was run plays, pass plays, all of it on the wristband. It was very helpful."
In a way, going to the wristband also shows Sanchez's progress in learning the offense. He's familiar with all the verbiage and getting people lined up in the right place, so it was only a matter of time before the Jets slapped a wristband on him.
"I think just because I've learned the plays over the course of the season, it's the right time," Sanchez said. "You don't want to use that as a crutch, like I don't know the plays so I'm just going to spit something out in the huddle and try to figure it out on the way up the line. That's not what you want. Not here. It's too fast. So now that I have a good -- a better grasp of the plays, it really helps with the communication. We get up to the line with more time and it just gives you more of a chance to see everything and adjust and make out checks and stuff like that."
Just to update a couple of injury situations: I mentioned in an earlier post today, reserve DB James Ihedigbo was writhing in pain and laying on the turf following a special teams drill. He got a stinger and is fine.
Also, I caught up with nickel CB Donald Strickland (quad) to ask about his availability for Saturday and he said he thinks he'll be good to go, especially if he has the final say. Last thing he wants to do is miss a playoff game. He's only played in the postseason once before -- his rookie season in 2003.
P Steve Weatherford (remember I said K Jay Feely was doing the punting today in practice) also said his tweaked right hamstring is OK and was just held out for precautionary reasons.