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Tomlinson: If Sanchez is effective, get rid of Wildcat

New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes, right,

New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes, right, runs off the field with quarterback Mark Sanchez after scoring a touchdown on a pass from Sanchez during the second half against the Washington Redskins. (Dec. 4, 2011) Credit: AP

LaDainian Tomlinson might be the only person who wasn't surprised by the Jets' 48-point performance against Buffalo in Sunday's season opener.

Despite the fact that the Jets had been trying to "find their way" during the preseason, the Hall of Fame running back reminded WFAN radio listeners of a simple truth:

"If you think about it guys, this team has always, we have always pretty much, owned Buffalo," he said Tuesday morning, adding that the keys to the Jets' 20-point win were deep threat receiver Stephen Hill and the offensive line play.

Tomlinson -- who forever will be remembered as one of the greatest San Diego Chargers in NFL history -- played the final two years of his illustrious 11-year career under Jets coach Rex Ryan. And during that time, he has witnessed some the evoution of Mark Sanchez since his second year in the league. 

On Sunday, Tomlinson said he saw a poised and polished quarterback -- one who had command of the huddle and the sideline and was in total control of the game (save that first-drive interception).

"He just looked more confident," Tomlinson, who recently became a Sirius radio and NFL Network analyst, said of his former teammate. "He looked like he knew exactly what was going on, what coverage (the Bills) were going to be in. He anticipated his throws well. He really was sharp."

And while Sanchez (19-for-27, 266 yards, three touchdowns) flourished under the spotlight, Tim Tebow – and the Wildcat – was a non-factor. The Jets totaled 22 yards on eight plays with Tebow taking a direct snap out of the formation, including 11 yards on his five carries. The most Tebow gained on any of those plays was 4 yards.

Tomlinson believes those stats are reason enough to believe the Jets should -- and will -- limit Tebow's Wildcat snaps if Sanchez continues to have a hot hand.

"He's your franchise quarterback," he said of Sanchez. "And each year he's getting better and better, the numbers are proving it. And so, obviously, you have to see how much Mark can handle. And if he continues to handle this workload and progress the way he's progressing. You have to cut down on the Wildcat." 

Then Tomlinson added with a laugh: "If you're going to score like this, it makes no sense to even have the Wildcat."

Tomlinson also addressed the much-talked about topic of the Jets locker room strife during his WFAN interview, shooting down the perception that the team was in a state of disarray throughout the 2010 season. The former NFL running back said the internal discord didn't reach its peak -- and the media's radar -- until it was clear the Jets weren't making the playoffs. 

"When you start to lose some games, people question everything," he said of the Jets' eventual 8-8 season. "And that's play-calling, coaches questioning if players are giving enough effort, players questioning other players, (asking) are they giving enough effort? I mean, that's natural." 

The former Jet said in a January interview on Showtime's "Inside the NFL" that friction existed inside the Jets' locker room during the "third or fourth week of the season." On Tuesday, he contended: "For the most part, we were able to keep it under wraps and keep everybody together until the last couple of games when I think we all realized we weren't going to the playoffs. And that's when things got probably as bad as they could get. But up until that point, it wasn't that bad."

It remains to be seen whether the harmony that currently exists will continue through the season. In order to make sure it does, said Tomlinson, Sanchez needs to continue to play well and mercurial wide receiver Santonio Holmes needs to be involved on offense.

"That's what everything is predicated on: success," said Tomlinson, who, during his Jets tenure rushed for 1,194 of his career 13,684 yards (ranked fifth in NFL history).

"If both of them have success, then yes, absolutely (Sanchez and Holmes' relationship will be fine). ...But if you're not, there's obviously going to be arguments between the two of them. The No. 1 receiver and the quarterback, it's not the first time that's happened between a quarterback and a receiver. So as long as they win and Santonio is getting catches and contributing in the game and Sanchez is being successful, I think they'll be fine." 

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