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Sanchez has a mentor in Brunell

Jets backup quarterback Mark Brunell, right, talks with

Jets backup quarterback Mark Brunell, right, talks with Mark Sanchez (6) during morning practice on the first day of training camp in Cortland, N.Y. (Aug. 2, 2010) Credit: AP

The Jets made some highly publicized acquisitions during the off-season, including Antonio Cromartie, Jason Taylor and Santonio Holmes. But it's another player they added who may not play a decisive role on the field, but whose presence could be a determining factor in how far the team goes this year.

Enter backup quarterback Mark Brunell, who signed with the Jets just a few days before training camp. Brunell was Drew Brees' backup last year with the Super Bowl champion Saints.

"I see it as a mentoring role," said Brunell, who turns 40 in September. "He's a great kid, a hard worker. He has ability, and this is a critical year for him."

Brunell sees a little of himself in Mark Sanchez.

"My first year in Jacksonville [in 1995], we won a couple games, but in Year 2, you know you're the starter," Brunell said.

The Jaguars went 9-7 in his first full year as a starter, and went to the AFC Championship Game under then coach Tom Coughlin. Sound familiar? The Jets went 9-7 in Sanchez' first year as a starter, and also went to the AFC Championship Game, where they lost to the Colts.

"There's a lot more pressure when you're the starter, but at the same time, you know you're the guy. You have a year under your belt, and it's great. You have an opportunity to do something special."

And make no mistake. Brunell thinks Sanchez will be something special.

"The sky's the limit for him," Brunell said. "He has great mechanics, a strong arm, he’s very athletic. He’s a good leader. He cares. His teammates respect him. He’s smart, he’s got everything. He can run. He can be as good as he wants to be, and I think he’s going to be a very good quarterback for a long time."

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