New York Jets rookie Mark Sanchez is hoping to take the Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco") approach to quarterbacking.
With head coach Rex Ryan, he certainly has a good source of advice on how to do that.
Ryan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator during Flacco's rookie year, when Baltimore utilized the Delaware product's strong arm and stoic demeanor, a punishing defense and a deliberate rushing attack to advance to the AFC Championship game.
Sanchez, who will make his first professional start at M&T Bank Stadium this Monday night, hopes to have similar success.
"I'm going to demand a lot from myself, that's for sure," Sanchez told reporters in New York last Thursday. "I know Flacco did the same with Rex, and I've actually been talking to some people who worked with [Atlanta Falcons quarterback] Matt Ryan.
"Both of those guys did so well as rookies, and what they did was just take it one day at a time, one drill at a time. They didn't go out trying to set the world on fire or make these big predictions."
But at this time last year, Flacco and Sanchez were in somewhat different situations. Sure, Flacco was in the mix for the Ravens' starting spot, but he was toiling behind **Troy Smith** and Kyle Boller on the depth chart by the second preseason contest.
In that game, a 23-15 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Flacco entered midway through the fourth quarter and completed 10 of 15 passes for 74 yards. He did not lead any scoring drives, but did manage to march 81 yards to Minnesota's 13-yard line before time ran out.
"Last year I didn't even know how much I was going to play and didn't really play until [there were] like five minutes left in the game," Flacco recalled with a laugh. "It's a different mindset [being the starter this year], but we'll always be ready to go."
In fact, Flacco was elevated to the first team the following week, when he had to play the entire game in St. Louis because Boller suffered a shoulder injury and Smith had a tonsil infection.
Conversely, Sanchez is currently in a heated battle with Kellen Clemens for the starting spot. He has been since New York traded their first- and second-round picks, along with three players, to the Cleveland Browns to move up and select the USC product.
Sanchez looked good in his NFL debut last week. Playing the St. Louis Rams, his only series was a scoring drive. His first pass was a 48-yard completion and he finished 3-of-4 for 88 yards, reaching the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown plunge from running back Thomas Jones.
"It's very exciting," Sanchez said. "I think this entire year is going to be a lot of firsts: first road trip and first start. This is a big-time Monday night game. It's as close to a real game as possible. I'm so excited to try and build on last week. I think that's the main focus.
"That doesn't necessarily mean I have to throw the ball deep every first play I get in. It's going to be playing smart and taking care of the football and being excited, like I am. I'm just preparing for the game. It's going to be a great atmosphere."
The Ravens are going to do what they can to take advantage of the rookie signal-caller, without being too complex with their defensive packages in the preseason matchup.
If anything, Ryan will let Sanchez know about the players looking to make his night miserable.
"You know, the coaches will] tell them to be cautious with where you’re going with the ball, be smart with it,” said Ravens safety [Ed Reed!(/team/roster/ed-reed/89ece203-7de4-4b40-9651-f16f4c3b7699/ "Ed Reed"). "I'm sure Rex will let him know."
Ryan said he needs to see more before he officially hands the reins to Sanchez, and even though it is not the regular season, the Ravens can provide a quality test.
"If you do anything against that bunch, you could move it against anybody," Ryan said, referring to the Ravens' defense. "It would count more than moving it against St. Louis. No disrespect to St. Louis, but they ain't the Ravens and they're not Pittsburgh."