O-line, defense ready to aid Sanchez
The rookie quarterback's support staff is ready to help shoulder the load.
"I think he understands that he doesn't have to win it," right tackle Damien Woody said Thursday. "He shouldn't feel that way. We have enough good parts around us where all he really needs to do is not mess it up and make a couple of plays here and there, just grow on the job."
Coach Rex Ryan announced Wednesday that Sanchez won the starting job over Kellen Clemens with a solid training camp. While Sanchez has been hailed as the new face of the franchise, the pressure to win now won't be entirely on him.
"Having a young guy like Sanchez in there, having the O-line we've got and the Pro Bowl-caliber running backs we have in the backfield is a heck of a complement," running back Leon Washington said. "We look forward to helping him out, just like we look forward to him helping us out."
Sanchez, the fifth overall draft pick out of Southern California, is slated to make his regular-season debut at Houston on Sept. 13. He'll become the first rookie in Jets history to open a season under center, something not even Joe Namath accomplished.
"I think any quarterback would feel good about having those guys in front of him and those backs behind him," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "Not only good players, but there's a lot of experience there. That's something we feel gives us the ability to have a stable attack, still be balanced but yet we know when we need to run the ball, we can run the football. We obviously still feel comfortable that we'll be able to throw the football when we need to as well."
In fact, most of the pressure entering the season might actually be on the offensive line to protect Sanchez and keep the running game flowing.
"We've shown we can do it, and the good offensive lines and good offenses show they can do it back to back," center Nick Mangold said. "That's really where the main pressure comes from. Mark has shown that he can make the throws and get us in the right position."
Along with Mangold and Woody, who have both made Pro Bowls, the Jets have left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, left guard Alan Faneca and right guard Brandon Moore all back from a unit that helped New York rank ninth in the league in rushing.
"As an offensive line, we always believe we lead the offense," Mangold said. "We set the tempo up front, we provide the protection and open the holes, so it's on us. If you have a rookie quarterback or whoever back there, we're going to be the ones out there leading and trying to get things in perfect position for all the skill guys."
Ryan has made it clear he wants to pound the football on offense rather than air it out, especially since the Jets have Thomas Jones, who led the AFC in rushing, the speedy and versatile Washington and bruising rookie Shonn Greene in the backfield.
"We can take off some of the pressure of him being a rookie quarterback in New York," Washington said. "He's going to depend on us and we've emphasized to him in the huddle and off the field in the meeting rooms that, 'Hey, if we need to dump it down and make a completion, dump it to the running backs. If you're ever in doubt, just hand the ball off and let the big guys up front take care of it."
Safety Jim Leonhard saw firsthand what a rookie quarterback can do with a solid supporting cast, as Joe Flacco led Baltimore to the AFC championship game last season. He thought the Ravens' defense and special teams unit played a major role in helping Flacco be successful by establishing favorable field position. Leonhard can visualize a similar situation developing with the Jets.
"We shouldn't have to win games 30-28 and stuff like that," Leonhard said. "We should be able to hold teams to 13 points or 10 points and get some wins that way. We feel like defensively, we've got to take control."
That could make it an even smoother transition into the NFL for Sanchez.
"We're here to help him become a better football player," Woody said. "Whatever we have to do on our end to help him get there, we're willing to do it."
NotesGreene, the team's third-round pick, will miss the game vs. the Giants because of damaged rib cartilage, and Ryan said, "I'm not so sure he'll play any more of the preseason games." Greene thinks he was injured on his first carry against Baltimore on Monday night. ... LB Vernon Gholston will start against the Giants, a role he'll have when Calvin Pace sits the first four games after violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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