Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Sanchez Moment

Act II
So now that the word has come out, and Philadelphia Eagles QB1 Nick Foles is on the shelf for much of the rest of the regular season and maybe even beyond with a busted clavicle, we're left with What It All Means to my 6-2 laundry.

Well, first things first: the team should still win the division, because the division has gone back to highly vulnerable. The Washington Slurs lost a winnable road game in Minnesota as the defense regressed to Not Good, especially in the secondary, and they have way too much ground to make up to be truly dangerous. New York got torn apart by the Colts at home, and lost CB1 Prince Amukamura. They won't fold the tents, but this is still a snakebit club right now, and they don't do anything so well as to make for a truly dangerous club. Dallas lost the most important member of the offense in QB Tony Romo, and after two losses in six days, look likely to rush him back for a London date with the Jags. Oh, and FYI, the Jags do get after the QB. So, um, let's not get too worried about the big bad Cowboys.

Secondly, the club might miss MLB DeMeco Ryans, placed on the IR today, more than Foles. The drop-off to Emmanuel Acho, Casey Matthews and (especially) Marcus Smith is a lot higher, and Ryans was playing more snaps than any other player on the defense. If MLB Mychal Kendricks, just back from his own injury, can't stay healthy, the middle of the defense, very good for the last month, could collapse in a hurry.

Third... it's not as if Sanchez is replacing 2013 Foles. The 2014 model has been a lot worse, with 5X the number of INTs in fewer games, a lot of missed opportunities, bad fumbling moments and the same poor footspeed that makes keeping the opponents honest on the read option a weak move at best. I'm not totally down on the man's career prospects -- he's better than Sanchez, was starting to pick up more big plays on the deep ball, has been fearless in the face of pressure and is certainly capable of playing at a high level -- but of the Eagles' six wins in eight tries this year, you can really only give him full credit for a couple, and I'm probably being generous in that assessment.

The truly fascinating part about all of this is, of course, Sanchez. He's obviously one of the better QB2s that were out there, and his work in pre-season was exemplary. (Don't just discount that, either -- the other strong unit in the fake games was the backup OL, and those guys have been a huge part of the club's success.) Much of the game in Houston was completely acceptable, with the big hits to Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews on the first drive, along with good tempo, and he was a credible enough threat in the passing game to make holes in the running game later.

But the mistakes, as they always have been in Sanchez's career, were just crippling, and his track record says there will be more.

And that's where this gets fascinating, honestly.

Sanchez is faster afoot than Foles. He might benefit from more of the starting offensive line, especially with T Lane Johnson past his PED suspension. The schedule and spotlight will be stronger, but with the line fixed, his running game is working a hell of a lot more. And some of that schedule seems a lot less scary today, what with Dallas fading and Seattle not looking like an auto home loss. So long as the club stays healthy around him, there's a lot to work with here, along with a better defense that keeps generating turnovers, and a special teams that's been among the best in the league.

Also, this. I'm not sure you could design a harder situation to be a QB than what Sanchez dealt with in NY. No one else has been good in that madhouse. It was his first gig in the NFL, and he probably started way too soon. His best WR (Santonio Holmes? Jeremy Kerley?) wouldn't have seen the field for this club. He didn't even have the classic safety blanket for Don't Screw It Up QBs, a chain mover at TE. So the bulk of his throws were on third, out of rhythm, with full spotlight on every move... and in a division where he was pretty much always fighting up hill against the Patriots. The fact that he wasn't Joe Namath II, or that the world wants to see him simply as The Buttfumbler, does not mean he can't be part of a winning football team. He also had a media circus, and a clown coach who only knows about defense. Going from Rex Ryan to Chip Kelly is like going from horse and buggy to jet fighters.

I actually think he's in a good spot. No one's really expecting, say, Sanchez to prevail in a playoff game against a Brees, Rodgers or Wilson... but if he's got home field and the better overall team? He's won playoff games before. The rest of the club has been gelling. The QB he's replacing wasn't producing at a high level consistently. It's the NFL in 2014, and he's working for a certified offensive genius that's won 12 of his last 16 games.

The Eagles should win the NFC East. Sanchez should win more games than he loses, in a fast-paced pinball setting. Given the scarcity of QB play in the league, he's likely to get paid well in 2015 if he plays well now, whether it's here or somewhere else.

But there is one truly scary aspect to Foles going down, and that's this... we're now just one bad play, rather than two, from seeing Matt Barkley take snaps for the laundry.

And folks?

No one's winning anything meaningful with any QB3... and that goes double for Barkley, who turned the ball over at a higher rate than Sanchez in his worse days in NY...

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