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Can Mark Sanchez and the Running Game Beat the Packers?

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Mark Sanchez played fairly well for a backup making his first start in a year and a half. But he and the running game are going to need to play better against the Packers.

Evan Habeeb

"Sanchez doesn't look that bad." It's a saying we half-jokingly made in the pre-season when Sanchez actually looked pretty good leading the second team offense against mostly second team defenses. And over a little under two games in relief of an injured Nick Foles, we've been half jokingly repeating it. Because the truth is, Sanchez doesn't look that bad. Much has been written about Sanchez's play, some of it good. Sheil Kapadia has, as always, a good breakdown of Sanchez's movement in the pocket, the most notable improvement Sanchez brings over Foles. Another is his use of pump fakes, which Foles did not do this season, but he did use it effectively last season.

Pump Fake A

Sanchez freezes the CB and creates space for Jordan Matthews for a nice gain.

Pump Fake B

And even though this pass went to the middle of the field to Matthews (of course), the pump fake does make the CB on the left bite.

It wasn't just pump fakes and pocket movement that was a noticeable improvement over Foles.

Matthews Crossing Route

As we have shown before, this is a throw that Foles wasn't even attempting. Instead of an incomplete pass, it's a first down.

But it wasn't all roses for Sanchez. His accuracy and decision making have room for improvement.

Missed 3rd Down

A poor throw, and a bad decision to throw it short when he had a man open deep.

Sanchez Incomplete

That's an embarrassingly poor pass and a pretty bad decision to throw there anyway considering that he had a man open.

Missed Screen A

Missed Screen B

Poorly throw screen passes were also a problem for Foles. On the second one, he should have thrown in the other direction.

So while Sanchez wasn't that bad, he also wasn't that good. Against Green Bay, Sanchez is going to have to be. The Packers' DBs are significantly better than the Panthers' DBs.

GB PBU

They play the kind of physical game that the Eagles want their CBs to play.

Hawk Coverage

And they rally to the ball well, limiting yards after the catch.

While they're better than the Panthers, they aren't perfect.

Clinton-Dix Coverage

That's a very good job of reading the play by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who has help over the top if he's wrong.

Clinton-Dix Miss

And that's a really bad job of reading the play by Clinton-Dix, who has no help over the top. Clinton-Dix, who in fairness is only a rookie, isn't the only liability in coverage though.

Hawk in Space

Darren Sproles should have a very nice game if they can get him in space against AJ Hawk.

Sproles could also have a nice game on the ground, along with the rest of the running backs. The Packers run defense is below average, and is prone to mistakes thanks to poor tackling.

Hawk Whiff A

That's a terrible job by Hawk, who gets two hands on Mark Ingram.

Hawk Whiff B

And this is even worse, as he doesn't even make contact with anybody before he's on the ground.

Mark Ingram, who is nowhere near fleet of foot, was able to break some long runs against the Packers because of Clinton-Dix's poor tackling.

Clinton-Dix Whiff A

With actual speed, Ingram would have had an even bigger gain. Instead he gets taken down from behind by DL Mike Daniels.

Clinton-Dix Whiff B

Clinton-Dix again goes for the low shot, and completely misses.

Against the Panthers, Mark Sanchez didn't look that bad. The running game did. Neither will be good enough against the Packers, and they all know it:

We didn’t play well offensively at all. I just didn’t think we were very consistent overall. I think we could have sustained some drives. We missed a couple key conversions on short-yardage situations that we didn’t convert. You ask the guys on the offensive side of the ball, they felt like they didn’t play well and I believe we didn’t really play up to our potential on the offensive side of the ball.

The opportunities will be there against the Packers. Against perhaps the best QB in the league in Aaron Rodgers and two big play WRs in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, they're going to have to take advantage of all of them if they are going to win. A repeat performance of the Panthers game won't be enough.