The NFL offseason is a prime time for RANKING things, so that's exactly what John Clayton did in a recent ESPN article. Clayton ranked the NFL's top 10 backup quarterbacks, and a familiar face appeared at No. 2 overall.
"2) Mark Sanchez - Surprised? You shouldn't be. The case for Sanchez is two-fold: He has averaged 22.4 points per game as a starter, and has a 37-33 career record. In Chip Kelly's offense, he's averaged 30 points per game."
Sanchez only ranked behind Ryan Fitzpatrick at No. 1. The NFL journeyman and Harvard graduate is currently backing up Geno Smith with the New York Jets.
I can't say I disagree with Clayton's ranking, although I might argue Sanchez should be above Fitzpatrick. I know it's not always popular to say nice things about Sanchez (Buttfumble, etc.) but as far as backup quarterback standards go, he's a reliable option. The Eagles obviously felt the same way having rewarded him this offseason with a two-year contract worth $9 million with $5.5 million guaranteed.
Some have suggested Sanchez might even push for a starting role this season, but I don't buy that at all. The Eagles traded a 2016 second round pick for Sam Bradford and they're paying him nearly $13 million this season. The only way Bradford won't be playing is if he's injured.
Speaking of which, Bradford currently isn't fully healthy, so Sanchez is taking all the starters repetitions in practice. He definitely looks a lot better now than he did at this time last year. He looks comfortable in the offense and he isn't making a ton of bad decisions. I can't recall him throwing too many interceptions in practice, other than a pass that was tipped and wasn't his fault.
One of the biggest criticisms of Sanchez in 2014, aside from the turnovers, was that he didn't even try to throw the deep ball at times. The All-22 would show receivers open down the field but Sanchez wasn't pulling the trigger. Per Pro Football Focus, Sanchez only attempted a pass over 20 yards on 12% of his dropbacks. That figure ranked 22nd out of 38 quarterbacks with at least 25% of a team's passing attempts.
Instead of throwing deep and outside the numbers, Sanchez liked to work the middle of the field. This tendency caused Jordan Matthews' production to go way up. With Foles, Matthews was targeted 51 times for 30 receptions, two touchdowns, and 278 yards (9.27 y/r). With Sanchez, Matthews was targeted one less time but finished with 35 receptions, six touchdowns, and 559 yards (15.97 y/r).
Part of the reason why Sanchez favored the short game seemed to be due to the fact he wasn't 100% recovered from a shoulder injury in August 2013. The former Jets quarterback admitted he had a "crappy arm" in 2014. Sanchez is now nearly two years removed from the initial injury.
Another thing working in Sanchez's favor is Philadelphia's refocus on the run game. The addition of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews should, in theory, put less pressure on him to move the ball. Sanchez was able to guide the Jets to the AFC Championship Game twice in his career with help from New York's defense and run game.
In an ideal world, the Eagles will hope they never have to see Sanchez play this season. They would rather see the injury-prone Bradford go out and have a great season. If Bradford is out for an extended period of time, Sanchez isn't good enough to carry the Birds to championship contention. But if Bradford is only out for a few games or so, he gives the Eagles a fighting chance to win while the starter recovers. Not all NFL teams can say the same for their quarterback situation.