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Mark Sanchez believes fellow former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold’s talent can be unlocked by Joe Brady, his new offensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers.
Sanchez, now an ESPN college football analyst, was the fifth overall selection by the Jets in the 2009 NFL draft, nine years before they grabbed Darnold – another USC product — with the No.3 pick in 2018.
“Brady’s going to help with his process,” Sanchez told The Athletic. “The way you go through these progressions, and the way your footwork is tied into these progressions. … Sam has enough of that playmaking ability with his legs to extend plays — similar to [Joe} Burrow, because he is a good athlete — that he’s going to be able to make these throws and then keep guys on their toes. Scramble for a couple third downs a game and just break the defense’s back.”
Brady was the passing coordinator at LSU when Burrow won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to the national championship in 2019 before being selected with the first overall pick in last year’s draft.
The 31-year-old Brady interviewed for five head coaching jobs this offseason — including the Jets job that ultimately went to Robert Saleh — following his first season calling plays in the NFL.
“In this league, you’ve gotta pierce the defense. You’ve gotta stun them a little bit,” Sanchez said. “You call them maybe five to 10 times a game, but you only get maybe two of them.
“So when they’re open, you’ve gotta nail it. The one you miss that everyone (goes), ‘Aww, bummer,’ you don’t get that again. So that’s going to be huge for [Darnold] — to be in a place where he feels comfortable.”
Darnold posted a subpar passer rating of 78.6 during his three seasons with the Jets, but Sanchez believes the Jets never surrounded Darnold with sufficient offensive weapons.
“My rookie year, third game into the season, we sign Braylon Edwards. Then the next year we sign Santonio Holmes. Those are household names. Those are Pro Bowl players,” Sanchez said. “Sam hasn’t played with anybody like that.”
Former teammate Ryan Kalil said in the same report that Darnold’s lack of production was due to since-fired head coach Adam Gase’s offensive system.
Kalil, who played 12 seasons for Carolina before signing with the Jets in 2019, also believes Brady and Panthers head coach Matt Rhule can turn around Darnold’s career
“It was a system [with the Jets] that didn’t allow a lot of individual freedom. It was very, ‘You do it this way and that’s it,’ ” Kalil said. “A lot of the scheme was predetermined (plays) based on what they thought they were seeing from the sideline. It didn’t give Sam a lot of room to grow, in my opinion, to make decisions on the fly. It worked in some instances, but it handicapped him in the long run.
“It wasn’t a system that allowed him to evolve and make decisions on his own. I think that was the hardest thing. And I think that’s why ultimately the Jets made some (coaching) changes, too.”
Kalil appeared in only seven games for the Jets, but he added he “had nothing but a positive experience” with Darnold. He also endorsed the trade last month for Darnold to the Carolina front office.
“I saw a guy who was an incredible worker. I saw a guy who cared a lot about his teammates, about his craft and his community,” Kalil said. “I saw a guy who wanted to be good and didn’t take anything for granted. But I just think he was in a system that wasn’t beneficial for him — (and) for a lot of players that were there during that time.”
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