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Eagles' Sanchez not likely to go off deep end

Unlike injured starter Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez doesn’t often throw long passes.

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

MARK SANCHEZ'S first regular-season pass with the Eagles was a 52-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin in the second quarter of their 31-21 Week 9 win over Houston.

Maclin split the cornerback and safety on a post route and Sanchez heaved the ball into Maclin's waiting arms.

It seemed to be an immediate indication of the trust that coach Chip Kelly had in Sanchez. He wasn't going to play it safe just because his starting quarterback was on the shelf with a broken collarbone.

But that long pass to Maclin has been one of the few deep balls Sanchez has thrown since he replaced the injured Foles. In the 19 quarters he's played, only 12.5 percent of his attempts have traveled 20 yards or longer.

That's significantly less than the 23.4 percent of Foles' passes that traveled the same distance.

"Without looking at the numbers, I think Nick looked to go downfield more," said five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Quick, the longtime analyst for the team's radio broadcasts. "The post route more than the '9' - the go route on the outside.

"They liked to run a crossing route to hold the safety with a big post over the top, like Mark threw to Jeremy in that first game he came in. But I think that's the last time we've seen it."

Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that. The Eagles have averaged 34.4 points per game in the five games Sanchez has played, which is five points more than they averaged in the first seven games. They have won four of those those games.

Sanchez's completion percentage (63.4) is nearly four points higher than Foles' (59.8). His yards-per-attempt average (8.0) is a yard more than Foles' (7.0).

But it's clear that the shape and focus of the passing game has changed since Sanchez replaced Foles. He has different strengths and weaknesses from Foles, including a throwing arm that isn't as strong as Foles'. Foles' doesn't have a cannon, but those deep post routes and go routes are more suited to his talents than they are to Sanchez's.

"I just think it's the [individual] games and how they express themselves," Kelly said when asked yesterday why Sanchez isn't throwing downfield nearly as much as Foles did. "Mark's made those [deep] throws."

Not many. He's attempted only 21 passes of 20 yards or more, completing eight. None of his eight touchdowns have been on passes of 20 or more yards.

"Mark's not looking for the deep ball," Quick said. "He's more carving up teams with the shorter, catch-and-run type [routes]. It's almost a West-Coast style where you catch the short routes on the crosses.

"This offense, what it's doing so well, is spreading teams out horizontally and then they hit them vertically. Even in the passing game, it's been horizontal route-running."

The biggest beneficiary of this change has been rookie slot receiver Jordan Matthews. In 29 quarters with Foles at quarterback, he averaged only 9.3 yards per catch and had two touchdowns. In the 19 quarters Sanchez has been behind center, he's averaging 17.0 yards per catch with five touchdowns.

While Matthews' yards-per-catch average has soared, Maclin's has shrunk. He averaged 17.5 yards per catch with seven TDs when Foles was the quarterback, only 12.4 and two TDs with Sanchez.

"Everybody wants to make it a Mark-and-Nick thing," Matthews said. "Both of them are great quarterbacks. I just feel like early on in the season, I was still working the kinks out a lot. So sometimes when I was catching the ball from Nick, I was dead-legged. I still had those Bambi legs early in the season.

"But I've worked through that, and now, the more comfortable I get, the more I'm able to stay on my feet and get going. The things I've been working on in practice each day are coming to fruition."

Since Sanchez replaced Foles, the Eagles also got two of their key offensive linemen back - center Jason Kelce and left guard Evan Mathis. With their return, the Eagles are running the ball more often and more effectively.

In seven games with Foles, the Eagles ran the ball on only 38.5 percent of their offensive plays. Averaged only 27.4 rushing attempts per game. In five with Sanchez, their run-play percentage has jumped to 47.2 percent, their rushing attempts per game to 35.6.

Quick's one concern is that by not throwing the ball downfield more often, the Eagles are allowing defenses to shrink the field.

"They're going to shrink the field because they know Mark doesn't have that big arm down the field," he said. "They know he's going to get it out quick and is smart about where to go.

"But they're not so much worried about guys on the outside running behind them because they haven't seen that from Sanchez. Since that first pass to Maclin, I don't think he's thrown one ball that's been over 45 yards."

Nearly 69 percent of Sanchez's throws have been in the 0-to-19-yard range. He has completed 65.2 percent of those passes, has averaged an impressive 8.5 yards per attempt. Also has thrown five of his six interceptions on short and intermediate passes.

"That's what you're going to get from him," Quick said. "Eventually, you're going to have to throw it down the field a little just to get them to back off. Because they're starting to squat on their routes, starting to shrink the field.

"At least early, even though Nick wasn't completing as many [deep passes] as he did last year, teams had to be aware of it. Even when you miss, it backs them off a little bit. Gets you more field. Gets those safeties back, so you can throw it over the second level and get it to those guys."

A distance breakdown, by percentage, of Foles' and Sanchez's passes this season:

Sanchez Foles

20+ Yards. . . 12.5 23.4

10-19 Yards. . . 28.0 19.4

0-9 Yards. . . 40.5 34.9

Behind Scrimmage Line. . . 19.0 22.2

Source: Pro Football Focus

This and that

* Before he tore his ACL last month, University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley was considered a top-10, maybe even a top-five, pick in the 2015 NFL draft Now? Gurley's left knee injury definitely will cost him money. He no longer is considered a top-10 pick, even though he probably will be ready to play by the beginning of the 2015 season. But he still is expected to go somewhere in the first round, probably between 25 and 32. "Before he got hurt, he was special,"one NFL personnel executive said. "Still could be. He can run, catch, return, run over people, run around them. He was the best back in the draft. He was even better than [Wisconsin's Melvin]Gordon, because he's bigger than Gordon. I don't know what's going to happen now. A lot will depend on what the medical people say when they examine the knee at the combine and before the draft. Even if everything is fine, I can't see him going off in the first 20 picks. But after that, who knows? If you're picking late in the first round, he might be an appealing pick if you're convinced he's going to be OK."

* Once upon a time, when an NFL team drafted a big cornerback, the first thing it usually did was move him to safety. But Pete Carroll changed all that. Carroll saw the value in big, physical corners. "For years, I've been looking for guys that have this kind of stature, that can have this kind of effect on receivers," said the Seahawks coach, referring to cornerbacks such as 6-3, 195-pound Richard Sherman, whom he found in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, and former Seahawk Brandon Browner (6-4, 221), who was signed by Carroll out of the CFL in '11. "We just happened to hit it right with two guys at the same time. It's really rare to find tall corners and long guys with good arm length and wingspan that can run fast enough and play. We lucked out and hit it here when we found Brandon and Richard. It's all about playing really strong man-to-man coverage on the outside. The bigger the guys are, the more of a factor they can play when guys are trying to get off the line of scrimmage and when it comes time for the ball to come in."

2-minute drill


* "It's embarrassing, it's not frustrating. It's embarrassing, period. It's embarrassing to be a part of. It's embarrassing to be a leader of a group of individuals that plays like that, including myself." — Redskins S Ryan Clark after his team gave up six TDs of 30-plus yards in a 49-27 loss to the Colts

* "I don't worry about my future. I don't participate in any of that speculation. I think I have a recessive gene in worrying about my own future." — 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on reports that he might be fired or traded

* "That guy's having a rough day. Whoever the heck that guy is." — A miked J.J. Watt to a Houston teammate about Titans RT Will Svitek, who was trying, with little success, to block the All-Pro DE

* "I'm embarrassed for myself, absolutely. I feel like I've let my owner down. I've let our fan base down. There's no doubt." — Jets coach Rex Ryan after his team fell to 2-10

* "I still think he can be a great quarterback. Life in the NFL has a way of humbling you. I think as he grows into understanding himself as a quarterback and takes a step back this offseason and doesn't have to worry about anything [other] than himself, I still think he can be a great quarterback." — Former Redskins QB Rex Grossman on his struggling former teammate, Robert Griffin III


* The Broncos' 29-16 win over Kansas City last week was their 11th straight road win over an AFC West opponent. That's the second-longest division road-winning streak in NFL history. The 49ers won 12 in a row in 1987-90.

* The Giants have lost seven games in a row. It's their longest losing streak since they lost eight in a row in 2004, Tom Coughlin's first season as the team's coach.

* Aaron Rodgers has thrown an NFL-record 360 consecutive passes at home without an interception. He has thrown 31 touchdown passes at Lambeau during that interception-less streak.

* With five touchdown passes and no interceptions in the Saints' 35-32 win over the Steelers, Drew Brees now has an NFL-record seven games with at least five TD passes and no picks.

* The Colts scored six touchdowns of at least 30 yards in their 49-27 win over Washington. They are the first team to do that since Washington had seven TDs of 30-plus yards against the Giants in 1966.

Draft scouting report

An NFC scout breaks down two more draft prospects:

LANDON COLLINS: S, Alabama, 6-0, 208

Scout: "I heard so many good things about him before I went there that my expectation level was really high. But I was disappointed. I didn't see anything special. I didn't see any big hits or interceptions. He's a good player. But I don't see this guy as a top-15 pick. He'll be a first-rounder, but I doubt it will be in the top half of the draft.

"Last year, I thought [Calvin] Pryor was a pretty good player and he's kind of been a disappointment with the Jets. This guy isn't in the same category as Pryor as a hitter. He's a pretty good tackler, but he's not a trained killer.

"He's probably a better range guy than Pryor. He has some ball skills. But I just didn't see many 'wow' plays. I did like him better against Auburn after I watched his tape. He seemed to show up more in that game than the tape I watched."

DANTE FOWLER: DE/OLB, Florida, 6-1, 261

Scout: "Fowler is a unique guy because when you watch him play, he plays big. But when you stand next to him, he's really small. I mean he's short and he's stocky. He has a funny build. Barrel-chested. Compact. Doesn't have a lot of length.

"He's not Elvis Dumervil. He's taller than that. He's a really, really good football player. I just don't know where you play him. I imagine he'll be a 3-4 outside rusher, because he'll get engulfed if he puts his hand down. He doesn't have Dumervil's quickness. He's more a pinball, bounce, come-off-of-you, power-rush-you kind of guy. He's very strong and compact.

"People are talking about him as a top-10 guy. I think that's a little high. I would say between 10 and 15 [is where he should go]. But you have to have a plan for him. You have to say, 'This is how we're going to use him,' because I don't think he can put his hand in the dirt and rush. He's going to be an up-rusher.

"He can play on first down. It's not like he'd only be a DPR [designated pass-rusher]. He's not Dion Jordan. You can scheme ways to use him."


In their last eight games, the Eagles have outscored their opponents on their first and second possessions, 64-24. They have scored points on both possessions in five of the eight games, and have scored on their second possession in seven of the eight.

They have scored on at least one of their first two possessions in nine of 12 games this season. The only three they didn't: Jacksonville, San Francisco and Green Bay. They lost two of those three games.

"We like to score touchdowns early," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "Everybody does. The best formula for us is if we can get ahead of a team. Fortunately, in the games that we've played well on offense, we've done that."

Most coaches try to situationally script their first 15 or 20 plays. Chip Kelly pretty much situationally scripts the entire game.

"We script all situations," Kelly said. "What we're going to do in third-and-short, what we're going to do in third-and-medium, what we're going to do in third-and-long, what our first- and second-down calls are, what our red-zone calls — high red zone, low red zone — are. We have all of those kind of predetermined. That's how we game plan. That's how we work during the week in practice."

look at what they've done on their first and second possessions in the first 12 games (scoring plays in bold):

Opponent 1st possession 2nd possession

JAX Fumble Fumble

IND  Field Goal Missed FG

WAS  TD Fumble

SF Punt Punt

STL  Field Goal Field Goal

NYG  Field Goal Field Goal

ARI Punt  TD

HOU Punt  TD

CAR  Field Goal TD

GB Punt Punt



Figuring the Eagles

* The Eagles are fourth in the league in scoring, averaging an impressive 31.2 points per game. But they are only 14th in points per possession (1.99). Green Bay is first (2.87) and New England is second (2.70). Last year, they also finished fourth in scoring (27.6), but were eighth in points per possession (2.18).

* The Eagles have blitzed on just 160 of 489 opponent pass plays (32.7 percent) in the first 12 games. A game-by-game breakdown of their blitz frequency:

Opp.-Pass Plays-Blitz-Blitz Pct.

JAX 46 13 28.3

IND 34 17 50.0

WAS 48 19 39.6

SF 34 8 23.5

STL 53 19 35.8

NYG 36 13 36.1

ARI 42 10 23.8

HOU 31 13 41.9

CAR 49 13 26.5

GB 39 18 46.1

TEN 44 9 20.4

DAL 33 8 24.2

* The Eagles have run 136 plays in the red zone this season. Seventy-five, or 55.1 percent, have been pass plays. Sixty-one have been run plays. They've had a slightly higher pass-play percentage outside the red zone (58.2).

* LeSean McCoy has rushed for 104 yards and three TDs on 43 red-zone carries. That's 2.42 yards per carry. He's 27th in yards per carry in the red zone among running backs with at least 15 attempts.

* Mark Sanchez has been sacked nine times in 19 quarters since replacing Foles. Five of those nine sacks have been in the red zone, but he doesn't have a red-zone interception. Foles has two.

* Ten of the Eagles' 42 touchdowns, or 23.8 percent of them, have been on returns — kickoffs (2), punts (2), blocked punts (2), interceptions (2) and fumbles (2). No other team has more than five (Arizona, Houston, Green Bay).

* The Eagles have a plus-5.2 average field position differential, which is the third highest in the league, behind only Seattle (+6.3) and Buffalo (+5.8). The Eagles are fourth in average field position (30.7) and sixth in opponent field position (25.5). Only 13 teams have a positive field position differential.

The 10 teams with the best average field position differential:

Team-Field position-Opp. field position.-Diff

SEA 31.2 24.9 +6.3

BUF 31.5 25.7 +5.8

PHI 30.7 25.5 +5.2

BAL 30.1 25.1 +5.0

IND 28.6 24.0 +4.6

NE 30.0 25.5 +4.5

MIA 33.2 29.0 +4.2

DET 29.3 25.6 +3.7

STL 28.2 24.8 +3.4

CIN 29.2 26.4 +2.8


It's safe to say Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch currently is, hands down, the worst interview in the NFL. But 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick seems determined to give him a run for his money. Consider this exchange from Kaepernick's latest weekly session with the San Francisco media earlier this week. On the Kaepernick Interview Scale, this actually is considered chatty:

How's the team coming back, bouncing back right now? Where's the focus at?

The Raiders.

What about you personally?

The Raiders.

What do the Raiders bring to the table when you see them on film?

They're a good team.

What were your thoughts after looking at the offensive tape from the Seattle game?

We didn't play well.


Didn't execute.

As Lindsey Nelson used to say on those Notre Dame football highlight shows back in the '60s and '70s, we now move to further action in the fourth quarter...

What's the confidence level of the team right now? Did the loss [to Seattle] take its toll on you guys confidence-wise?


Why is that?

We know what we have to do. We played bad.

What do you think about the rumors that are surrounding [Jim] Harbaugh?

Look at his resumé. You'll get your answer.

Do you want him to be your head coach next year?


What are you looking forward to on Sunday?


Are you curious to see what the Black Hole is like in person, just being in the Raiders' stadium?

I've been there before.

As a fan?

Punt, pass and kick.

How old were you then?

I don't remember.

How did you fare?

Second and third.

In what categories?

Two different years.