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Mark Sanchez making the most of work with first-team offense

Mark Sanchez spent the spring the way he finished last season - taking snaps as the Eagles' first-team quarterback. Depending on Sam Bradford's health, this week's mandatory minicamp might be Sanchez's last opportunity to take the majority of the snaps.

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)Read more(Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

Mark Sanchez spent the spring the way he finished last season - taking snaps as the Eagles' first-team quarterback. Depending on Sam Bradford's health, this week's mandatory minicamp might be Sanchez's last opportunity to take the majority of the snaps.

The Eagles will practice Tuesday through Thursday before packing up for summer and returning for training camp Aug. 2. Bradford could be recovered from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee by the start of camp. Although coach Chip Kelly said it would be an open competition at quarterback, the Eagles probably did not surrender Nick Foles and a second-round pick for a healthy Bradford to hold a clipboard on the sideline.

If this spring offered Sanchez an audition, he has taken advantage of the time with the starters. Sanchez looked sharp the last few weeks and should at the very least give the Eagles confidence in their quarterback depth.

"I feel good," Sanchez said. "I'm anticipating a lot of things instead of reacting, where last year I was learning so much on the fly and trying to learn that zone read stuff and a new offense and a new language, but now I feel much more comfortable."

Sanchez played nine games last season and started eight. He finished with 14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and 2,418 passing yards. His 64.1 percent completion percentage was the best of his career. The Eagles went 4-4 in the games Sanchez started, which is probably an accurate reflection of his quarterbacking.

He re-signed with the Eagles in March, a two-year deal that has a maximum value of $16 million. Sanchez agreed to the contract before the Eagles acquired Bradford. Sanchez spent the offseason watching film and wondering what could have been if a few more passes were different.

"It was a different offseason for me," Sanchez said. "I had a chance to sit back and watch those eight games and really get into what can I really fix - where did I leave some throws out there? . . . That still bothers me when I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning."

The spring also has been different for him. He arrived in Philadelphia in March 2014 after five seasons with the Jets. He came off a shoulder injury and was working toward full health. He also needed to learn a new system and new teammates.

Among his receiving targets, Jeremy Maclin and Brad Smith did not return this season. Nelson Agholor and Miles Austin joined the group. But many of the players around him are similar and know the system, offering a more advanced look of how a Sanchez-led offense could function.

"I have a pretty good idea of what these guys can do, not only their ability but their body language," Sanchez said. "I'm anticipating their moves. Last year, I was really reacting to stuff. If anything was a tick late or a tick off, I feel like now, we're really making some good connections out there. That goes for the offensive line, too, hearing calls and understanding what's going on up front."

Two players have strong connections with Sanchez: Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews. Matthews had 35 of his 67 catches and 559 of his 872 yards when Sanchez started at quarterback. Ertz recorded a 15-catch, 115-yard performance in Week 15 against the Redskins with Sanchez passing him the ball. Both players worked with Sanchez in the second-team offense last summer.

"It's like they've grown 10 years in just one year between Jordan and Zach," Sanchez said. "The way they know the plays, they have to kick them out of the building."

Sanchez also said the improved defense has helped him with his decision-making. "A ball six inches left or right, and our guys are either tipping it or picking it," he said.

Kelly has noticed Sanchez's comfort and good health. It might not be enough to sit Bradford if he is healthy, but it might mean the Eagles could still compete if there's an issue with Bradford.

Sanchez has not viewed the spring as preparing for a backup job. And for at least one more week, he'll likely get the majority of first-team snaps to show how far along he is this year.

"Anything that might have caught me by surprise, you just get the experience and you feel like you control the situation," Sanchez said. "You feel like you're in the driver's seat and everything is starting to slow down. . . . So I feel like I'm having a great time and I'm having a great camp."

Wheeler signs

The Eagles signed offensive lineman Jared Wheeler, 24, to a one-year deal. Wheeler, a 6-foot-5, 320-pounder out of Miami, has been with three NFL teams but has not played in a regular-season game. He is an interior lineman and takes Evan Mathis' spot on the roster. The Eagles now have a full 90-man roster for minicamp.

@ZBerm