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Analysis: Mark Sanchez is just the first step at QB

Posted Mar 11, 2016

The Broncos haven't necessarily acquired their 2016 starter. But now they have someone with experience -- and a track record of postseason success.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- One thing you know about Mark Sanchez: He can take a team with a great defense on a deep playoff run.

It was early in his career, of course, in the first two years after the New York Jets used the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft on the former USC standout. A pressure-intensive defense provided the power, and Sanchez did just enough in an early stage of his development to avoid making the big mistakes, winning four road playoff games in two years to get the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Games.

Since then, it hasn't worked out as well for Sanchez on a team basis -- although he had the best individual season of his career in 2014 after joining the Philadelphia Eagles and starting in relief of Nick Foles, posting a career-high quarterback rating.

In Sanchez's first two years, the Jets had a defense that was first and third, respectively, in yardage allowed per play. The Jets were fourth and sixth in that same statistic in the following two years, and after he didn't play a down for the Jets in 2013, the 2014-15 Eagles were 15th and 14th in that statistic.

With that defense, Sanchez directed the Jets to road postseason wins at Cincinnati, San Diego, Indianapolis and New England -- defeating teams led by a who's who of standout quarterbacks: Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

That experience could serve him well if he's in a similar situation next winter.

Although the Broncos have lost two starters from a defense that was No. 1 nearly across the statistical board, with plenty of returning starters, it should be in position to remain in the league's elite.

Then, Sanchez, if he ends up as the starter, would have to maximize the Broncos' weapons.

Mark Sanchez

That is the key, "if," because the Broncos' quest for quarterbacking answers is not done. In fact, it may well only have begun with Sanchez and Trevor Siemian.

Sanchez is in the last year of his contract, and it's possible the Broncos could look to him to bridge the gap between the present and a future of a high draft pick or Siemian. Other veterans could be added, as well.

But if Sanchez sees extensive playing time, he will have a situation better than any he's ever known.

Never has he worked with a pair of receivers as accomplished and prolific as Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Although the rest of the skill-position players remain in flux, those two targets give him weapons he hasn't seen before.

Sanchez will need to cut his interception rate. He has just two more touchdown passes than interceptions in the regular season (86-84), including 15 interceptions against 18 touchdowns the last two seasons. His interception percentage of 3.71 percent is the highest of the 38 quarterbacks who have thrown at least 1,000 passes since 2009, according to pro-football-reference.com.

But if Sanchez can play within his abilities, capitalize on the skills of his targets, and, yes, manage the game, the Broncos have something they can work with -- and someone who can potentially guide them to a sixth consecutive postseason run.