The Jets offensive line lost two guards in the offseason, but picked up a couple veterans and multiple draftees in return. [Rob Foldy, USA TODAY Sports]
Many are ready and willing to blame the offensive line for many of the woes experienced by the New York Jets in 2012. If the offensive line were better, they would have been able to keep quarterback Mark Sanchez upright, out of trouble, and his completion percentage would have been higher as a result.
Well now, that’s not exactly the case at all. According to Pro Football Focus, the offensive line of the New York Jets has been ranked a top-5 offensive line in three of the last four years, with only 2011 seeing them ranked out of the top 10 (Wayne Hunter as starting right tackle and injuries to Nick Mangold made this possible.)
2009 and 2010 saw the offensive line ranked as 1st in the league—the years the team made it to the AFC Championship game.
As for 2012, after sorting out the right tackle situation and utilizing journeyman Austin Howard to replace Wayne Hunter, the team finished with the 3rd ranked offensive line in the league.
So, if the offensive line was good last year, how is it that the quarterback play was so atrocious? Much of that has to do with the decision making of the quarterback, and for insight into the quarterback’s decision making, I think it’s important to look at how the quarterback handles pressure.
By the Numbers
If you take the time to look into a quarterback’s passing numbers under pressure, I feel that you can get a decent look into how well that quarterback makes decisions. Several questions need to be asked of a quarterback under pressure. How often is the quarterback pressured, what’s the quarterback’s completion percentage under pressure, and how often does the quarterback throw the ball away?
According to Pro Football Focus, Mark Sanchez was pressured on 100 drop backs, or about 29% of his passing attempts, tied for 12th lowest in the league, with Houston’s Matt Schaub. However, despite facing such a low amount of pressure, Sanchez is the most inaccurate quarterback in the league when encountering pressure, completing only 48% of his passes. For comparison, the league average for accuracy when facing pressure is 61%.
More digging after the jump...
For greater analysis, let’s compare Sanchez to the quarterback he’s tied with for pressure percentage, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. That statline is where the similarities between the two end. When looking at the two key figures that would indicate a quarterback’s decision-making under pressure, throw-away percentage and sack percentage, one can see how the two differ immediately.
Matt Schaub was sacked on 13% of his dropbacks, and threw the ball away when pressured 10.5% of the time. Sanchez, on the other hand, was sacked on 23% of his dropbacks and threw the ball away only 4% of the time. Schaub’s completion percentage under pressure was 66%, versus Sanchez’s league-worst 48.5%. Sanchez is obviously not Matt Schaub, and the Jets don’t have the offensive weapons that the Texans can boast, but I think it speaks volumes of a quarterback who’s willing to throw the ball away versus taking the sack and perhaps placing your team in a negative yardage situation.
What does this mean?
Despite having one of the better offensive lines in the league, Sanchez still managed to be ranked 28th for sack percentage in the league, and have a league-worst completion percentage when pressured. Could this be because of the lack of skill players on offense in 2012? Possibly. In an effort to search for open receivers he may have held the ball too long, resulting in a higher sack percentage and lower completion percentage.
However, the fact that he chose to hold onto the ball and take the sack instead of throwing the ball away and perhaps saving his team some negative yardage, does not give me confidence in his decision making abilities. Will he do better under Mornhinweg’s offense? There are those who think that—yes he can thrive in such an offense. However after four years of Mark Sanchez under center, there are only so many times you can blame the offensive line for his mistakes.