The Washington Times - December 3, 2011, 04:07PM

This should sound familiar: one of the teams playing at FedEx Field on Sunday is facing growing fan and media unrest about their quarterback.

Criticism of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez recently has intensified. The Jets are 6-5 on the outside of the current playoff picture after reaching the AFC championship game in Sanchez’s first two seasons.


His 56.3 completion percentage and 6.7 yards per attempt are worse than Rex Grossman’s marks (60.7 and 7.2). That’s well short of what anyone expected from the fifth-overall pick in 2009.

I spoke this week to Ian Eagle, who will call Sunday’s game for CBS Sports. He lives in the New York area and says the fan base’s honeymoon with Sanchez is over.

“The general feeling in the New York area was: give him time,” Eagle said. “He doesn’t have a whole lot of experience if you look at his collegiate career. It was one year. So now in Year 3 the questions are starting to get asked on a more frequent basis. I think that’s why in recent weeks he’s heard a lot more negative reaction more so than in the two and a half years prior.”

Jets coach Rex Ryan seemed perturbed this week by the heat on Sanchez. During his teleconference with Redskins media on Wednesday, a reporter asked Ryan about Sanchez’s “solid” performance last week in which he threw four touchdowns but completed only 48 percent of his passes in a win over Buffalo.

“I like the fact that you said he had a solid game because everybody around here says, ‘Oh, it was horrendous’ and all that,” Ryan said. “But I’ll take a horrendous game anytime you can throw four touchdowns.

“We still have to get better. Our passing game isn’t where we want it to be and whether it’s timing, whether it’s communication, whether it’s protection—we’ve had some breakdowns. I think we’re getting better. I think this is the best we’ve protected the quarterback…it might’ve been the best I’ve ever seen somebody protect the quarterback.

“Obviously if we can get that kind of protection, we’re going to be successful. It starts with protection but we’ve gotta do a great job of running our routes, and then when they’re open, having Mark hitting them.”

Receiver Plaxico Burress doesn’t believe Sanchez is affected by all the negativity.

“It doesn’t matter what people are saying about him, saying things he can’t do or isn’t doing,” Burress said. “He’s just going to keep working with that fire.

“It hasn’t gone particularly well for him at times, but he comes to work and makes us work hard. That’s what you love about a competitor. Playing with any teammate that when things are not going the way they would like to, they’re going to come out and fight and they’re not going to go into the tank. He’s going to keep preparing, keep working hard to be better every day. I think we all see that and have to love that anybody that you’re playing with is not going to get down on themselves.”