Coach Rex Ryan announced Thursday that the second-year quarterback will start in the team’s regular-season finale against Buffalo, but is uncertain how long he’ll stay in the game. It’s possible Sanchez could play a few series or a few quarters before giving way to Mark Brunell and Kellen Clemens.
Ryan said Sanchez, dealing with a sore right shoulder, showed some zip on his passes in practice and looked good enough to make him feel comfortable about starting him for the playoff-bound Jets (10-5). Ryan was unsure Wednesday whether Sanchez would play Sunday, saying he was leaning toward playing him “some,” but wanted to see how the quarterback threw Thursday before making a decision.
“Last week at this time, I had my concerns,” Ryan said. “Right now, he is zipping it pretty good. I don’t want to put him out there if we don’t think he’s healthy, but I believe he is healthy now.”
Sanchez was injured in the Jets‘ win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 19, but played well through it _ as he did against Chicago last Sunday. After a tough stretch before the injury, Sanchez’s completion percentage was around 65 against Pittsburgh and Chicago, while his quarterback rating was above 80 in each game.
“More than anything, it’s just the routine he’s established,” Ryan said. “He has a good thing going right now and he’s comfortable. I just kind of wanted to keep that going.”
Added offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: “He’s just been dialed in.”
Sanchez was limited again at practice Thursday, as he was last week, but said Wednesday he was preparing as if he would start.
“I’m glad I’m not a head coach,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know. I always want to play. I like practicing; I like playing. That’s all I think about. I love doing it and I just want to be smart with my shoulder. … It’s going to be up to Rex. It’s a tough decision and I don’t want to be in his shoes.”
The Jets have already secured a playoff spot, and likely the No. 6 seed in the AFC. But they have a chance to win 11 games for only the fourth time in franchise history, something Ryan insists is not a factor in playing Sanchez.
“He certainly would not be out there if we didn’t think he was healthy, without question,” Ryan said. “Eleven wins is great, but quite honestly, we want to win in the playoffs.”