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“Really, since the San Francisco game (four weeks ago), just looking back at it, we’ve played some of our best football since then. I’m proud of that.”

Coach Rex Ryan has been perhaps Sanchez’s biggest supporter since the day the Jets traded up in the draft in 2009 to select him fifth overall. But he appeared to waffle a bit during the height of Sanchez’s struggles when he said he was the starting quarterback “this week.”

Many assumed that was a crack in the confidence, the first indication that Tebow could perhaps step in as the starter and send Sanchez to the bench.

Not so fast.

“I just think Mark is improving as a quarterback,” Ryan said earlier this week. “We see it. I think statistically, (the New England game) was one of the best games that he’s had. … I thought he was tremendous. In that kind of environment, that kind of atmosphere, it kind of felt like almost a playoff-game type atmosphere and he was at his best. I’m excited about that. It all starts with the protection. We’ve all said, give this young man time to throw the football down the field, he can be effective.”

Shonn Greene has been better in recent weeks, including a 161-yard effort against Indianapolis, and the return of tight end Dustin Keller from a hamstring injury has certainly been a boost for Sanchez and the rest of the offense.

The Jets went heavy with a run-first approach on offense in Sanchez’s first two seasons, both ending with trips to the AFC championship game. Last year, under former coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the offense struggled to establish an identity _ some weeks, it was heavy pass and others, heavy run.

Sparano insisted he would re-establish the Ground-and-Pound style that Sanchez has thrived in. Tebow is also expected to be a major part of that as the season goes along, despite only being involved in 49 offensive snaps. But Sparano acknowledged that he “could do a better job” of using Tebow in certain situations _ and that can only help Sanchez.

Some fans and media have speculated that perhaps the coaches don’t fully trust Sanchez to make big plays in key moments. That’s a notion both Ryan and Sparano have dismissed, and Sanchez has brushed off.

“I think they have plenty of trust in me,” Sanchez said. “I don’t look into things like that. They’re trying to put us in a position to win and calling the best plays we possibly can. We’re all in this thing together. He’s not (thinking), `We can’t do this because of Mark.’ I don’t think that’s his thought process at all.”

Sanchez has taken plenty of heat throughout his short career in New York, leading to a perception that perhaps he has lost some confidence.

“We knew the kind of young man we were getting when we drafted him,” Ryan said. “We felt good about it. We’ve said it: Not everybody can play quarterback in this town. There’s no doubt about that. It might eat you up.”

Reuland has seen Sanchez in tough situations all his life, from their days as teammates in youth basketball leagues and on the football field at Mission Viejo High School. Each time, Sanchez has thrived.

And Reuland expects nothing less this season.

“He has always been like that and been raised to be like that,” Reuland said. “His Dad was a disciplinarian and my Dad was kind of similar. We grew up playing basketball together. We’ve taken the verbal abuse. Our high school coach was always riding him because he wanted him to be as good as he could possibly be.

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