Sanchez not fully healthy, looks to be top backup

Sanchez not fully healthy, looks to be top backup
June 11, 2014, 11:00 am
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Mark Sanchez said he and the Eagles are currently keeping the quarterback's recovering shoulder "on a pitch count." (AP)

It’s always an amusing exchange, even if you already know the setups and the deliveries and the punchlines. It’s been going on for a year now. You can see it coming.

Last season, most of the questions about who was winning what job -- the player handicapping that becomes all consuming during OTAs, minicamps and training camp -- focused primarily on the quarterbacks. The starting gig was open. This time, the starting job is occupied -- but that doesn’t mean the questions have shifted. There are still queries about the quarterbacks, but now they’re designed to figure out who will back up Nick Foles.

Matt Barkley is in his second season with the Eagles. During the offseason, the organization signed Mark Sanchez, who washed out with the Jets. G.J. Kinne is also around, but no one expects him to be in the mix in any meaningful way. It’s really a two-person race at the moment: Sanchez and Barkley.

During the last few OTAs at the NovaCare Complex, it appeared to several sideline observers that Sanchez was working with the second team. Which leads us to the inevitable (and invariably entertaining) exchange between one reporter and Chip Kelly. They need to work on their timing -- sometimes they talked over each other or cut the other one off -- but otherwise Tuesday’s performance was pretty good.

Reporter: “Can you explain the decision to have Sanchez working with the twos right now ….”

Kelly: [chuckle] “There’s no decisions. We’re just getting reps. It’s not a decision of who…”

Reporter: “Barkley is working with Kinne and that’s less [reps] than Sanchez is getting.”

Kelly: “It’s not less”

Reporter: “It’s not less?”

Kelly: “We chart it every day. Our ones and twos and threes are getting the same amount of reps. G.J. sometimes takes the ones reps when he comes back. If anyone is trying to make anything of who’s playing what or how many reps -- all we’re trying to do is see if we can get three reps a minute, as fast as we can go, get it on tape and coach off of that. There’s nothing to read into who’s what, where, whatever.”

Hmm. Maybe he should have told Sanchez and Barkley. Despite being nothing to read into, both quarterbacks hinted at their roles.

Asked about being the backup (the media can be so underhanded!), Sanchez said he doesn’t think about it and “nothing really changes” in terms of approach from first to second team. Barkley, meanwhile, talked about this topic a few weeks ago. He didn’t sound super pleased then, and that didn’t change on Tuesday. Barkely said he would like to get more reps, as every quarterback would, but “that’s not my say in this organization. Mine is to complete balls and make the right reads and whatnot.”

If there was one unified front on any topic regarding the quarterbacks, it was this: Sanchez’s shoulder remains a concern. Kelly said Sanchez is “still working on his shoulder” and that he doesn’t think Sanchez is “100 percent.” Barkley said he’s “not too sure if [Sanchez is] fully healthy.” And Sanchez admitted that his shoulder is still recovering from the surgery that forced him to miss all of last season.

“It’s getting there,” Sanchez said. “By the time camp rolls around, I’ll have no hesitations. Right now, we’re keeping it on a pitch count. As long as I’m under a certain number, we keep rolling each day. And then the most important thing we’re worried about is the next day. How sore are you? Is it feeling mobile? And every day has been a progression. I haven’t had to sit out of anything.”

That pitch count is somewhere between 60 and 80 throws per day, according to Sanchez. That has to be something of a concern for him and the Eagles. Even when Sanchez was healthy, things didn’t always go his way.

Sanchez is a 55 percent passer for his career. He’s thrown 69 interceptions in 62 starts. The last time he played a full season, back in 2012, Sanchez completed just 54.3 percent of his passes for 2,883 yards, 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He had a 66.9 QB rating. That was 31st in the NFL.

“He has a lot more experience probably than a lot of guys,” Kelly said. “He’s played in this league for a long time. He’s got 60-plus starts. I’ve been really impressed with how quickly he’s picked it up.”

Picked it up as what? The backup? Ah, forget it.

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