Eagles' Sanchez getting up to speed

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mark Sanchez jogs in front of kicker Alex Henery at Eagles OTA.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Mark Sanchez jogs in front of kicker Alex Henery at Eagles OTA.
Posted: June 03, 2014

MARK SANCHEZ wanted Matt Barkley to take his place. In January 2008, he was the host for Barkley when the high-school junior came for an official visit to the University of Southern California. Barkley liked it enough that he decided in to become a Trojan, and succeeded Sanchez in 2009.

Now Sanchez is returning the favor, just on a bigger stage. Sanchez, 27, took the reps with the second-team offense in organized team activities last week, giving him the inside track to back up Nick Foles as Eagles quarterback.

This is the first camp in Sanchez' career he has entered without even being in the conversation for starter. After spending last year on injured reserve and undergoing surgery for a shoulder injury sustained in the third preseason game with the Jets, he is fine with whatever his role will be this year. He is just excited to be back around the game, and healthy.

"I didn't put too much time into thinking about it," said Sanchez, who was cut by the Jets in March when they signed Michael Vick, Foles' backup most of last season. "I was ready to get to a new place after I was released. This looked like the best opportunity to come in and play as hard as I can and help the team. I am excited I am with this quarterback group. I think there is a ton of talent."

Between him, Foles, Barkley and even G.J. Kinne, the Eagles have a solid core under center. Obviously, Foles is the starter, but the Eagles are not sleeping on the need for a capable backup.

"With quarterbacks specifically, I have said it all along, you better have two," coach Chip Kelly said. "There are not many who make it through the whole season."

Sanchez has had an up-and-down career, to say the least. He led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie, then went 11-5 in 2010. In 2011, he threw 27 touchdowns against 18 interceptions and had a career-high 78.2 QB ratings, but the Jets fell to 8-8, then to 6-9 before they drafted Geno Smith and eventually became an ex-Jet.

Barkley has a year within Kelly's system under his belt, but the Birds went out and got a seasoned veteran to compete for the backup spot. Barkley, who is in his second year in the NFL, understood where the coaching staff was coming from when the situation was laid out to him.

"Chip called me," Barkley said. "He alerted me to the situation and whatnot, bringing in an older guy once Mike [Vick] left. He is always going to say 'compete,' and that is what he told me, just to compete. He always wants his quarterbacks at all levels, starting or not, to be competing with each other."

There will be some ongoing competition in training camp among the backup quarterbacks for the second slot on the depth chart, especially as Sanchez learns the Eagles' system. He is eager to play for an offensive-minded coach after he spent his entire career under Rex Ryan, who has a defensive background.

"I was drawn here because of the offensive minds here," Sanchez said. "I think the kind of team that we are here, on the rise, I think what they did last year was just the tip of the iceberg if we continue to work and continue to improve. That was the real enticing thing."

As everybody knows, Kelly's offense moves at an fast and furious rate. Sanchez has been impressed with the way his teammates are dedicated to the process of getting better.

"The first week of offseason program, Phase 1, seeing how much these guys run, condition, do extra stuff, take care of their body," Sanchez said. "They are in early, they stay late. It is a pretty impressive culture they have cultivated here."

He knows just how important the quarterback is to the speed of the offense. From getting the call, to setting the line and making audibles, it is on the quarterback to direct traffic and keep it flowing, just like the floor general in basketball.

"They expect you to blink fast, and think fast, move fast, react to things, anticipate," Sanchez said. "It is fun. It feels like a fastbreak. It feels like when Steve Nash was running with the Suns, dishing the ball. That's the way they view their quarterback. You have to be able to run it a little bit. You have to be able to know when you're being blocked, who's hot, and get rid of the ball. Be the point guard, dish it out and roll."

While Sanchez is excited about learning the new offense, and the prospects of where the Eagles could go this season, he understands why he was brought to Philadelphia.

"I am doing everything I can to help this team," Sanchez said. "If my role is going to be to help Nick get ready for the season, help Nick get ready for Week 1 or preseason games, I am going to be ready to do whatever they need me to do."


On Twitter: @AndrewJAlbert01

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