Tuck's Takes: Sanchez's smile only goes so far; rookie camps the rage
Mark Sanchez impressed NFL teams during fancy steak dinners
Sanchez's tangibles need to be as good as his intangibles
More teams are taking advantage of holding rookie-only minicamps
Good news, Jets fans. Your new franchise quarterback is one of the most endearing and personable individuals to enter the NFL in quite some time.
How else can you explain the spiked interest in Mark Sanchez over the final three weeks of April and the post-draft buzz surrounding the No. 5 pick? Best I can tell, no games were played during that time, yet Sanchez's stock rose as if he had led his team to some secret spring national championship.
Instead, it appears as if Sanchez was able to dazzle a number of NFL decision makers based upon his personal interaction with them at team facilities and fancy dinners. Stake your future to Sanchez over a steak at Ruth's Chris? Sign the Jets up. Sanchez is a good looking guy who does and says all the right things. His intoxicating personality left owners like Woody Johnson and Dan Snyder smitten. But is that the best way to evaluate a quarterback?
Intangibles are vitally important at every position in the NFL, especially at quarterback, and the reports from Jets camp indicate Sanchez is already holding private meetings with skill players and linemen to make sure they are on the same page. That is a great sign, but at what point can a guy's charisma and the way he handles himself overtake his on-field production? In other words, the intangibles are important but don't forget about the tangibles.
Sanchez is thought to have a strong enough arm to make all of the throws in the NFL, but it is not nearly as strong as the bazooka Matthew Stafford possesses. And Sanchez didn't start three years, like Stafford did in the SEC, because he was unable to beat out John David Booty during his time in at USC. Winning your starting job in college isn't necessarily a prerequisite for success in the NFL (Matt Cassel, Joe Flacco, etc.), but it can't be taken as a good sign that Sanchez couldn't keep the job even after Booty went down with an injury for several games.
I can't remember the last time a player's stock rose so much and he became so sought after based upon what he did at dinners rather than on an actual field. This is football, after all, and you aren't looking for a sales guy in the office that you want to be good with clients or in the board room. Personality can only take you so far. At some point you have to just produce, or else the fan base will turn on you and your charisma will no longer matter. Just ask another former Jets quarterback by the name of Favre.
Rookie camps all the rage
The NFL is a copycat league, as teams are extremely quick to adapt and implement new ideas if they see they are working elsewhere (see Cat, Wild). The latest example is the propensity to hold rookie-only minicamps after the draft. Seventeen teams, or just over half of the league, either held a rookie-only minicamp last weekend or will hold one this weekend. That list of teams includes perennial playoff contenders Indianapolis, New England and the New York Giants.
It's hard to understand why successful teams like the Steelers, Eagles, and Ravens aren't following suit. Teams are allowed only one mandatory full-squad minicamp but they can have as many rookie minicamps as they want. Why not have one?
It enables rookies to get acclimated to the pro game and a new playbook before having to take the field with accomplished veterans. It helps the rookies have a more legitimate shot to compete once the organized team activities and full-squad minicamp takes place because the rookie camp can be conducted at a pace more conducive to learning and teaching. Most importantly, rookies can get legitimate repetitions and show what they can do. At a veteran camp, most rookies are limited to a paltry four to six live reps per day in the all-important team periods.
Except for the players taken high in the first round, rookies represent an enticing level of cost-certainty for teams at a significantly lower compensation level than most of their older brethren. It behooves franchises to give these young players every possible opportunity to succeed.
Much like the growth of the Wildcat offense and the 3-4 defense of late, I expect the abundance of rookie minicamps to continue as teams realize there is very little downside and significant upside.
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