You couldn't go anywhere this summer without someone telling you how crucial it was that Mark Sanchez show some improvement as a quarterback this season, and he better do it soon. So we thought we'd start checking in weekly to see how the Sanchize is progressing toward that goal.
It is a sign of how far Mark Sanchez has come when throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener is considered a disappointment.
There were moments over the last two seasons when the mention of a stat line like that -- even with two turnovers mixed in -- would fill Jets fans with the kind of glee normally reserved for Christmas morning. That it's being met with such lukewarm reception is a sign of how much higher the expectations are for the Jets quarterback this season.
They are so high, in fact, that a game with much more good than bad is seen as being barely passable. The two turnovers were bad, especially the interception on a pass thrown directly to Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee after Sanchez locked in on a target and made no attempt to disguise his intent on the play.
Almost as bad were the drives that saw a tentative Sanchez fail to move the offense thanks to inaccurate passes or poor reads of the defense. For much of the night, it looked like the same old Sanchez , and the same old doubts creeped back.
But the other parts of the night were pretty close to brilliant. Sanchez showed that he could handle pressure a bit better than in past years and he showed that the Jets were right to surround him with as many weapons as possible.
Sanchez spread the ball around, completing 59 percent of his passes in the process, and thrived whenever the team went from a plodding pace to the uptempo, no-huddle attack. That might be the biggest takeaway from Week One's escape against the Cowboys.
There are moments when the Jets seem so scared of Sanchez that the offense resembles something drawn up to avoid mistakes rather than exploit mismatches. That might have made sense in 2009, but it became clear at some point last year that Sanchez is best when he's throwing caution to the wind and making plays on the fly.
The Jets should be putting him in those positions more often. They have enough offensive options that they should be pressing the defense constantly, the same way the Patriots have for years, instead of cautiously attacking until the game becomes a high-wire act to avoid a loss in the final seconds.
There's still a lot of work to be done and there's no way to ignore the mistakes that were made on Sunday night, but it is time for the Jets to play to Sanchez's strengths instead of trying to force him into being a player that he isn't.