Sanchez makes most of first impression with Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Free-agent receiver Ottis Lewis from Hofstra received his call at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

"Mark said all the offensive rookies were getting together for a meeting at 8 p.m. and asked me to be there," Lewis said of Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. "I guess we had about 20 guys at the meeting. Basically, he took charge. He went over all the things we were going to do on Friday. It was like a group study."

Former Georgia fullback Brannan Southerland said Sanchez hooked him in the players' hotel lobby earlier on Thursday.

Gear up for the upcoming season by acquiring the jersey of your favorite team's newest star.

"It was basically an install meeting," Southerland said. "It was like a jump start on what to expect for the first day of camp today (Friday)."

And for ex-Oklahoma running back Allen Patrick, the get-together in one of the hotel's conference rooms went as smoothly as the Jets' first day of rookie practice.

"Mark either met with or called each of the offensive rookies to be in that meeting," Patrick said. "That's pretty special for someone to do something like that on his own. He already knows a lot about the offense. He was telling us how he was going to deal with certain parts of it and how we could work together on it. I respect a person like that who jumps on things."

And so did his coach.

Rex Ryan said he was surprised when the offense showed up at 10:15 a.m. on Friday, the first outing of a three-day rookie session, with 18 or so plays ready to run. The defense had eight, Ryan said. So, how did the offense get such a jump? Ryan learned later what Sanchez had done. The coach smiled, a big smile.

You would imagine it is one like his father, Buddy Ryan, a former NFL coaching staple, has nowadays for his son.

"I guess it kind of reminded us of why we brought him in here," Rex Ryan beamed.

The Jets did so on draft day with hammer-effect, brazenly leaping from No. 17 to No. 5 in a first-round trade with Cleveland to snatch Sanchez. It was a marquee move and a bona fide power play to erase the sting of the Brett Favre trial last season, to end a string of reaches at quarterback and to invest in a player at the position whom the Jets believe can do it. Do it all. And for a long, long time.

Sanchez showed his fancy footwork in morning drills, displayed his strapping arm across the field and looked comfortable with his teammates. He knows his coach wants his team to build tempo: Quicker, faster, better. He was mobbed by the news media on Friday morning. He talked about how fun it all was and about learning to speak this system's "language" and how the rookie NFL quarterbacks from last season who hit it running (Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco) have raised expectations for future rookies at the position, including himself.

"I practiced plays in the mirror last night in the hotel," Sanchez said.

And about starting right away as the Jets' quarterback? "We're still a ways away," he answered. "But you don't grow up dreaming to be a backup."

Cue the music. Triple the lights. Raised in Los Angeles in the USC football factory led by former Jets coach Pete Carroll, Sanchez knows how to play it off the field as much as he does on it.

Karma indeed: Carroll tells Sanchez he is not ready to become a pro. Sanchez bolts anyway. Carroll is initially miffed, and Sanchez winds up in the NFL place where Carroll could not make it (fired after one season, a 6-10 record in 1994). And Sanchez on Day 1 already looked more comfortable and in place than Carroll did for most of his Jets tenure.

Someone astutely asked Ryan a question I had after watching this quarterback (he is listed as 6-foot-3, 227 pounds) work up close and after standing next to him. Gee, he is small. Small by NFL quarterback standards. Is Sanchez, literally, big enough to handle the job?

"Well," Ryan answered, honestly, "he's, what, 6-2 and change? Well, we'll see."

And then Ryan talked about the presence of Sanchez, the feel of this quarterback, and how he has that thing that Tom Brady has, that movement in the pocket and knack for knowing when to take a step up, or one back, or to the side.

Impact rookies

There will be rookies who will make their presence felt in 2009. Denver's Robert Ayers tops the list of potential impact rookies,

Vic Carucci writes.

"I don't think you can play the position without it," Ryan said.

Well, Sanchez has it. You hope he never loses it, that and his easy smile, that positive demeanor, that bright glow that says hitch a ride with me and let's go places.

Ryan said he believes the Jets are going to be a team that people want to see. That certainly was evident on Friday. He said his team better get used to it.

A good thing for Ryan is his young quarterback is already snug.

"He's a natural leader," Ryan said. "Some guys lead and some can't. Some guys have it and some guys don't. It's easier to follow someone who has confidence in himself. If he'll just be himself, he's going to be able to handle anything."

The coach reminds the rookie player. But the player is already so good at it, he might occasionally remind the rookie coach.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.