Deep thoughts: Sanchez and Sparano

The foundation of Tony Sparano's offense is running the ball, but he also promised, "We'll be explosive, we'll be able to get it down the field." He said his first Dolphins team (2008) ranked among the league leaders in plays of 20+ yards.

Actually, that's not true. The Dolphins had 39 pass plays of 20+ yards (20th in the league) and 11 rushing plays (T12th). This past season, the Dolphins did have a vertical element to their passing game, recording 56 pass plays of 20+ yards (13th). Once Matt Moore replaced the injured Chad Henne, they evolved into a vertical passing team.

The question is, can Sparano do that with Mark Sanchez?

In Sanchez’s rookie year, he completed 32.5 percent of his passes over 20 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information. However, his completion percentage dropped in each subsequent season, as Sanchez completed only 29.1 percent in 2010 and just 25.6 percent in 2011.

Mark Sanchez, Throws 21+ Yards Downfield

Category --- 2010 --- 2011

Comp pct ...... 29.1 .... 25.6

Yards/att ...... 10.5 .... 7.6

TD-Int ............ +2 ........ -3

30+ Yd Plays .. 11 ....... 5

The Jets' passing attack became conservative in 2011, probably because of Sanchez's struggles and protection issues. Consider: In his first two seasons, Sanchez averaged 9.2 air yards per attempt (seventh among 39 qualified quarterbacks), per ESPN Stats. In 2011, he averaged 7.8 air yards per attempt (25th among 34 qualified quarterbacks).