It has come to my attention, via the Football Today podcast when Tim Graham was a guest, that there is much debate as to who is the second-best quarterback in the AFC East behind Tom Brady. Is it Mark Sanchez or Chad Henne? Tim and I debated it briefly on the podcast, but here are my more expansive thoughts on the subject.
Personally, I would take Henne. He wins by a landslide, actually. Granted, Henne’s accomplishments in terms of leading his Miami Dolphins are not as impressive as what the New York Jets did last season. But to me, Sanchez wasn’t the force behind the Jets’ drive to the AFC Championship Game. I am not discounting Sanchez’s rookie-season accomplishments, but I just contend that quarterback was far from an area of strength for the 2009 Jets.
There is much to like about Sanchez. He has shown anticipation, can make plays with his feet and throws a catchable ball. Sanchez should develop into a fine anticipatory passer who gets the ball out on time. His accuracy will improve in the short and intermediate zones. But overall, I see Sanchez as a player who is very average physically for the quarterback position and he will struggle passing outside the numbers within this division late in the season due to weather problems. He simply doesn’t have nearly as high of a ceiling as Henne.
Henne is the prototype. He has a very good arm and can threaten the field at all levels. He is well built and shows great toughness. He can stand in the pocket in the face of a heavy rush, step into his throw and deliver the football. Henne sees the field and reads coverages better than Sanchez, which is to be expected since Henne has been in the league longer at this point.
While he might not be as light on his feet or as good of a runner as Sanchez, Henne gets the most out of every play by standing firm and keeping his eyes downfield. In contrast, Sanchez too often feels and reacts to pressure that isn’t there and hurries his throw or leaves plays on the field. Miami consistently keeps an extra pass blocker in and have some very solid peripheral pass blockers, but it would not be a shock if they were less conservative in this regard next season.
Still, they will throw a lot from heavier personnel groupings. As I expect that we will see more this year with a threat like Brandon Marshall to throw to, it will become apparent that Henne can put the football in spots that Sanchez cannot. Henne’s passes come out hot. Already a confident and decisive young quarterback, Henne will become increasingly comfortable and his toughness will further reflect upon his teammates.
Both quarterbacks have a ways to go. Both still misread coverages. Both miss open receivers that they should hit at times. They need to cut down on their interceptions. Sanchez had a few horrible games last season. While Henne wasn’t always spot on, he never seemed as though he was overwhelmed or didn’t belong.
Go back and watch Sanchez in Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills or Week 11 at the New England Patriots: It wasn’t pretty. I would like to see Sanchez improve his pocket awareness, stand in against the rush longer and require fewer protectors to keep him upright.
The only quality that Sanchez has that Henne does not is that he has led his team further in the postseason. That isn’t nearly enough for me to side with Sanchez in this argument though, especially considering the makeup of the Jets team last year.
This blog post isn’t to be critical of Sanchez. If he’s used properly, the Jets can win a lot of games with him behind center. Both signal-callers could go on to have very productive careers. The Dolphins and Jets are two of the best-coached teams in the league and I think they both feature top-5 offensive lines and strong running games. The weapons for Sanchez and Henne also have improved this offseason.
Both young quarterbacks are on the rise. But, in the end, I want Henne.