PHILADELPHIA -- If there is an open competition for the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback job -- and coach Chip Kelly says there is -- then Mark Sanchez has a legitimate chance to win it.
The argument against Sanchez is based on his 4-4 record as the Eagles' starter last season. Sanchez completed a career-high 64.1 percent of his passes, but he also threw 11 interceptions in just nine games. In the Eagles' four losses with Sanchez at quarterback, he threw a total of six interceptions.
But what if Sanchez’s performance was hampered by his surgically repaired throwing shoulder? Sanchez himself was surprised to see how much his shoulder affected his passes last season.
"Just going back and watching some of the film from last year," Sanchez said. "I could see the zip on the ball. I could see all that stuff that was filmed early, without even a defense. I’m throwing (to) the flat and I’m looking at the play, and now I know the play. So I’m expecting that ball to be there now. And I’m watching that ball float across the screen. I’m like, 'Man, I’ve come a long way since that.' That’s encouraging."
Another year removed from the surgery, Sanchez’s shoulder feels much better and stronger. So it is possible he’ll have more success throwing the ball deep or fitting it into tighter windows.
"With all the reps I’ve had, all the rehab I’ve gone through, it can only get better and better and stronger," Sanchez said Thursday. "This is definitely the best I’ve ever felt."
Kelly traded Nick Foles and a second-round draft choice to St. Louis for Bradford. The idea was to try to get a possible franchise quarterback who was available only because of a couple of knee injuries.
But Sanchez was also available a year before because another team, the New York Jets, had decided to move on from him. That shoulder injury kept Sanchez from playing in 2013 and the Jets drafted Geno Smith as a replacement for the man formerly known as "The Sanchize."
In Bradford, Kelly hoped he landed a quarterback who could live up to being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. But Sanchez was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft. Aside from the Heisman Trophy Bradford won at Oklahoma, Sanchez’s pedigree is not far removed from his competitor’s.
Factor in that Bradford’s twice-torn left ACL is not ready to let him practice with the team, and that Sanchez has a year in Kelly’s offense under his belt, and there’s every reason for Sanchez to believe he can win the job. (On the other side of the scale, the Eagles will be paying Bradford nearly $13 million this year and must decide whether to extend his expiring contract, so Bradford does have some factors in his corner.)
"(Kelly) didn’t have to persuade me," Sanchez said. "He didn’t have to say anything special. It was just, basically, 'Hey, you can compete just like everybody else.' Whether that was Nick Foles or, now, Sam and Tim (Tebow) and Matt (Barkley) ... it didn’t really matter. I knew there would be competition coming in."
As long as there is competition, there is a chance to win it.
"All of us come into that quarterback room, walk in the huddle, you act like you’re the starter," Sanchez said. "That’s the only way I know how to play. As soon as you start thinking and counting reps and 'I wonder if this guy is going to be healthy,' you’re already beat. There’s no point being out here.
"Everybody wants to be the starter and I’m no different."