FOXBORO, Mass. — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez finds himself in an unfamiliar position in his NFL career: unquestioned backup.
Sure, Sanchez was locked in a training-camp battle with rookie Geno Smith as a New York Jet last summer and had to endure the Tim Tebow circus in 2012, but those both were relatively legitimate quarterback controversies.
Now, with Sanchez coming off a shoulder injury that cost him his entire 2013 campaign and the Eagles already owning a Pro Bowl signal-caller in Nick Foles, there’s no doubting the former USC star’s place in Philly.
And you know what? He’s OK with that.
“After Nick’s year last year, that’s only fair to him,” Sanchez said Tuesday after the Eagles’ joint practice with the New England Patriots. “He played top five in the league, I think it was, so he absolutely deserves that. We’re supporting him 100 percent. I just have to stay ready. Now that I’m healthy, it feels good to be back out on the field. Whatever they need me to do to help the team, I’ll be ready.”
Foles was one of the NFL’s breakout stars last season, claiming the starting job from Michael Vick and leading the Eagles to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. Foles’ 119.2 passer rating led the league, and his 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio was the best in NFL history.
Sanchez’s season, meanwhile, consisted of holding a clipboard in New York and rehabbing from the torn labrum he suffered in Week 3 of the preseason — an injury he said hampered him long after season’s end.
“It’s a long rehab,” Sanchez said, “but I started feeling 100 percent probably about a month ago. Right after OTAs ended and we got that little break, I felt great. Then came into camp, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve totally turned the page from last year, and I feel good.”
So far, he’s looked pretty good, too. Sanchez completed 7 of 10 passes and engineered touchdowns on two of his first three drives in last Friday’s preseason opener against the Chicago Bears. He also impressed head coach Chip Kelly with his arm strength on a Hail Mary bid at the end of the first half, tossing an incomplete pass into the back of the end zone after taking the snap at his own 40-yard line.
“He’s back,” Kelly told reporters after that game, via NJ.com. “I told him right after he did it, if anybody has any questions about his arm rehabbing after the throw he made at the end of the first half — I think the pass was 68 yards in the air.”
It remains to be seen if Sanchez will get to show off his new and improved arm in a game that matters this season. Unless Foles falls victim to injury or sees his performance go down the toilet, the chances don’t look good. But when asked if he still can succeed as a starting quarterback in this league, Sanchez’s confidence was as undeniable as his spot on the Eagles’ depth chart.
“No doubt,” he replied. “You just need an opportunity to prove it. Whenever that comes, whether it’s this year, next year, (with) the Eagles, somewhere else — it doesn’t matter. But if I get back on the field, I’ll play well. That’s how I feel; I’m optimistic about it. I’ve seen a lot of football, won a lot of games, lost a lot of games. I’ve got a lot of experience under my belt. I’ve kind of seen it almost all, so nothing fazes me. I’m ready to go.”