New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez more comfortable in his second season

By most standards, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had a phenomenally successful rookie year. The No. 5 pick, who left USC a year early, joined Baltimore’s Joe Flacco to become just the second first-year quarterback in NFL history to win two playoff games.

Sanchez also left some room for improvement, however, with five multiple-interception games, including five in one game alone.

Now, in his second season, he’s less of a “caretaker” quarterback looking to simply minimize his mistakes, and more of a central figure in the offense who has taken a leadership role.

“I feel so much more comfortable,” said Sanchez, who has had the benefit of lining up against last season’s No. 1-ranked defense (minus All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, a contract holdout) on a daily basis at training camp. “I feel like we’re getting a lot more completions, we’re putting ourselves in third-and-short situations, and we’re getting a chance to beat our defense a little bit, which is nice.

“Last year, it felt like there was so much pressure coming and we couldn’t handle it. This year, it’s been the offense winning one day, the defense winning another day. We’ll stalemate, and that’s the kind of competition we want.”

It’s not unusual for a quarterback to feel more at ease in his second season, particularly if the offensive system and personnel stays intact. There’s a saying in football — “When you think, you stink” — and it refers to the importance of knowing your assignment so well, it’s second nature.

“Mark truly didn’t know the system [as a rookie],” said Brian Schottenheimer, Jets offensive coordinator. “He was aware of the system that we were running, but there were times when we would call a play and he’d have to think about it. Unfortunately, playing quarterback, so much of what you’re asked to do is reacting to what the defense does.

“So he has the ability now to kind of own the offense. As I give him a personnel grouping and a formation, he’s able to wave me off and call the play. It shows you that he has that knowledge, so now he’s able to focus so much more on the defense. That’s why you see the strides we’ve made against our defense in training camp.”

If Sanchez follows the overriding pattern of other quarterbacks who reached the playoffs as rookies, he’s in line to take a big step forward.

Quarterbacks who made the playoffs as rookies, and how their first and second seasons compare:

Player; Team; Year; Games; Touchdowns; Interceptions; Yards; Comp.%

Dan Marino; Miami; 1983; 11; 20; 6; 2,210; 58.4

1984; 16; 48; 17; 5,084; 64.2

Bernie Kosar; Cleveland; 1985; 12; 8; 7; 1,578; 58.4

1986; 16; 17; 10; 3,854; 58.4

Jim Everett; L.A. Rams; 1986; 6; 8; 8; 1,018; 49.7

1987; 11; 10; 13; 2,064; 53.6

Todd Marinovich; L.A. Raiders; 1991; 1; 3; 0; 243; 57.5

1992; 7; 5; 9; 1,102; 49.1

Shaun King; Tampa Bay; 1999; 6; 7; 4; 875; 61.0

2000; 16; 18; 13; 2,769; 54.4

Ben Roethlisberger; Pittsburgh; 2004; 14; 17; 11; 2,621; 66.4

2005; 12; 17; 9; 2,385; 62.7

Joe Flacco; Baltimore; 2008; 16; 14; 12; 2,971; 60.0

2009; 16; 21; 12; 3,613; 63.1

Matt Ryan; Atlanta; 2008; 16; 16; 11; 3,440; 61.1

2009; 14; 22; 14; 2,916; 58.3

Mark Sanchez; N.Y. Jets; 2009; 15; 12; 20; 2,444; 53.8