Mark Sanchez ready to step in for Eagles if needed

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

The start of Mark Sanchez's new life as a backup quarterback had something in common with the way his former life as a starter faded. The performance did not match the name.

Sanchez was a full participant throughout the Eagles' spring practice despite October surgery on a torn labrum, although he did not appear to be fully recovered.

He improved as the spring progressed, and continued making strides upon returning to Philadelphia for training camp last week.

Sanchez delivered three sharp days of practice before the team took a day off Tuesday, and the former Jet is on his way to fortifying the Eagles' depth behind Nick Foles.

"I don't even second-guess throws anymore," Sanchez said. "I think during the OTAs I was still feeling things out. Mentally I felt good, but physically I definitely wasn't all the way there. Now the ball's jumping out of my hand and I feel great. . . . It's grip it and rip it."

The Eagles need to come out of the summer with security at backup quarterback after Michael Vick signed with the Jets. That security is expected to be Sanchez, who is only 27 and has 62 regular-season starts and six postseason starts to his name.


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Sanchez, whom Eagles coach Chip Kelly has watched for more than a decade, chatted with the coach and a few Eagles before a preseason game last August. Once the franchise quarterback in New York, Sanchez was five days into a right-shoulder injury that would ultimately end his Jets career.

He was intrigued by what he heard about Kelly's approach in Philadelphia, but he could not foresee what would ensue in the next few months: surgery, a season spent on injured reserve, a delayed release, and eventually signing to compete for the Eagles backup job because of a barren market for starters.

Sanchez paid attention to the Eagles from afar, especially when they began winning in November and December. He wondered, "Wow, what's different about that?"

When Kelly called Sanchez in March, he was intrigued. If he wasn't going to be a starter somewhere, then Philadelphia offered an offense that would be appealing to learn and an opportunity that could help showcase him for whatever comes after a one-year deal.

"Worst-case scenario, I get preseason film with a ton of weapons around me at 100 percent," Sanchez said. "If Nick's kicking butt like he did last year, like I anticipate, maybe we get up on a couple of teams and I get in late in the game and then there's even more film."

There's also a residual benefit to being a backup in Philadelphia, and it's one that the organization pitches. With the number of plays in Kelly's fast-paced practices, the reserves receive steady work. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis charts snaps, and he said that the second- and third-team players get twice the snaps that they did in Davis' other stops. Sanchez, who started four seasons in New York, throws nearly as often as he did when he was atop a depth chart.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same amount or more," Sanchez said.

Kelly has known Sanchez since the quarterback was in high school in Mission Viejo (Calif.), and Kelly recruited Sanchez's successor to New Hampshire. He has tracked Sanchez's career, and knew he had to learn three systems with the Jets. Kelly believed Sanchez needed only time and work to adjust to Philadelphia.

"I think he's been sharp the last few days and really came on toward the end of the spring, and [I've] been really impressed with him as a teammate," Kelly said. "We are really excited to have him . . . because very rarely does your number one make it through the entire season."

That's the part of the story that remains most intriguing.

Sanchez called this the "next chapter" of his career, and he came in understanding that Foles is the starter. But Foles has also been injured in three of his last four seasons, and the Eagles have started more than one quarterback in each of the last five seasons. If Foles goes down, Sanchez is the front-runner to replace him.

"Everybody wants to play," Sanchez said. "But that's just not the case right now. So you've got to be a pro. . . . Just be ready to go.

"And I'll be ready."