Redskins

Still Jets' starter, Sanchez out to prove himself

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Still Jets' starter, Sanchez out to prove himself

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Mark Sanchez spent a few days after his miserable performance wondering what was next.

The New York Jets quarterback had been benched, his coach tired of his mistakes, and there was no guarantee Rex Ryan would give him his job back anytime soon.

``I knew at some point before I died, I'd start at quarterback again,'' Sanchez said Wednesday. ``I'm glad it's this week.''

Ryan gathered his three quarterbacks Wednesday morning and told them he made up his mind: He's sticking with Sanchez.

For this week, at least.

Ryan weighed his options after pulling Sanchez for Greg McElroy last Sunday against Arizona, talking to many people within the organization before settling on his quarterback.

``I have to get this decision right,'' Ryan said, ``and I believe I have.''

So it will be Sanchez and not McElroy or Tim Tebow on Sunday when the Jets take on the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

``I'm pleased with coach's decision,'' Sanchez said. ``Now it's my job to go make him right.''

Sanchez was removed late in the third quarter against Arizona, and McElroy came in and led the Jets to the only touchdown of the game on his first NFL drive, helping New York to a 7-6 victory. Sanchez was 10 of 21 for 97 and three interceptions, while McElroy was 5 of 7 for 29 yards and the score, and appeared to spark the team.

Including, the Jets hope, Sanchez.

``When I looked at everything, the biggest thing I kept coming back to is, who gives us the best opportunity to win?'' Ryan said. ``When I kept coming back to that, I believe the correct answer was Mark Sanchez.''

It was perhaps the biggest call in Ryan's nearly four years as coach, considering the sensitivity of the situation and the possible ramifications. He acknowledged there were differing opinions among those he spoke to, but said he received no pressure from owner Woody Johnson and added that Johnson was ``absolutely'' OK with the decision.

``From the day Mr. Johnson hired me,'' Ryan said, ``he said it's 100 percent my decision who plays.''

Sanchez, whose confidence was shaken with Sunday's performance, gets a chance to bounce back from the first benching of his NFL career and to regain the trust of his teammates. He has struggled recently, with two touchdowns and five interceptions in his last four games.

``It was probably the worst and best experience of my life,'' Sanchez said. ``Hopefully, you learn from it and move on and never look back. It was definitely was the worst, but it could turn around and be one of the best things that's ever happened.''

He said he had never been benched, except for maybe on his fifth-grade basketball team.

``I think (Ryan) was, more or less, sending a message and it's well-received,'' Sanchez said. ``I know. I got it.''

He'll likely be on a short leash against Jacksonville - with Tebow the No. 2 if healthy, and McElroy also ready to go - but Ryan acknowledged it might not be a quick hook if he struggles. Ryan also referenced the team's color-coded system which determined how much risk Sanchez can take with each pass, saying the quarterback is now back in the ``red light'' area - meaning he must be extremely cautious.

``If he throws one interception, it doesn't mean he's going to get benched, necessarily,'' Ryan said.

It's still uncertain if Tebow will be active against his hometown Jaguars while he recovers from two broken ribs. Despite being medically cleared by team doctors to play, Ryan chose to keep him active but not play against New England on Thanksgiving night, and then made him inactive against Arizona.

If Ryan went with McElroy, a seventh-round pick in 2011 out of Alabama, it would have been a clear indication the franchise is moving on from Sanchez.

``I'm just disappointed because I let a lot of people down,'' Sanchez said. ``You let a lot of teammates down when you play like that. That never feels good. It just doesn't, not the way I prepare, not with the skill set I've been blessed to have.''

Money might have played a role in the decision, too, with Sanchez owed $8.25 million next year in guarantees. But Ryan adamantly denied that factored into things.

``Absolutely zero,'' he said without hesitating.

Still, the Jets are likely stuck with Sanchez and his contract, so they need to see if he can rebound after the lowest point of his career.

``I believe in Mark,'' Ryan said.

It didn't appear Tebow was much of a factor in Ryan's decision. Ryan said all three quarterbacks would be in the mix, but didn't speculate whether he would have pulled Sanchez in favor of Tebow last Sunday if he were active.

``I'm not too worried about it,'' Tebow said. ``Just trying to get better and trying to heal up.''

Tebow was expected to have a major role in the offense, but instead has been a spare part averaging about seven offensive snaps per game. He has been listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, but if the Jets turned to McElroy, it would have meant the No. 3 guy leapfrogged Tebow to start for the Jets.

McElroy said he has had a ``normal'' week so far, taking his usual number of snaps along with practicing with the scout team.

``You're not guaranteed anything, not at all,'' McElroy said. ``You do your best to make the most of your opportunity and do your best to help the team.''

The fact the next two games are on the road should also help Sanchez. He was booed mercilessly by the MetLife Stadium crowd last Sunday, particularly after each interception, and chants for McElroy were heard throughout the game. McElroy was cheered as he warmed up late in the third quarter, and there was growing sentiment among some fans and media that he earned a start after lifting the team.

``This is my opinion,'' Ryan said, ``and I believe that sometimes you don't need to sit a guy for `X' amount of games.''

Now, Ryan has sent the message to Sanchez: perform or else. And Sanchez gets another shot to save his job this season - and his status as the Jets' franchise quarterback.

``This kind of thing affects people's lives and careers,'' Sanchez said. ``It's not just, `Oh, man. Bummer.' It's not like that. This is serious.''

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Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

ESPN Fantasy Football expert Matthew Berry was at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere last weekend in Los Angeles, where he got the chance to interview the three Redskins rookies in attendance: Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin, and Bryce Love. 

Berry, who was a guest of JP Finlay's on the Redskins Talk podcast on Thursday, has been a fan of the Burgundy and Gold since he was a kid, so he was eager to talk to three of the team's newest players and learn more about them.

It was during those interviews where Berry got a quick glimpse of a side of Haskins that now has Berry really excited.

"I thought what was really cool was... When I was interviewing McLaurin, Dwayne Haskins came in and interrupted the interview to give him some crap," he told Finlay. "It was really a wonderful moment to see. Obviously, they know each other very well from Ohio State, but just the fact that they felt comfortable enough and he wanted to come over and mess with him a little bit and have some fun, I was impressed with that."

Once Haskins left, Berry explained how he asked McLaurin about the interaction. Redskins fans will like McLaurin's answer.

"That's Dwayne, Dwayne is being a leader," McLaurin said, per Berry. 

Haskins did something similar to Love during Love's interview as well. Berry even caught up with Colts receiver Parris Campbell, who also played with the QB at Ohio State, to inquire about the 15th overall pick. 

"I asked him, 'Listen, I'm a diehard Redskins fan, what am I getting?'" Berry said. "He couldn't have been more effusive. 'You're not only getting a guy who puts the ball where you want it, but you're getting a leader. You're getting a guy who makes sure everyone in the huddle is included.'"

You can be skeptical of how much these little moments mean, and that's fair. Ultimately, how quickly Haskins picks up Jay Gruden's playbook and how accurate his arm turns out to be will factor more into his success in the NFL than being able to joke around a bit with some of his guys.

But you can also hope that these little moments are hints of a bigger personality and approach, a look into an athlete who can get a football team to buy into him. That's the side Berry is on.

"I thought that was really cool, and just showed somebody who's very comfortable in the leadership position and who's trying to be inclusive of everyone," he said. "It's early in the process, but I have yet to hear somebody on or off the record say something bad about Dwayne Haskins."

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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

For Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics, last season's heartbreak in the WNBA Finals is only fuel for another potential postseason run in 2019. 

"That's something I don't think I'll ever let go," Washington's star forward told Chris Miller on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk podcast. "It's always tough when you get to that Finals and you can't finish it off. But I think it's something that can fuel you. You don't want to let it just bring you down and depress you and make it so you can't get over that hump."

"If you use it as fuel and motivation, it can help you get better. I think that's what we're all gonna do."

The Mystics reached their first WNBA Finals in franchise history in 2018 but ultimately lost to the Seattle Storm. Delle Donne, recently named in WNBA.com's GM survey as the favorite to win league MVP, is back for her third season in Washington and headlines a strong team that has the talent to compete for the title again.

Her status for Saturday's season opener against the Connecticut Sun is up in the air due to a left knee injury, but Delle Donne believes the Mystics will have another great season given the continuity on the roster from last season and the return of All-Star forward Emma Meesseman. 

"We feel great. We've got our core back," said Delle Donne. "And to be able to add a superstar like Emma to that roster is pretty scary. Especially with her style of play and the way that our team started playing last season, where it was such positionless basketball. Spreading the floor, just spreading it, making it easy for one another to attack, get some threes. She's just gonna add so much to that."

NBC Sports Washington will be broadcasting 10 Mystics home games during the 2019 WNBA season. For the full regular season schedule, click here.

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