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Sanchez Ready If Starting Time Is Now

Mark Sanchez knows the drill. He is on call at all times. So with the Eagles' quarterback situation still uncertain for Sunday against Tampa Bay, Sanchez is taking the reps at training, preparing to be the starter.

Doesn't mean he's the guy. The Eagles haven't ruled out Sam Bradford, who missed a second straight day of training as he recovers from a concussion and shoulder injury. We might know on Thursday. We might have to wait until Friday. It's unlikely it will be a gameday decision, but you never know. Once Bradford passes the concussion protocol, the conversation will be had about his ability to play through a left shoulder injury suffered against Miami. Then we'll know.

In the meantime, it's Mark Sanchez Time and this is exactly why the Eagles signed him to a tidy two-year contract in the offseason. Sanchez is a seasoned veteran who has won in the NFL. We know all about him, having seen Sanchez play for half of the 2014 campaign with Nick Foles sidelined after suffering a fractured clavicle.

There is a lot of good in Sanchez' game: He's smart, he can move, he has a command of the offense and his teammates like and trust him. There is also the concern with Sanchez about giving the football away, and his late-game interception on Sunday against Miami was a prime example. Sanchez made the decision to throw the football to wide receiver Miles Austin on a rollout to the left side that was intercepted in the end zone. It was a risk that, in the end, wasn't worth taking.

He has answered the question many times: Why throw it? What can you do to minimize the mistakes, the giveaways, the bumps that have been so harmful?

"You've just got to be smart with the ball and understand the situation and what we need at the time," Sanchez said. "We'll do a good job pushing the pace and then analyzing where we're at and what we're going to accomplish on that specific play."

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A full week of reps in training will help smooth some of the wrinkles we saw on Sunday: The out-of-kilter timing with running back DeMarco Murray on a couple of plays isn't going to be an issue. Receivers who weren't necessarily expecting the ball to come out of Sanchez's hand so quickly are going to know the second time around. The tempo is going to be fast, faster, fastest. Sanchez has this tempo thing down, and he looked good running the offense until the giveaway in the end zone that came at the worst possible time.

And that's the area the Eagles need to remedy. Moving the ball from 20-yard line to 20-yard line is great and it's encouraging and it's wonderful, but the Eagles need to finish off their drives. They are 22nd in the NFL in touchdown efficiency in the red zone at 48.28 percent, down from 49.15 in 2014. They are only at 40 percent efficiency in the most recent three games. Bradford and Sanchez have a combined passer rating of 49.7 in the red zone, worst in the NFL. Five interceptions in the end zone don't help the cause, for sure.

We'll see what kind of adjustments the Eagles made against a fast, aggressive and sound Tampa Bay defense that Sanchez on Wednesday said is "one of the best" the Eagles have seen this season. The offense scored touchdowns on only 2-of-5 red zone trips against Miami and those missed opportunities came back to cost the team a win that would have looked so nice right now.

If it's Sanchez leading the way, he's ready. He's always ready. It's the nature of his job.

"I feel good with it, I feel comfortable and I'm ready to go," Sanchez said. "My preparation doesn't change. I'm accountable to all the guys in this locker room and all the coaches who work so hard. My job is to be ready to play and help this team win. I love the offense and, of course, every rep I can take on the practice field can only help. I take every rep for what it's worth and make the most of them and then I go out and have fun playing."

Whether it's Bradford or Sanchez, the task is a large one. The Eagles have seven games remaining to get where they want to go in this regular season, and that's to the playoffs. Time is precious. Mistakes are magnified. The quarterback play has to be better, among many things with this 4-5 team.

"We have complete confidence in our quarterback, no matter who it is," tight end Zach Ertz said. "We all share the responsibility. We have to win games. We know what the stakes are."

Sanchez certainly does, so when he gets in a goal-to-go situation again, when it's late in the game and the score is tight, how will he handle the moment? We could find out on Sunday if his name is the one called and his job again is to take the field and win a game the Eagles really need to have.

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