By David F. Cohen

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez has just entered the most important month in his NFL career.

He needs a December to remember.

It’s not a surprise that Sanchez has been able to rebuild his career with the Eagles, given how friendly Chip Kelly’s system can be to quarterbacks. Sanchez has basically matched Nick Foles’s broader level of production during 2014, even if the style is slightly different:

There are a couple of hidden factors that might have made things easier for Sanchez.

He’s spent his time behind a healthier offensive line than Foles, who was behind Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, and a bunch of backups for most of the season before fracturing his clavicle. In addition, Sanchez hasn’t played a very difficult schedule during his four weeks as the starter; he’s played the checked-out secondaries of Carolina and Tennessee, the rapidly declining Dallas pass defense, and looked worst against the only above-average (by DVOA) pass defense he’s faced, Green Bay. This Sunday’s game against Seattle will be Sanchez’s biggest test to date as Philly’s quarterback.

Of course, Sanchez has even more to battle with over the next month than most of the other players on this list.

First, Sanchez has to play well enough to convince the Eagles to leave Foles on the bench when he’s cleared to return from his collarbone injury. Then he has to play well enough to keep the Eagles ahead in the NFC East, a division that may come down to the home game against Dallas on Dec. 14.

If the Birds blow their lead while Sanchez plays poorly, he’s likely to take the bulk of the blame. On top of all of that, Sanchez needs to play well enough to convince Kelly that he — and not Foles or somebody in the draft — is Philly’s quarterback of the future. Sanchez is an unrestricted free agent after the season, while Foles will have one year remaining on his rookie deal. If Sanchez plays well enough, the Eagles could choose to re-sign him while getting a draft pick or two for Foles while his value remains relatively high.

Then again, Kelly has been relatively ruthless about replacing quarterbacks during his time as the head coach at Oregon and now with the Eagles, so Sanchez may find himself in an interesting situation. The Eagles may very well lowball him with what amounts to a one-year deal with team options, like a small-scale version of the Colin Kaepernick deal. If he gets a multiyear offer with guaranteed money past 2015 from a team like the Bills or Rams, would it be better for Sanchez to take the financial security and leave for a less-comfortable system with inferior coaching? The best thing Sanchez can do is play well enough in December (and January) to leave himself able to pick between those options this spring.


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