Quarterback Barometer

With 4 weeks of the NFL season in the books (almost), and a potentially very strong quarterback class in the upcoming draft, I wanted to take quick look around the league at the potential needs of each team, and at what point in the draft they may look to target a passer.  I found 4 teams in the league that absolutely should be looking for a franchise quarterback in the first round this year, and identified 8 others that could also be looking for someone in the first few rounds.  Conversely, I feel there are 14 teams who don’t even need to consider the quarterback class in the coming NFL draft should they chose not to.

 

Scale Find me a franchise quarterback! (1st round, early 2nd)

We need depth/competition. (1st-3rd)

A mid to late rounder would probably help. (3rd-6th)

Good to go. (7th, undrafted FA or nothing)

 

Arizona Carson Palmer should be the starter short-term but Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley don’t stand out as backups.  The Cards would be wise to invest early and find a long term starter.  They could wait till the 2nd round this year and still get their guy, but someone like Zach Mettenberger would make a lot of sense in the first round.

Atlanta Matt Ryan is still just 28 and the face of the team.  They are pretty high on backup Dominique Davis as well, he is the only other QB on the roster right now.

Baltimore  Joe Flacco is making a lot of money after the Raven’s Super Bowl victory but Tyrod Taylor is their only backup.  I can’t imagine fans or coaches feeling good about the idea of Tyrod starting any games.

Buffalo  EJ Manuel was the first round pick of new coach and offensive guru Doug Marrone, and will be given a few years to develop.  When Kevin Kolb went down with a severe concussion, undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, who was overlooked by many while playing for a bad Washington State team, really gained momentum.  The Bills will be comfortable to develop these two guys for a few years.

Carolina  Cam Newton is the man in Carolina and Derek Anderson is a solid backup who seems content in the role.  They would be much better off finding Cam some help elsewhere on offense (wide receivers).

Chicago  Like him or not, Jay Cutler can be a good quarterback.  Josh McCown is still in the league (who knew?) as the backup, so they could probably use some competition there, but it isn’t pressing as Cutler generally stays healthy and coach Marc Trestman is limiting the chances for him to get hit.

Cincinnati  Andy Dalton has a track record of winning, but his arm strength often leaves fans wanting more.  Backup Josh Johnson, practice squad member Greg McElory, Zach Robinson, who is on the PUP list, all look more like #3 QBs and not like capable starters, so another arm is probably a good idea.

Cleveland  Despite being 2-0 as the starter, I don’t believe Brian Hoyer can’t keep the magic up all season or long team.  Brandon Weeden might get another chance this season, but he can’t be in the teams long term plans anymore, and Jason Campbell isn’t more than an OK backup at this point in his career.  The Browns are beginning to rebuild again and that starts with a quarterback.  Then again, as an offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski has seen the Miami Hurricanes win a National Title with Ken Dorsey behind center and sent Derek Anderson to the Pro Bowl so hey, maybe Brian Hoyer is their future, it is the Browns after all.

Dallas   Tony Romo recently got a contract extension and Kyle Orton is as good a backup as any.  Fans might hate Romo’s mental lapses and the team’s lack of playoff wins, but from a big picture standpoint, Romo isn’t really that bad compared to many other starters around the league.  They might shop for a developmental guy in the mold of Romo years ago, but I don’t expect any major moves just yet.  Another late season meltdown could change that though.

Denver  Peyton Manning.  Ok so despite his best season as a pro, Manning can’t play forever.  Luckily the Broncos are set-up nicely, having drafted Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert in recent years, and at least one of them figures to learn enough from Peyton to be able to take over eventually.

Detroit  Matt Stafford is only 25 and nearly had back to back 5000 yards seasons.  Shaun Hill is a solid backup and the team seems high on Kellen Moore.  Not much to see here.

Green Bay  Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the league and still only 29, but this team desperately needs a backup.  They took Rodgers in the first round despite having Brett Favre as their starter, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the team invested a fairly high pick on a long term backup quarterback this offseason.  That could change if another team gives up on a guy that Green Bay likes (IE Josh Freeman, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden or even Matt Schaub).

Houston  Matt Schaub might not make it through the season as the starter after being booed at home again this week.  Both TJ Yates and Case Keenum have flashed at points and this season will tell a lot about the teams long term plans.  I’m not ready to call for a 1st round draft pick yet because of the presence of both Yates and Keenum, but they could be looking soon.

Indianapolis  Possibly the luckiest team ever to get the first overall pick in the years of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.  You almost have to expect that they next time they need a quarterback, there will be an elite prospect just waiting for them.  They also brought in veteran Matt Hasselbeck to hold the clipboard, so they don’t have any pressing needs until Hasselbeck retires.  I figure Matt stays around with the hopes of getting a ring soon.

Jacksonville  What a mess this team is right now.  I fully expect the Jaguars to have the #1 overall pick this year and for Teddy Bridgewater to be their week 1 starter next season.  It really isn’t a bad situation for a rookie quarterback to come into either as the offensive line is solid and Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon (presumably not suspended) and Ace Sanders are already in place as receivers.

Kansas City  What a job Andy Reid has done through 4 games this year.  I questioned some of the team’s decisions this offseason, but the early results are impressive.  Alex Smith seems to be a solid starter, Chase Daniel is the short term backup and Tyler Bray very well could be the long term solution.  I don’t think they need anyone, but Andy does like drafting quarterbacks.

Miami  Ryan Tannehill looks like the future of this team and his development has been outstanding.  Matt Moore chose to stay as the backup rather than try to start elsewhere and Pat Devlin is the developmental guy.  I don’t expect any moves.

Minnesota  I have my doubts that Christian Ponder is the solution at quarterback and Matt Cassel, despite playing well in England this weekend, is not a starter.  McLeod John Baltazar Bethel-Thompson is currently the third string quarterback (I’m not lying, check for yourself).  If I’m the Vikings front office, I’m going back to the well for a quarterback this year while we still have Adrian Peterson.

New England  Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere and Ryan Mallett is still the backup.  They signed Tim Tebow for a while in the preseason but that was probably just Bill Belichik doing a favor for his pal Urban Meyer.  They won’t do more than look for a late round project.

New Orleans  Drew Brees is the man in New Orleans and Luke McCown (he is still in the league too?  Damn McCown’s) is the only backup with hometown Ryan Griffin on the practice squad.  The roster has talent all around and this team figures to go late into the postseason though, so this might be the time to grab the quarterback of the future at the end of the first round.

New York Giants  Despite the team’s struggles, Eli Manning is still a top quarterback.  Veteran Curtis Painter is the backup for now and Ryan Nassib was drafted last year to take that role long term.  There is no way this team is moving on from Eli yet, no matter how bad they play this year.

New York Jets  Geno Smith was the big name quarterback in last years draft and fell to the Jets in the 2nd round.  Mark Sanchez is on IR and presumably done playing for this team.  Uninspiring Matt Sims and Brady Quinn round out the depth chart, and Sims might even get a chance to start if Geno continues to struggle.  The team has other holes, however, and I expect Geno gets at least one more season to prove his worth.

Oakland  This is a tough one because its possible the team loves Terrell Pryor.  Matt Flynn is a solid backup if Pryor remains the starter, and Matt McGloin did enough to earn his spot in the pre-season.  I would expect the Raiders to use this year as an audition for Pryor, but they really should bring in stronger competition for next year.

Philadelphia  Another tough situation to project.  It seems like this will be Michael Vick’s last year in Philadelphia but no one knows if Nick Foles or Matt Barkley can be the starters moving forward.  If the Eagles end up with a top 10 pick again, it will likely mean both Vick and Foles had shots at starting, so my gut instinct is that a quarterback like Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota are brought in to compete with Foles/Barkley.  This one is entirely up in the air though because I do believe that Barkley could be the quarterback of the future as well.

Pittsburgh  Much like Eli Manning in New Jersey York, Ben Roethlisberger is the man in Pittsburgh despite the teams early struggles.  The backups Bruce Gradkowski and rookie Landry Jones are solid enough.  I don’t expect anything outside of a potential veteran backup shuffle here.

San Diego  This has been Phillip Rivers comeback season so far and if he keeps it up, he will remain in the team’s long term plans.  Veteran Charlie Whitehurst came back to San Diego as the backup and rookie Brad Sorenson is the 3rd QB and developmental guy.  Unless Rivers falls apart in a big way, they won’t need to make any moves.

San Francisco  Colin Kaepernick was inserted as the starter over Alex Smith mid-season last year, and the team almost won the Super Bowl.  Kaep has struggled early this year but he is still their guy.  Colt McCoy is a one year backup plan until BJ Daniels is ready to assume the role full-time.

Seattle Russell Wilson is another young quarterback who is already the guy for his team.  Tarvaris Jackson is a very strong backup for the team as well so I can’t imagine they will be looking.

St. Louis  The Rams seem committed to Sam Bradford as their long term answer at quarterback, but he has many detractors.  If they do choose to move on from Bradford, there are no in-house options as Kellen Clemens is the only backup.  If they like someone in the 2nd or 3rd round, they should absolutely pull the trigger, and with 2 first round draft picks this year thanks to the Redskins and the RG3 trade, the first round is absolutely an option as well.

Tampa Bay  Josh Freeman has been removed as the starter and rookie Mike Glennon has taken over.  Dan Orlovsky is the backup right now.  If anyone on that list excites you as a long term quarterback option, good luck.  I expect a new head coach to be in town next season and Glennon will presumably have the rest of the season to audition for a starting role, but if I’m the new coach I am drafting someone to at least compete with him.

Tennessee  Jake Locker looked like a new man and a legit quarterback until his injury this week.  Luckily the team has a viable backup in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and veteran Titan Rusty Smith is still around on the practice squad.  The team doesn’t need anyone as long as Locker comes back healthy and continues his improvement.

Washington  RG3 was rushed back to start this season, despite the fact that Kirk Cousins has shown himself to be a strong backup.  Rex Grossman is the best #3 quarterback in the league.  I can’t imagine the team needing to draft anyone this offseason unless RG3 suffers another major injury.

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Catching up with the NFL season

Week 4 is already underway in St. Louis tonight, as the 49ers look to get back on track after a terrible two week stretch.  The home team Rams, meanwhile, look for a big divisional upset in the early stages of the season.  With 3 weeks in the books, some teams seem to have issues, some are exceeding expectations, while others simply, as Denny Green so eloquently put, are who we thought they were.  Lets review the first 3 weeks.

 

NOT LOOKING GOOD

New York Giants – Has any team looked worse than the Giants so far?  A -61 net point differential, good for 2nd worst in the league, thanks to a defense allowing 38 points per game.  The Giants have no running game and Eli has thrown 8 interceptions already.  With road games at Kansas City and Chicago in the near future, paired with 2 games verses the ultra-productive Eagles offense, things may look even worse by the time their week 9 bye rolls around.  Tom Coughlin may decide it’s time to retire and a top 10 draft pick could be in the team’s future.  Jake Matthews would make sense so Pugh can slide inside and Eli can have a second to look downfield.  The 4 sacks in the first quarter and 6 in the first half last week versus Carolina were unacceptable.

Washington Redskins – If you read my sophomore slump post, you know I was very down on both RG3 and Alfred Morris this year.  I was worried about RG3’s knee early in the season and thought teams would be able to load the box to slow down Morris.  Griffin has responded by throwing for over 300 yards a game, but the team has been slow to start and the defense has been the worst in the league.  They have been unlucky to play Philadelphia, Green Bay and Detroit in the early going, but I’m not convinced the defense has the talent to rebound too much.  Away games at Oakland and at division leader Dallas are sandwiched around a bye that the team desperately needs to use to get things back on track

Pittsburgh Steelers – Only 51.7 rushing yards per game means the team’s offense has to relay on Big Ben and the passing game, but the offensive line hasn’t been able to give him any time.  Todd Haley’s play calling has been a big issue and I’m not sure things will get better as long as he is calling plays.  After a long trip to Wembley Stadium in England, the team gets a much needed bye week before playing 3 of their next 4 games on the road.  The Steelers have the talent to turn things around but they are also in a deep hole and it very well could be a throw away season.

 

BETTER THAN EXPECTED

Kansas City Chiefs – A rejuvenated Andy Reid is running a fairly conservative passing offense and they team is running the ball (9th in the league in rushing attempts!!).  The defense ranks 3rd in scoring, 9th in yards and leagues the league in sacks while only allowing opponents to convert on 28% of their 3rd downs.  With 4 of their next 5 games coming at home, including matchups with the Giants, Raiders and Browns, this team could be racing out to high win totals and will put Andy Reid back in the playoffs.  The biggest concern for the team will be injuries, because they lack depth at pretty much every position.

Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins are 3-0 and have already beat Indy and Atlanta.  Ryan Tannehill has taken the next step in his 2nd year in the league and really looks like a great pick.  I still don’t know if I believe this team can sustain their success for the rest of the year, and a mid-season stretch with a short away trip to Tampa Bay followed by home games versus San Diego, Carolina and the New York Jets will determine how their season ends.

New Orleans Saints – Their offense isn’t surprising, and really the win total isn’t either.  If anything, 23.3 points per game sounds low for this team.  The shocker here is their top 5 defense after being bad at a record-setting level last season.  Many people, myself included, have been very negative towards Rob Ryan’s abilities as a coach, but whatever he is doing this year is outstanding.

New York Jets – The other Ryan, Rex, is doing a heck of a coaching job as well this year as the Jets are 2-1.  The team was the butt (sorry) of quite a few jokes going into the season but the team is playing solid football.  Bilal Powell is underrated and Stephen Hill is ready to breakout on in the mold of the other tall, fast receivers from Georgia Tech (See Johnson, Calvin and Thomas, Demaryius).  The team lacks talent all around, but as long as the defense keeps playing like a top 10 unit, Geno can learn on the go.  They weren’t projected to get much more than a few wins and with 2 on the books already, this season can be considered a success.

 

THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE

Jacksonville Jaguars – As expected the Jags have the worst offense and one of the worst defenses in the league.  Blaine Gabbert has already missed 2 games, but with Chad Henne unimpressive in those 2 starts, Gabbert is returning as the starter and fans are already clamoring for local favorite Tim Tebow.  I really expected that MJD was the running back headed to Indy last week, but its possible injuries have caught up with him for good now.  Teddy Bridewater can start looking for homes in the Jacksonville area.

Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos – These teams are playing as expected, but in their cases, that is a good thing.  These were the favorite teams in their respective conferences and after 3 games, they still are.  The Broncos are 1st yards and scoring, and Peyton Manning is playing at MVP level, possibly better, with 12 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and has completed 73% of his passes.  This offense is impossible to match up against with Thomas, Decker, Welker and breakout player of the year Julius Thomas.  The defense is still good enough to get by, even without Champ Bailey and Von Miller, just wait till they are both back.  Looking at the schedule, the upstart Chiefs and a week 16 game at Houston are the only games that scare me, but honestly, by week 16 the games might not even matter for them, as they will have the #1 seed locked up.  Start the 16-0, to rest or not to rest talk now.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, have the 4th most points scored and have the #1 defense, allowing only 27 points TOTAL.  This team might be unbeatable at home and has great depth across the board.  They play at Houston and at Indy the next 2 weeks and still have road games at Atlanta and the rematch at San Fran, but its hard to see them losing more than 3 games total.

Predictions for the 2013 season

I had this article started but did not get a chance to post it prior to the first Sunday of games.  My friend and sometimes contributor Tim and I each set out our predictions for this season.  They will be listed as a quick chart below, followed by some explanation from each of us.  Feel free to comment on how wrong we both are for our predictions.

AFC Division Winners:  Tim – Patriots, Bengals, Texans, Broncos

Ryan – Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Broncos

AFC Wild Cards:  Tim – Bills, Ravens

Ryan – Titans, Chiefs

NFC Division Winners:  Tim – Niners, Saints, Packers, Cowboys

Ryan – Niners, Falcons, Packers, Eagles

NFC Wild Cards:  Tim – Seahawks, Falcons

Ryan – Seahawks, Saints

 

NFC Rookie of the Year:  Tim – Eddie Lacy,  Ryan – Tyrann Mathieu

AFC Rookie of the Year:  Tim – E.J. Manuel,  Ryan – Giovanni Bernard

Defensive Player of the year:  Tim – Aldon Smith,  Ryan  – Clay Matthews

Offensive Player of the year:  Tim – Peyton Manning,  Ryan – Peyton Manning

 

MVP:  Tim – Aaron Rodgers

Ryan – Colin Kaepernick

 

 

My Rationale: 

I left out the Texans in the AFC South and had both the Colts and Titans replace them.  This was more about my concern of the Texans being a team who could fall out of the playoffs than it is an endorsement for the Titans or Colts as a championship contender.  My last wildcard spot was the Chiefs.  Their offensive line is very good and the pass-rush can be scary with Hali and Houston.  If Alex Smith can take care of the ball, Andy Reid will pile up a decent amount of wins.

In the NFC nothing is too surprising, there are a lot of teams with the talent to make the playoffs.  I picked the Eagles to win the East partially as a homer and partially because no one in that division impresses me and someone has to win.  The Saints are my last wild-card despite my despise for any defense led by Rob Ryan, their offense is just too good.  The Bears are the one team that I think can seriously challenge.

I like Eddie Lacy for NFC rookie of the year but went a different route.  In the AFC Gio Bernard has a lot of hype following Hard Knocks so it won’t take more than a few big plays to get him the award.  If Peyton Manning isn’t the offensive player of the year with his group of receivers, something is wrong.  I went with Clay Matthews for Defensive POY because of an improved group around him that should allow him to make plays.  My MVP is Colin Kaepernick, I am in that group of people that is in love with his skill set and the Niners should be the best team in the league this year.

 

 

 

Tim’s Rationale:

AFC:

Patriots

Bengals

Texans

Broncos

Only real surprise here is the Bengals taking the AFC North. They are a team on the rise, and have maybe the only defense that can compete with the 2 powerhouses in the NFC West in Seattle and San Francisco. The Patriots shouldn’t have too much competition in the AFC East with the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins. I expect the Bills and Dolphins to be improved, but it would take a lot to unseat the Patriots there. The Broncos and Texans should dominate weak divisions, but the Colts could be a sneaky team.  I just don’t see them getting the same luck (no pun intended) they did last season in close games.

 

NFC:

Cowboys

Packers

Saints

49ers

The NFC is stacked with good teams, making these picks that much more difficult. Obviously 2 teams stand out, the Cowboys and Saints. The pick of the Cowboys is all about health. I think this is their last chance to put it all together, keep Austin, Murray, and the offensive line healthy and make a run for the playoffs. Any of those 4 teams could win the division without much of a thought, but I like their chances. The Packers should cruise in the North behind Rodgers and Lacy. The Saints will be rejuvenated by the return of Sean Payton. The offense is never a question, but the team looked lost last season at times, and I think his leadership will catapult them over the Falcons. The 49ers and Seahawks are a toss-up, so I took the team I think has better line play on both sides of the ball, and that was the 49ers.

 

Wild Card:

AFC:

Bills

Ravens

The BILLS! Yes I know, it seems crazy, but stay with me here. Talent is not the issue with this team. C.J. Spiller is a beast, Stevie Johnson is a solid WR, and EJ Manuel could really surprise some people with his ability. He may not be the greatest single game QB, but he knows how to put together a decent season. Their D-Line should be great. They underperformed last season, but I’m optimistic  they play to their potential. The Ravens just squeak in over the Colts and a bevy of 8-8 teams that will likely come out of the AFC. Let’s see what Flacco can do when he’s the “man”

 

NFC:

Seahawks

Falcons

Again, the NFC is so stacked. Right now I have the Redskins, Giants, Bears, Lions, and Vikings as the teams on the outside looking in.  Any one of them could make a serious run at that 6th seed, but this race will be interesting to watch all season.

 

Rookie of the Year:

EJ Manuel

Eddie Lacy

Manuel gets the nod because I believe he leads the Bills to the playoffs, and that puts him over the top for any players in the AFC. Lacy should get enough touches in the Packers offense to put up the kind of numbers that win awards. I don’t really see any defensive players having the kind of impact these rookies do, but one name to watch if it does come from the defense is Ziggy Ansah. That’s a tough lineup to crack, but if he gets regular snaps he could be a handful for offensive lines to block.

 

Defensive Player of the Year:

Aldon Smith

Smith is a sack artist extraordinaire, and with the likely regression of JJ Watt from the season he had last year, Smith has an opportunity to claim the title this year. Von Miller’s suspension helps a little too. If the 49ers don’t win the division, look for Watt to repeat.

 

Offensive Player of the Year:

Peyton Manning

Unlike last season, when Adrian Peterson took home both Player of the Year and MVP, this season will see a split between the two awards like the past. Peyton will come up short of the MVP, but in leading the Broncos to the AFC West crown, and just being Peyton Manning (7 TDs in the first game helps) he will take home the Offensive POTY award.

 

Most Valuable Player:

Aaron Rodgers

Not a huge shocker here.  Rodgers is the best QB in football right now. He plays on one of the best teams in the NFL. I don’t really pay attention to the people talking about his leadership skills. Jermichael Finley needs to be more concerned with actually catching the passes thrown his way than how Rodgers leads. Expect Peterson, Manning, and Brees to be in contention, but Rodgers will walk away with the hardware.