Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 NFL Breakouts & Busts - Quarterback

I didn’t do too badly with this exercise last year, hitting big with Matt Schaub (ahem), Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, and Clay Matthews but doing less than stellar with Greg Olsen, Dwayne Bowe and Brian Robiskie. This year I’m going to list some positions and discuss candidates for huge years as well as those I don’t expect to do nearly as well as anticipated starting with…


The first guy that comes to mind when I think about breakout QBs is Joe Flacco, but it’s not because of my expectations for him. It’s that he’s being hyped up by a lot of people this preseason. Not only are he and super stud Rice a year older and wiser, but as far as offensive weapons are concerned, the Ravens added Anquan Boldin in free agency and drafted tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. Derrick Mason decided to come back for a 105th season to give the 3rd year passer two reliable, yet youth-challenged, receivers. Whether he was injured or not (he said he wasn’t when I thought he was) Flacco looked skittish/hesitant and restricted too often for my liking last year. I didn’t see him trusting himself enough. Will he do more of that this year? Even with the offensive additions, is he going to do a lot better than 3,613 yards passing, 21 TDs, and 12 INTs? I expect Ray Rice to blow up (in a good way) even more this year, and that could either hurt (rushing) or help (passing) Flacco’s numbers. Yes, I expect Flacco to impress this year, but I don’t think he’s going to have Aaron Rodgers-like growth.

I think Chad Henne is still a year away from really being in this kind of conversation, but I do expect him to continue developing the skills he often displayed last year. The numbers weren’t where you wanted to a winning QB’s to be, but he often made throws that showed he knew what he was doing with the football. He threw for nearly 2,900 yards last year, including a four game 1,226 yard passing stretch towards the end of the season. Keep in mind he did all this while throwing to Ted Flop Jr., Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, and Anthony Fasano. This year he gets to throw the ball 100+ times to Brandon Marshall, the (clichéd) troubled but talented receiver acquired from Denver this offseason. I’m looking at 2011 as a big year for Henne, but he just might get started early.

Maybe I’m the sucker here, but I’m not seeing a lot of folks talking about Matthew Stafford as we head into 2010. Yeah the Lions are still a bad football team, but they finally gave Calvin Johnson, one of the league’s best young talents, a viable threat across from him to keep defenses somewhat honest in Nate Burleson. When Kevin Smith gets healthy, he’ll team with the game-breaking rookie, Jahvid Best, as a lethal backfield combination. Stafford also has great hands at TE with Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. I expect his 13-20 TD-INT ratio to resemble nearly a mirror opposite this season. His 5 TD last-second-winning game against Cleveland was his first game for the memory banks, and I think you’re going to see a bit more of that this season. The Lions are still going to be pretty bad on defense, so it’s not like he’ll have his throwing chances limited. I foresee a big step forward in year two for Stafford.

Matt Ryan would have had his second straight 3,000 yard season if he hadn’t missed three games due to injury in ’09. At his disposal are the ageless Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White, the league’s best receiver no one talks about. Michael Turner will likely have his workload scaled back a bit this year, both to save his legs and open it up for Ryan a bit more. Matty Ice seems ahead of the curve from a mental standpoint and is ready (IMO) to shoulder more of the load on offense. Don’t be surprised if he approaches 4,000 yards this year and starts to display more of that Manning/Brady-like control of the game. Big year ahead for him IMO.

Kevin Kolb is the biggest boom or bust candidate at this position, and I’m not getting a great feel for how it will play out. Yes, he has DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, and LeSean McCoy as weapons, but he has virtually zero starting experience and has yet to incur the wrath of the Philly faithful and be forced to adjust to it. How’s this for a measuring stick – 63.6% passing completion, 4,038 yards, 28 TDs, 13 INT? Those are Aaron Rodgers’ stats from 2008, his fourth year in the league and his first as starter for the Packers. Kolb is entering his fourth year, his first as a starter, and is in a similarly pass heavy offense. Even with my pro-Rodgers bias aside, I don’t see Kolb sniffing those numbers. A good enough year to keep the McNabb chants at bay? Yes.

Matt Moore was really impressive during his time under center for the Panthers last season, and he enters 2010 as the undisputed starter, for now. The Panthers drafted two QBs in April; Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. Clausen has impressed during camp and is someone I see starting in the NFL in the not too distant future. Pike might even make the team, as he’s currently behind Hunter Cantwell on the depth chart. If the Panthers do end up cutting him, he’s a player I’d like the Bucs to go after. I think Pike has more to work with than Carpenter. I don’t love Pike’s arm or think he’ll ever lead the league in passing, but I believe he has the potential to be a very reliable backup. He’s smart, minimizes mistakes, does a nice job of running an offense, and has some mobility. Back to Moore. The majority of his value won’t show up in the numbers though, as it’s the level-headedness and leadership he brings to the table that the Panthers love. I think the Panthers are going to have trouble breaking .500 again this year, and while Moore may be a noticeable upgrade from Jake Delhomme, I don’t think he’s on the verge of a breakout, and I’m predicting that this is Clausen’s offense by this time next year at the latest.

Kurt Warner retired this offseason leaving Arizona’s starting QB job, again, to Matt Leinart. The lefty from USC has done little in his four years as a pro to show the Cardinals or anyone else that he’s ready to hit the ground running with this potent offense. Anquan Boldin is in Baltimore, and Larry Fitzgerald is already dinged up. Is Beanie Wells ready to be a lead back? Derek Anderson is looking over his shoulder, but I don’t think he’s anything special. Still, I think there’s a better chance this goes bad than good, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Anderson is under center after or around their bye week (6). Leinart hasn’t been a regular starter since ’06, his rookie season, and then he was working with Boldin, Fitzgerald, and Edgerrin James. I can’t say his supporting cast is any better this time around? Is he? I expect him to be inconsistent, hesitant, indecisive, and INT prone. Leinart is probably the most “team-important” player in the NFC West, as far as his team counting on him to take a big step forward and shoulder a large load. Again, I don’t believe this goes well. I think John Skelton, the rookie from Fordham, is the future QB of this team.

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