By Josh Kramer
Last year was declared the “Year of the Quarterback.” It easily could have been called the “Year of the Tight End” as well. To be a contender these days in the NFL, it all starts with the quarterback position. Without a solid player under center, a team can kiss the Lombardi Trophy goodbye before they even play a down. Here are five quarterbacks that have the most to prove heading into the 2012/2013 season.
5. Andy Dalton/Cam Newton
I have a tie at the five-spot. While Cam Newton received the vast majority of the national media attention, there was another pretty good rookie quarterback in Cincinnati. Both rookie stars not only met expectations, but they exceeded them. This resulted in both booking a trip to the Pro Bowl. In the NFL, it is widely speculated that there is a thing called the sophomore slump for quarterbacks. Two recent quarterbacks that come to mind who were victims of this so-called sophomore slump are Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan. Expectations are high in both Cincinnati and Carolina where most fans are saying playoffs or bust. Will Dalton and Newton be able to handle the hype in year number two?
4. Josh Freeman
After being one of the feel good stories of 2010 (though they missed the playoffs), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments in 2011. Since taking over as the starter for Tampa Bay midway through the 2009 season, not too many people really knew what to expect of the physically imposing quarterback out of Kansas State. Not only was Freeman a key cog to the Tampa Bay ten win season of 2010, he became the first Buccaneer quarterback since Brad Johnson in 2003 to start all 16 games, put up the highest quarterback rating (95.6) in franchise history, and had an astonishing 25 to 6 touchdown to interception ratio. So is the Freeman of 2010 or the Freeman of 2011 going to show up in 2012? Your guess is as good as mine.
3. Philip Rivers
Many including myself predicted Rivers would take home the 2011 MVP Award. Many including myself were dead wrong. The former North Carolina State star has started every game in San Diego for the past six years. In 2011 he posted his lowest quarterback passer rating since his second year as the starter back in 2007 (88.7). The most frightening statistic of 2011 was that he tossed five more interceptions than he ever had in a season previously. Philip’s unexpected mediocre play was a large reason why San Diego failed to make the playoffs. Will the Philips of old show up in 2012?
2. Peyton Manning
Go figure a four-time MVP award winner and a former Super Bowl champion is not only on this list, but near the top. Peyton Manning was brought to Denver to do one thing, and one thing only: Win. At the ripe age of 36-years-old and fresh off of multiple neck surgeries, the clock is ticking on arguably the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. Manning has not taken a snap in a real game situation since January 8, 2011. He has to be salivating in anticipation of Sunday, September 9th. Will he be the second-coming of John Elway in Denver?
1. Mark Sanchez
2011 did not end as planned for Mark Sanchez. The three-year starter played woefully during the final three weeks of the season, tossing seven interceptions and completing a pitiful 56% of his passes. With the arrival of Tim Tebow, the newly anointed “Kardashian” of professional sports, the heat is on Mark Sanchez to go big or go home.
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