The draft that seemed to take forever to arrive has finally passed. The 2014 class of rookies now knows the new city they’ll call home for the next few years, or so they hope.
Undrafted rookies, a good amount of them anyway, have received the one thing they’ve been waiting for their entire life: a shot at making an NFL team. Workout players have come and gone as rookie mini-camps have already become a thing of the past. In the NFL, one thing is for sure for some guys, things happen quickly, very quickly.
For the scouts and the analysts and experts, the offseason has arrived. There are no more mock drafts to do, scouting reports to compile, big boards to put together, that’s all over with… for now at least. The next few weeks will be uneventful for the most part as teams continue organized team activities and voluntary workouts in through June that will take them into training camp and then the preseason.
But, as we all know, there really is no offseason in the National Football League.
At a time when the winds of the NFL are calm, another storm is brewing somewhere. This one is for all the fans who love a good quarterback controversy. Honestly, who doesn’t love a little competition and controversy at the quarterback position?
Here’s a preview of the top-10 most intriguing quarterback battles to watch this offseason.
10. Ryan Mallett vs. Jimmy Garappolo (New England)
In New England, the storyline at quarterback is who will emerge as Tom Brady’s back-up? Is it the player who knows the playbook and has been with the team for two years in Ryan Mallett or is it the new, young gun out of Eastern Illinois with several Brady-like traits? I’m not sure, but I’m not putting too much faith in Mallett.
The Patriots gave up a second round pick to get this kid who many say they see a good dose of Brady in. I do as well. His quick release and his footwork standout to me the most, along with his athleticism and his ability to step-up in the pocket to avoid pressure. I think Mike Mayock said it best, “With Tom Brady at his age and Ryan Mallett’s uncertain status, that’s what forces this pick. This is an insurance policy for the unknown future.”
That’s a pretty big insurance policy.
The Boston Herald has reported as well that the team was so impressed with Garappolo, they felt the need to take him as early as possible and that they see him as the successor as opposed to Mallett. Remember the rumors that broke during the draft about Mallett joining Bill O’Brien in Houston? Yeah, totally re-assuring if you’re Mallett. Not!
9. Jake Locker vs. Zach Mettenberger (Tennessee)
Ken Wisenhunt has a tough decision to make over the next few months.
Who is going to take over his offense? Is it going to be the fourth-year veteran who hasn’t done much but imitate Blaine Gabbert and throw interceptions while getting sacked play after play? Could it be the sitting duck from LSU in Mettenberger who has a build like JaMarcus Russell? Only time will tell, but I’m sure glad I don’t have to be the one to make that call. Yikes.
The Titans decided not to pick-up the fifth-year option on Jake Locker’s contract for a reason, he isn’t any better than Gabbert and they are starting to realize such. On the other hand, you have the one quarterback in the draft who isn’t the least bit mobile who’s coming off of an ACL injury and has been flagged by the rest of the league for back issues. Again, it’s a tough call.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, I think Locker starts here. For me, the deciding factor is what Mettenberger told The Tennesseean, “I am not moving as fluidly as I have in the past but I am working hard to get back there. Being in the brace for two months, trying to learn how to walk, you lose a lot of muscle. … I just have to keep working.”
That’s not what I want to hear from my starting quarterback.
8. Brian Hoyer vs. Johnny Manziel (Cleveland)
Johnny Football to lead Cleveland….or so we thought.
Despite Manziel being a more exciting player than Brian Hoyer, who as of right now is penciled in to be the starter, excitement isn’t as important as winning. Both owner and head coach are on the same page in Cleveland as both have stated Manziel is the back-up and “needs to act like such”.
One key difference between Hoyer and Manziel is that, like Tim Tebow, Manziel requires a more-tailored fit of an offensive scheme that’s built to fit his skill-set. Hoyer is a more traditional, pocket-passing quarterback, just not a very good one. The one thing that is helping Manziel, ironically, is the indefinite suspension (I assume) that is coming for wide receiver Josh Gordon, the team’s top weapon.
For Hoyer, not having his top target could hurt him and force head coach Mike Pettine and crew to throw Johnny Football into the starting group and let him make plays with his feet and his arm.
7. Chad Henne vs. Blake Bortles (Jacksonville)
Dave Caldwell is a very sneaky man. When he’s got a good hand, he’s not going to tip you in the least way possible and will hold it close to his chest. This young general manager is such mastermind at working his craft and the rest of the league is slowly starting to find that out.
For that very reason, everything I hear from him from now on I will take with a grain of salt and really have think about in more ways than one. That being said, I’m not entirely buying the “2014 is Bortles redshirt season” talk. I agree with them on signing Chad Henne to another two-year deal to serve as the bridge to whoever they see as the guy for the future, which now we all know is Blake Bortles.
In quite a bleak free agent class, Henne was arguably one of the top talents at quarterback on the market, and that isn’t saying a whole lot. To his credit, the offense did start to make big improvements at the end of last season, thus, they won some games. On top of that, Henne is someone who is already familiar with the playbook, he’s already familiar with the coaching style of head coach Gus Bradley, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo
However, the minute the team is eliminated from having any chance at all in making the postseason, Henne will only have to keep the bench warm. Caldwell, Bradley and Fisch have really gone out of their way to take all the insurmountable pressure that rookies normally have, off of Bortles. They’ve removed that for him and in the long run, that is going to pay off big time because it will allow him to develop quicker and not worry about the small things he might not get right the first time. Henne will start Week 1, but beyond Week 8, I see Bortles being the guy.
6. Andy Dalton vs. AJ McCarron (Cincinnati)
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably AJ McCarron’s biggest advocate. That being said, we all know what Andy Dalton can do and what he can’t do. That latter of which is win when it counts, when it’s important. He’s been in the league long enough now to have had several chances to show what he can do, and he has. The Cincinnati Bengals are only going to go as far his inconsistency will get them, which isn’t very far in the playoffs.
Before the draft, the team signed journeyman quarterback Jason Campbell, hoping they might be able to squeeze some talent out him. He’ll likely compete with Matt Scott who the team claimed off waivers from the Jaguars a few weeks ago, for the third quarterback spot.
McCarron will sit behind Dalton to start the season, but he won’t be there for long. I think the organization is starting to wake up and smell the bacon with Dalton and are seeing that he isn’t the long-term answer for them. Once he starts being inconsistent (which will come sooner rather than later), his mistakes will add up and the team will slowly start turning to McCarron, giving him a shot.
We all know what happens when you give AJ McCarron a shot, he takes it and runs. When he took over during his sophomore season at Alabama, from the first time he was pegged as the starter, and never looked back. That same season, the young McCarron took the pocket with poise and led his team to win the BCS National Championship. The rest is history, no really…. it is, he made history.