By Eric Schmidt

Several NFL quarterbacks found themselves left without a chair this preseason when the music stopped. Several more could lose their starting job after this season as many signal callers around the league are facing make of break seasons. Many quarterback who are entering the period in their career where they need to be showing signs of development are under the gun in what will be a pivotal season for them.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams– Bradford has been plagued with a lack of playmakers on offense and a never ending string of injuries at the receiver position early on in his career. Bradford is coming off a season which saw career highs in passing yardage, touchdowns and passer rating while playing under first year head coach Jeff Fisher. Bradford has also undergone a lot of coaching changes, especially at the offensive coordinator position during his young career. Under Fisher, he should see some stability.

I like the Rams a lot this season, but I don’t think they are quite on the level of the 49ers or Seahawks….yet. Fisher signed a former player, TE Jared Cook, who should figure to be a big part of the Rams offense this season. The receiving corps is young, but I like the development potential this group has. Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis along with rookies Stedman bailey and speedy Tavon Austin.

Outlook- I believe Bradford sets career highs in completion percentage, touchdowns and passing yards this season and is well on his way to becoming a top tier quarterback.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers– The Buccaneers thought they had drafted their franchise quarterback in 2009 with the selection of Freeman. The Kansas State product looks the part of a pro quarterback with imposing size and a big arm, but has struggled through an up and down career. In 2010, Freeman appeared ready to take the reigns and become a top-10 quarterback i the league after posting 25 scores and just six interceptions with a 95.9 passer rating in his first full season. In 2011, the Buccaneers regressed, head coach Raheem Morris was fired and Freeman committed a dismal 27 turnovers, 22 being interceptions.

2012 was a tale of two seasons for Freeman. At one point he was leading the second highest scoring offense in the NFL, behind only the New England Patriots. With the Buccaneers in the playoff discussion at the mid way point of the season, Freeman collapsed down the stretch and finished the year with 25 turnovers despite setting the all-time Buccaneers single season passing yardage record with 4,065 yards.

Outlook- Freeman is playing the last year of his rookie contract. The Buccaneers drafted QB Mike Glennon this past April. If Freeman struggles, I don’t believe head coach Greg Schiano will hesitiate to inject Glennon into the offense. If Glennon shows potential, Freeman becomes a free agent after the season.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings– It’s hard to believe that a quarterback who led his team to the playoffs last season could be facing a make or break season, but Ponder is. Make no mistake, the Vikings playoff run was predicated on RB Adrian Peterson’s legs last year while Minnesota finished with the 31st ranked passing offense. Of the starting quarterbacks last season, Ponder finished with the second lowest yards per attempt and did not surpass 3,000 yards passing.

Percy Harvin has left the building but the Vikings re-loaded with veteran WR Greg Jennings and drafted the speedy Cordarrelle Patterson, so Ponder should have no excuses this season.

Outlook- The Vikings abandoned the Joe Webb experiment and signed Matt Cassel in the offseason. Cassel has more starting experience than Ponder and could likely be the starter by the mid portion of the season.

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans– Locker possess a huge arm and good speed but he struggles with accuracy issues. He appeared in 11 contests last season and completed 50% of less of his passes four times while turning the ball over 11 times in his last six games. He has appeared in just 16 games in his first two seasons.

Outlook- There have been issues with the receiver position in Tennessee over the last few seasons with health concerns. However, head coach Mike Munchak is feeling the hot seat warmth this season. The Titans signed free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason and he could see action if Locker’s struggles continue.

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars– This year will be Gabbert’s last in the NFL if he doesn’t show some sort of improvement. He led the league in the worst yards per attempt last season at 5.98. Gabbert is entering his third season and really needs to show something this season in order to keep him around after 2013.

Outlook- Gabbert has a thumb injury and his start this week against the Chiefs is questionable. Chad Henne could take the starting job from Gabbert in week one and never look back. Regardless, Jacksonville will be in the mix for the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft next season.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets– The Jets have already announced that Geno Smith will start week one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rumors during training camp suggested that management wanted Smith to start week one despite Sanchez’s shoulder injury. Regardless of the starting quarterback, this will be a vapid offense to watch in 2013.

Outlook- Mark Sanchez and his contract will be gone after this season, most likely with head coach Rex Ryan. It remains to be seen if Sanchez will get another starting gig after 2013.

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers– This is my wildcard selection. It’s hard to imagine that a quarterback such as Rivers could be playing for his job next season, but with a $13.8 million dollar salary and posting 56 turnovers in his last 32 games, he better show some improvement. Since becoming a starter, Rivers put up his lowest yards per attempt numbers of his career at 6.84.

Outlook- The current coaching staff has no ties to Rivers. If the turnover issues continue, Rivers could be traded in the offseason for a fresh start someplace else. Tampa Bay or Chicago could be in the mix with both of their quarterbacks playing in the final year of their contract.





Filed under: AFC, AFC East, AFC South, AFC West, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, NFC, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West, NFL, San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans

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