Tuesday, July 28, 2009
As training camp gets underway, teams are solidifying their rosters and preparing for competition in the 2009 NFL season. The quarterback position is the most important position on the roster. He is the only skilled player to touch the ball on just about every single offensive play (except for maybe the "wildcat" formation). Today's league covers the entire spectrum of quarterback talent. We have everything from rookies, to Super Bowl legends, to guys who should probably just stay retired. Which of these guys standout as the best in the league? This Tuesday, I count down the 10 best arms (and sometimes feet) in today's NFL.
10) Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys)
It's pretty clear that Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo has a lot to prove in 2009. Last season, Romo battled a broken pinkie, distractions regarding girlfriend Jessica Simpson, and then teammate Terrell Owens. All of that seems to have changed for the upcoming season. Romo is healthy and appears to be single after a rumored breakup with Simpson. Owens was released and subsequently signed with the Buffalo Bills. What may still haunt Romo is the mediocre season he had last year with the Cowboys.
A ridiculous interception thrown by Romo in the 4th quarter on the road in a must win game against the Steelers cost the Cowboys that game. The lost dropped the team to 8-5 and cost them the division title. Three weeks later, the Cowboys lost another must win game to the Philadelphia Eagles by the score of 44-6; the worst lost in franchise history. Romo committed 3 turnovers and had no touchdown throws on the day. The pressure is on Romo to perform in the big games. Losing wide receiver Owens will help with locker room drama, but it also takes away Romo's biggest receiver. Wide receiver Roy Williams and tight end Jason Witten are expected to pick up the slack.
9) Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)
After an embarrassing and public feud with new Denver Bronco head coach Josh McDaniels, quaterback Jay Cutler was traded to the Chicago Bears. Cutler finished the 2008 season with career highs in passing attempts (616), passing completions (384), and passing touchdowns (25). He also capped off the season with 4,526 yards passing; also a career high. So it would seem that the Bears struck gold by trading for the pro bowl quarterback.
The Bears have inexperienced wide receivers with return specialist Devin Hester possibly filling the number one spot. If Cutler will have success this season (success meaning the playoffs) he will simply have to make his receivers better. He will have to work hard in training camp to establish a rhythm and allow these guys to get more confident. That is a tall order; which is why Cutler isn't ranked higher on this list.
8) Eli Manning (New York Giants)
You would think after winning XLII and being named the game's MVP that Eli Manning would be higher on this list. After all, the Giants made the playoffs last year and won their division. But, after the loss of go-to-receiver Plaxico Burress, Manning may find it difficult to connect downfield when needed. In Burress' absence, the Giants went 2-4 after an 11-1 start. They eventually lost in the playoffs to Philadelphia Eagles.
The Giants did draft two wideouts prior to training camp. Wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden are expected to fill the void left by Burress. The Giants also have an effective running attack in running backs Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs. With a defense that ranked 5th in the league last season, Manning should have plenty of possession time to make plays on the field.
7) Kurt Warner (Arizona Cardinals)
Last season was stellar for Kurt Warner. Although the team finished with a mediocre record of 9-7 and barely made the playoffs, they finished just shy of the Super Bowl championship losing to the Steelers 27-23. Kurt Warner shined in the playoffs. He managed to throw at least 2 touchdowns in each post season game and had a quarterback rating of 112.3 in the Super Bowl.
Warner has the luxury of throwing to one of the most prolific wide receiver tandems in the league. Receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin both made the pro bowl last season. Both players notched over 1,000 yards last season along with third wideout Steve Breaston. Look for Warner's numbers to be impressive again in 2009.
6) Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles)
After being benched in week 12 by coach Andy Reid, a fire was lit under Donovan McNabb. Rumors swirled regarding his future in Philly and whether or not he still had it in him to be starting quarterback for the Eagles. To be fair, McNabb had two interceptions and one fumble against the Ravens that week and it was the coach's right to bench him. It was also the fans right to doubt him. But, it was definitely Donovan's right to prove them wrong. The following week he scored 4 touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals; defeating them 48-20.
McNabb led the Eagles all the way to the NFC Championship game by beating the Minnesota Vikings and the defending champion and top seeded New York Giants. The team lost in the conference championship to the Arizona Cardinals, but McNabb played very well in that game. He threw for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns. McNabb and company will look to rebound this year and make a run for the championship. One snag is the health of key offensive player, running back Brian Westbrook. Westbrook will miss the majority of training camp with a high ankle sprain.
5) Phillip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
San Diego Charger quarterback Phillip Rivers has established himself as a tough, talented team leader in the National Football League. Last season, Rivers had the highest quarterback rating in the league (105.5) and led the league in touchdown passes (34). He also averaged 8.4 yards per throw; again first in the league. The fact that Rivers did it all without a pro bowl receiver, make his stats more impressive.
What Rivers does have is an excellent rushing tandem in runningbacks LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles. He also has one of the best tight ends in football, Antonio Gates. Wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers will also provide Rivers with stellar production. If Rivers continues to play at a high level and stay tough all season long, look for him and the Chargers to get deep into the playoffs.
4) Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Big Ben Roethlisberger and the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers look to become the first team to repeat since the 2004 New England Patriots. Roethlisberger will have most of his offense intact this season. He did, however, lose wide receiver Nate Washington to the Tennessee Titans. But, Super Bowl MVPs Santonio Holmes (SB XLIII) and Hines Ward (SB XL) will continue to provide Roethlisberger experienced targets downfield.
Roethlisberger is currently being sued for sexual assault from an incident in his hotel room at Lake Tahoe during a celebrity golf tournament. Roethlisberger denies any wrong doing. How this will effect his football season remains to be seen. He will attend training camp as scheduled and his quick denial of the assault should help keep his legal situation from becoming too distracting, at least during the season.
3) Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees had astounding numbers in the 2008 season. Brees threw for 5,069 yards last season. That was good for best in the league and second best in NFL history. The 34 touchdowns didn't look to shabby either. In fact, Brees threw for over 300 yards in 10 games last year; which ties the league record. He also did it all without a pro bowl wide receiver on his roster.
Fans, players, and fantasy owners should look for Brees to do more of the same in 2009. He is undoubtedly one of the top three quarterbacks in the league today. However, he is playing in a tough NFC South division and the Saints defense will have to step it up for the team to have a chance to improve on last year's 8-8 record.
2) Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
Putting Tom Brady second on this list has nothing to do with his performance last season. In fact, Tom Brady played less than 10 minutes of football last year. He was hit during the first quarter of the team's season opener against the Chiefs and sustained a knee injury that put him out for the rest of the season. But, when you have won the Super Bowl three times in 8 years, been named Super Bowl MVP twice, and was the first quarterback to throw 50 touchdowns in a season (an undefeated season), people tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. There is no doubt that Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
I put him 2nd on this list because he is coming back from a season ending injury. But Brady still has Randy Moss to throw to and the team added Joey Galloway to help out on the other side. The Pats also added running back Fred Taylor, cornerback Shawn Springs, and tight end Alex Smith in free agency. Look for Brady and the Pats to have a good season and re-emerge as a Super Bowl contender.
1) Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts)
It's probably no surprise that Manning is number one on this list. I mean, he was the league MVP for the 2008 season after all. Throwing for over 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns didn't hurt either. Although Manning had weapons such as Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, he was not able to rely on a consistent running game or a pro bowl running back. Which makes his consistent dominance in the NFL even more impressive.
This season will be Manning's first season without future Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison. He will also be without head coach Tony Dungy, who retired after last season. The team is in the tough AFC South division and last year's record of 12-4 was only good enough for a wild card spot in the playoffs. Look for a healthy Peyton Manning to lead the Colts deep into the playoffs this season.
Those are my top quarterbacks for the upcoming season. If you're preparing for fantasy football, this list could be of good use to you. Any of the guys on this list could get you to the post season if you have the other roster spots solidified. As always, keep looking for news out of training camp regarding all of the big name players. This will keep you from drafting someone that is injured or holding out for contract reasons.
Photo credit: Craig O'Neal , derivative work by Ytoyoda (talk)