Re: Positional Power Rankings: QB packages
After total, utter chaos reigned at the position last season, give it up to new general manager Scott Pioli for scoring a QB stud in Matt Cassel, who threw for 3,693 yards, 21 TDs and 11 interceptions while being Tom Brady-Light in New England. He should stabilize the pocket, but behind him is Thigpen (played well at times in 2008) and Croyle (another young gun whom K.C. once thought was the QB of the future. There are worse situations in the league.
Who'd have thought Joe Flacco would rescue the Ravens last season? While he was more of a game manager than Atlanta's fellow rookie Matt Ryan (partially thanks to a dominating defense behind him), like Ryan and the Falcons Baltimore is surprisingly barren at backup quarterback. Nos. 2 and 3 on the depth chart, Smith and Beck have combined for six NFL starts (1-5 combined record as starter). If Flacco goes down, Baltimore's season is immediately in jeopardy.
If former Super Bowl champion Eli Manning gets hurt for an extended period, watch the Giants' offense go into "three yards and a cloud of dust" mode. Somehow, former mega-draft bust David Carr has found a home as New York's backup — despite being scarred seemingly beyond repair from being a pinata in Houston for five seasons. Behind Carr are two youngsters sans snaps at this level, meaning Big Blue fans should offer armed escorts and bubble-wrap any time Eli steps outside his door.
One of the more overlooked story angles lost in all the Brett Favre hubbub was how well Aaron Rodgers played. He put up legitimate Pro Bowl-type numbers in his first season as starter, with 4,038 yards and 28 touchdown passes. Problem is, the Pack struggled mightily on defense and fell to double digits in the loss column. While Rodgers seems to have proved himself — at least on paper — his backups leave zero safety net for Green Bay in case of injury. I'd be fine with Doug Pederson at this point.
Well, at least now the Bears finally have one legitimate, top-shelf QB. They just may not have anyone behind him if Cutler ever gets hurt. First, how good is Cutler? Critics point to his offseason pouting in Denver, his 18 interceptions in 2008 and fact that he's never led a team to the playoffs. But he did have a horrible defense in Denver, which on paper the Bears should be an improvement. But Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez as backups? Chicago's front office should be ashamed to head into the season with no proven backup.
Technically, the Titans are set with three guys who can play right now with Collins, Young and Ramsey. But there are big chinks in everyone's persona. Collins, while he enjoyed a career revival and is entrenched as the team's starter, is not your elite passer expected to win battles against the Bradys, Mannings or other NFL top guns. Vince Young is trying to stunt a downward career spiral. Ramsey is backup fodder, though he is tough and will compete. At least the Titans have three guys who should keep the team competitive, pending Young's state of mind.
Seattle's ranking all has to do with which Matt Hasselbeck is available this season — the healthy fireplug who led the 'Hawks to a Super Bowl XL appearance, or the bald guy with the bum arm. Wallace has had specs of success, but too sporadic to consider him anything more than a career backup. Many insiders were surprised Seattle did not draft Mark Sanchez with its No. 4 pick in the draft, seeing as they do not have a franchise QB to groom for the post-Hasselbeck era.
Can Marc Bulger revive his career? He probably can with a real live NFL offensive line around him. Once a Pro Bowl-caliber QB, Bulger needs a big season after two straight years of struggles. The Rams added Kyle Boller as a backup, who seemed to be evolving in Baltimore until injuries cost him his 2008 season — and Joe Flacco stole his job. Other than that, this pocket has a few holes in it.
While he should not bear the brunt of the team's problems last season as the Jaguars came apart both on-field and off in 2008, David Garrard still only has one solid season as a starter under his belt. His backup Bouman was out of football last season and last took a meaningful NFL snap in 2005 — or several years before Twitter became a name in pop culture. Jack Del Rio's team is not positioned well for a season-wrecking injury.
The Redskins entertained deals for both Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez this offseason, and were major players in trade talks for each. That says everything about their lack of confidence in Jason Campbell, whom ex-coach Joe Gibbs recently said has rabbit ears. This is a huge year for Campbell, who must prove he is more than just an average guy. Todd Collins knows the offense inside and out, making him an excellent backup. The No. 3 spot appears to be a camp battle between two rookies coming off stud college careers. While the group is deep, the lack of a true No. 1 hurts their cause.
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA: THE HOME OF THE 6-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION PITTSBURGH STEELERS
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.