The NFL has become a 'pass first' league -- and a 'pass second' league as well, at this point. And as we enter the 2012 season, quarterback controversies and question marks abound. Denver now features No. 18, Washington and Indy have the pleasure of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, respectively. And Tim Tebow, of course, is knocking on the proverbial door of Mark Sanchez in the land of Gang Green.
Andrew Luck And Robert Griffin III
Luck and Griffin join the growing list of dueling pairs of rookie QBs of whom much is expected right out of the gate (think Ryan and Flacco, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning). One among them also happened to be an Indianapolis Colt by the name of Peyton Manning; the second pick in that draft was Ryan Leaf. Fortunately for Washington fans, RGIII doesn't appear to have anything else in common with Leaf. A strong training camp and preseason have him slotted to start opening day. The Heisman Trophy winner showed command of the huddle and solid accuracy during most of the preseason. As for Luck, we are learning more and more that the inevitable comparisons to Manning aren't so far-fetched. So it was fitting when his first-ever professional pass -- a four-yard dump-off to Donald Brown -- resulted in a riveting 63-yard touchdown. His poise and presence are almost shocking for a rookie. Don't forget, though, that Peyton went 3-13 in his first season in the NFL. Luck, meanwhile, may be the savior, but joins a mediocre Colts team that lost Pierre Garcon to free agency and rolls with a less-than-stellar dual backfield, featuring the likes of Donald Brown and Delone Carter. The bottom line with both rookies is that we should learn soon enough where they stand developmentally: The Redskins open September 9 in the raucous Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the Saints, while Indy begins its season in Chicago, which once again has a very good defense for 2012.
Sam Bradford's Third Year
Speaking of No. 1 picks, remember Sam Bradford? After winning Rookie of the Year in 2010, Bradford endured a woeful 2011, in which he missed 10 games and tossed just six touchdown passes. To be fair, he was <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=e7nS3noty3o" target="_hplink">sacked 31 times</a> and his best receiving threat was Danny Amendola, who may still have that honor. But the Rams went out and got Bradford more help in the draft. Chris Givens is a burner, and if Brian Quick can be the redzone threat many believe he should be, then Bradford should have no trouble returning to form. One other note: New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will employ the short-to-intermediate passing game at which Bradford excelled both in college and as a first-year pro.
What About Michael Vick?
Chris Johnson had a vastly disappointing 2011, but even he was trumped by Vick, who came off a Pro Bowl season with lofty expectations for a seriously revamped Eagles roster. Then, Philly shockingly missed the playoffs as Vick threw for 18 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and ran for just one score. The ultra-explosive quarterback enters 2012 with his two favorite weapons in LeSean McCoy and receiver DeSean Jackson, who is fresh off a new contract extension. That's the good news. The bad news? All-Pro left tackle <a href="http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/7930474/jason-peters-philadelphia-eagles-ruptured-achilles-again" target="_hplink">Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles</a> in May and will miss the entire season. Meanwhile, Vick was knocked out of the first and second preseason games with hand and rib injuries. Head coach Andy Reid is surely not expecting him to play all 16 games this season, but he still should be concerned.
Tebow Time, Anyone?
It may not be the most relevant quarterback controversy in terms of production, but the Mark Sanchez vs. Tebow debate has proven it has Mo Farah-type of legs. Sanchez, entering his fourth year, has a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed, which is only amplified by the arrival of No. 15. To be fair, he doesn't have much help around him: The Jets are without a true right tackle, they don't have a definitive second or third receiver and Sanchez's relationship with Santonio Holmes is delicate, to say the least. Then there's Tebow, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season in Denver and his shocking upset of Pittsburgh in the playoffs. He has poor mechanics and lacks arm strength, but endears himself to fans with his gruesome desire to win. Three of the Jets' first five games come against the Steelers, 49ers and Houston, so we will find out soon enough just how much Rex Ryan stands by Sanchez.
Is Peyton Manning Really Back?
There's certainly no quarterback controversy in Denver, but questions do linger as to whether or not Manning -- who is third all-time with 399 touchdown passes -- will be the same No. 18 we've grown accustomed to watching. On one hand, he threw a pick in the red zone in each of the Broncos' first two preseason games. Then again, he was superb in the first half against San Francisco in preseason Week 3, tossing for two touchdowns in the first half. Manning now helms a Denver team that ranked 31st in total passing yards last season and still won a playoff game. It has a defense that's willing to gamble on huge plays, along with a consistent running game. Manning has two potentially budding stars at his disposal in third-year wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, along with former Colts tight end Jacob Tamme. As long as Manning remains upright and relatively protected, Denver has a chance to make a run in the AFC.
The Other Quarterback Controversy
Other quarterback controversies around the league have been more high profile, but Russell Wilson, the Seahawks' third-round draft choice from Wisconsin, has seized the job from high-priced free agent Matt Flynn, who will earn $9 million this year. Wilson is an ultra-high IQ kid with a big arm, whose biggest concern has been a lack of size; he stood a tad over 5-foot-10 at the combine. To put that in perspective, only four starting quarterbacks last season measured less than 6-foot-2. (For what it's worth, one of them was Drew Brees, who also happens to come from the Big Ten and who also was not a first-round pick. Brees, by the way, is first all-time in single-season touchdown passes in conference history. Wilson, as it happens, is second.) Seattle is hoping that Wilson can improve upon its anemic offensive output over the last three seasons, in which the team has ranked 26th in total passing touchdowns, 29th in yards per attempt and 31st in quarterback rating, according to ESPN.
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