There is little debate that the quarterback position is the most important in all of football. NFL teams spend huge sums of money trying to identify one of about a dozen people on the planet capable of playing the position well enough to get them to the playoffs. The ones who play well get paid even larger sums of money.
With few exceptions, a quarterback proves what kind of player he is within his first few years in the league. That’s why the quarterbacks with the most to prove are typically going into their second season or are veterans getting their shot for the first time. Rookies have a lot to prove, but they are cut considerably more slack because of their inexperience.
The Oakland Raiders desperately need Derek Carr to make a leap in 2015. Last season, Carr was put in a terrible situation and acquitted himself as well as you might expect from any rookie quarterback.
With a terrible running game, below-average wide receivers, porous offensive line and leaky defense, Carr managed to throw for 3,270 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Carr had 599 attempts because the Raiders were often behind and he often had to throw passes in lieu of running plays. The result was a ridiculously low 5.5 yards per attempt.
Much of what made it tough on Carr in 2014 will be different this season. Carr has a trio of wide receivers he didn’t have last season, a slightly upgraded offensive line and a new offensive coordinator. The Raiders should also have a better defense and a better running game because they couldn’t get much worse.
After running back Latavius Murray rushed for 112 yards and had two touchdowns against the Chiefs, the Raiders made him the starter. Including the game against the Chiefs, they were 3-3. In games Murray played, they were 3-2.
Carr has what he needs around him now. It’s time for Carr to prove that he’s a franchise quarterback that can lead the Raiders back to prominence.
Much like Carr, Bortles didn’t have the best supporting cast in 2014. It wasn’t nearly as bad as Carr’s situation, but his offensive line was certainly an issue. Bortles was also a top-five pick, so the expectations were also considerably higher.
In just 13 starts, Bortles threw 11 touchdowns and had 17 interceptions. His sack rate was 10.4 percent and he led the league in sacks and sack yardage. That’s tough to do in just 13 starts.
Like Carr, Bortles also has a new offensive coordinator, who was Carr’s last season. Good or bad, Carr credits Greg Olson with much of his development last season. Bortles has shown signs of similar development this preseason, but the clock is ticking.
It’s time for Bortles to prove he was worth where he was drafted. If not, the Jaguars may spend the next decade watching Teddy Bridgewater and, perhaps, Carr making them regret their draft selection.
It’s always interesting when a career backup becomes a starter—as is the case for the Buffalo Bills’ starter Tyrod Taylor. It’s even more interesting when that player is still just 26, he’s mobile and he has weapons at his disposal like running back LeSean McCoy and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods.
Taylor won the starting job during the preseason in a competition that featured Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel. After going 24-of-31 for 236 yards and rushing 11 times for 108 yards during the preseason, the Bills really has no choice but to go with Taylor. But as we know, the regular season is very different than the preseason.
Now it’s up to Taylor to prove that he’s ready after sitting for four years behind Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Taylor has zero starts and has thrown just 35 regular season passes. Taylor will be fighting the uphill battle of inexperience despite the fact that this will be his fifth year in the league.
No chance. That’s what some might say about the odds that Washington’s new starter Kirk Cousins can prove he’s a capable starter. The Robert Griffen III saga has been a mess in the nation’s capital, which is going to make it hard for Cousins.
Cousins has backed up RG3 for the last three years and started nine games. If he doesn’t run with the job now, it’s probably not going to happen. Like RG3, Cousins’ best play was in his lone start as a rookie in 2012. Like RG3, he’s played considerably worse since.
However, there are some positive takeaways from Cousins’ five starts last season. Cousins trailed only Tony Romo is adjusted yards per pass attempt in the red zone last season. Cousins threw seven touchdowns for 115 yards with no interceptions and one sack in the red zone, which means Washington just needs to figure out how to get him there.
It was a small sample, but if Alfred Morris can rebound from a disappointing 2014 then Cousins may have a chance. Cousin has to start avoiding the big mistakes that have plagued him over the last two seasons. Not that he’s been named the starter and he doesn’t have to worry so much about RG3 coming back from an injury to take his job, it’s possible he could blossom, but the time is now.
By most accounts, Teddy Bridgewater had a stellar rookie season, but the stats tell a different story. In 12 starts, he threw 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His touchdown percentage was equal to Carr and his interception and sack rates were both higher.
Bridgewater also had a better supporting cast than Carr and played against significantly weaker defenses on average. Bridgewater’s supporting cast is even better in 2015 with the return of running back Adrian Peterson and the addition of wide receiver Mike Wallace.
The expectations for Bridgewater is that he turns into a star in 2015. He certainly has a chance to be great, but he still has to prove that on the field consistently. It almost seems like Bridgewater has already arrived if you listen to what’s being said about him, but that’s simply not the case.
Bridgewater still has to prove he’s as good as his supporters are saying. That’s unfortunate because, unlike the other players on this list, he might prove a lot, improve as a player and still be a disappointment.