Wednesday, July 11, 2007
NFL '07 Preview: Quarterbacks
In his Hashmarks blog on ESPN, Matt Mosley posed a question: who are the most indispensable players in the NFL? Jeffri Chadiha was writing a column, wanted to know what the people thought.
I put in my own two cents: Bob Sanders and Jeff Saturday. L.J. If he goes down, the Chiefs would be completely wrecked. Ed Reed, Vince Wilfork (or any other top-flight nose tackle in a 3-4 like Jamal Williams), Nick Hardwick, Torry Holt, Vince Young.
My focus was obviously on non-quarterbacks. Sure, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are indispensable. They're the two most important players in the league, both first-ballot Hall of Famers. I was more interested in everybody else.
Of course, Chadiha went with the obvious. He really didn't have a choice. If the premise had been "who are the most indispensable non-quarterbacks," he'd have a great debate. But he didn't, so the list was the NFL glamour package: Larry Johnson at one, because the Chiefs really would be wrecked without him, followed by Brady, Manning, Brian Urlacher, Antonio Gates, Julius Peppers, Michael Vick, Walter Jones, Champ Bailey, and Carson Palmer.
In other words, he picked as many quarterbacks as could get away with (trying to avoid the "only focus on the pretty boys" backlash), then added the top running back, top middle linebacker, top tight end, top defensive end, top tackle, top cornerback, and Michael Vick, because apparently Joey Harrington is the worst player in the league.
Again, you can't really blame him. Under that premise, I actually would have gone more quarterback heavy. The Rams' offense would be devastated by the loss of Marc Bulger. Tennessee wouldn't win four games with Kerry Collins. A.J. Feeley in Philadelphia? Cleo Lemon in Miami? Jamie Martin in New Orleans?
If you define indispensable as meaning "they're completely screwed without him," quarterbacks are far and away the leaders of the pack. Just ask Seattle fans about the Seneca Wallace era.
And it's with this in mind we begin our 2007 NFL Season Preview Series with a ranking of each team's quarterback situations. This isn't an individual ranking. There are no fantasy points here. This is about which team is strongest at the position, taking into account the likelihood of injury or performance replacement of the starter, and the quality of backups on the depth chart.
Hall of Fame
Indianapolis (Peyton Manning, Jim Sorgi, John Navarre/Josh Betts)
New England (Tom Brady, Matt Cassel)
Notes: Cassel and Sorgi may suck. They may be awesome. We'll never know because Brady and Manning never come off the field. They are two Hall of Famers behind excellent offensive lines with excellent skill position players around them and coaches who know how to call a game. There's not a coach or GM in the league who wouldn't pick Brady and Manning one-two if they were building a team from scratch. That alone gets them atop any QB listing.
St. Louis (Marc Bulger, Gus Frerotte, Ryan Fitzpatrick)
New Orleans (Drew Brees, Jamie Martin, Jason Fife)
Cincinnati (Carson Palmer, Doug Johnson, Jeff Rowe)
Carolina (Jake Delhomme, David Carr, Brett Basanez)
Seattle (Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, David Green)
Notes: Bulger, Brees, and Palmer are Pro Bowl-caliber. Delhommer isn't done by any means, and Carr makes for an excellent insurance policy. Wallace actually came on late in his stint last year, and Hasselbeck is due for a bounce-back from the injuries.
San Diego (Philip Rivers, Billy Volek, Charlie Whitehurst)
Arizona (Matt Leinart, Kurt Warner, Shane Boyd)
Denver (Jay Cutler, Patrick Ramsey, Preston Parsons)
Dallas (Tony Romo, Brad Johnson, Matt Baker)
Notes: All young stars in the making with veteran back-ups who've started in the past. The Johnson signing was huge for the Cowboys.
Greatness On a Short Leash
Baltimore (Steve McNair, Kyle Boller, Troy Smith)
Philadelphia (Donovan McNabb, A.J. Feeley/Kelly Holcomb, Kevin Kolb)
New York Jets (Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Marques Tuiasosopo)
Detroit (Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton)
Notes: The four starters have seen glory, but there are questions. The reserves make you grimace just a little bit. Tuiasosopo is the best third stringer in the league.
Maybe, Maybe Not
Buffalo (J.P. Losman, Craig Nall, Trent Edwards)
Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Brian St. Pierre/Bryan Randall)
Houston (Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, Bradlee Van Pelt)
Tennessee (Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Tim Rattay)
New York Giants (Eli Manning, Anthony Wright, Jared Lorenzen)
Atlanta (Michael Vick, Joey Harrington, Chris Redman/D.J. Shockley)
Tampa Bay (Jeff Garcia, Bruce Gradkowski/Chris Simms)
San Francisco (Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill)
Jacksonville (Byron Leftwich, David Garrard, Quinn Gray)
Notes: Losman needs to stop making mistakes. Roethlisberger needs to stop making excuses. Schaub is a complete unknown as a starter and has a bad offensive line. Young needs to lead a solid passing game to move up. Eli would have been much better off in San Diego. Vick can be awesome or completely suck. Garcia is old and doesn't have Brian Westbrook carrying the load for him. Smith could be good or he could be Dilfer in the making. Leftwich and Garrard deserve a better ranking, but Jack Del Rio is managing them into the ground.
As for the second-stringers, Rosenfels and Wright are starter material. Harrington isn't nearly as bad as people say. Dilfer is solid. Nall and Collins would be complete disasters if they were pushed to start.
Miami (Trent Green, Cleo Lemon, John Beck)
Cleveland (Jeff Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn)
Kansas City (Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Preston Parsons)
Oakland (Josh McCown, JaMarcus Russell, Andrew Walter/Josh Booty)
Washington (Jason Campbell, Mark Brunell, Todd Collins/Jordan Palmer)
Chicago (Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton)
Green Bay (Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Ingle Martin)
Minnesota (Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Drew Henson/Tyler Thigpen)
Notes: Can Green stay healthy behind a mediocre-at-best offensive line? Frye or Anderson or Quinn? All three will probably start this year. Didn't Grossman prove he sucked last year? Brodie Croyle? Welcome to the fire, JaMarcus. Campbell hasn't done anything to even remotely deserve a hand-given starting spot. This is the end of Favre and there is a nightmare brewing for the Vikings.
Seth Doria is a freelance writer in St. Louis. For daily news and notes on sports, entertainment and politics, please visit The Left Calf.