NFL Nation: quarterback

It's time to develop a young QB

February, 24, 2014
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Jay CutlerAP Photo/Matt RourkePerhaps Marc Trestman and the Bears can land a QB in May's draft to groom behind Jay Cutler.
INDIANAPOLIS -- When former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch revealed he had a meeting Friday with the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium, thoughts immediately turned to the run of success experienced by Seattle’s Super Bowl champion signal-caller Russell Wilson, and the fact it's probably time this team found a young gem to develop behind Jay Cutler.

It's past time, actually.

Given the team’s myriad needs on defense, undoubtedly, adding a quarterback seems more luxury than necessity at this point; especially taking into account Cutler’s new seven-year, $126.7 million contract signed in January. But as it stands now, Cutler is the only quarterback on Chicago’s current roster who has thrown a pass in a regular-season game. Veterans Josh McCown and Jordan Palmer are free agents, and Jerrod Johnson is a developmental player who, after a brief stint on the practice squad in September, signed a reserve/futures deal in December.

The club wants to bring back McCown for 2014, and he wants to return, but even that’s not a slam dunk as the Bears still haven’t made an offer.

While not exactly pressing, a need at the position exists. Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009, missing 13 of the team’s past 64 contests, including five last season because of two different injuries.

Asked at the combine whether the Bears would be open to drafting a quarterback, general manager Phil Emery said, "I'm open to drafting any position that will help us." So the Chicago brass continues to play it close to the vest. But given Bears coach Marc Trestman's pedigree as somewhat of a quarterback whisperer, perhaps with Emery’s help the club could uncover a gem in the mid-to-later rounds, much like the Seahawks did with Wilson.

"It's a process. We'll see where we are with the draft. We’re going to evaluate all the quarterbacks we think can play and we’ll make decisions accordingly," Trestman said. “At this point we’re excited about the fact we’ve got Jay in place because Jay in place allows us to work and fill the work in a lot of different other areas to complete our football team. I’ve been in quarterback rooms where we’ve had a young player. I’ve been in quarterback rooms where we haven’t. It’s whatever is best for the football team. If that player can be developed and help our football team now and in the future, I’m sure he’ll be in the consideration.”

Nearly every quarterback prospect at the combine mentioned the success stories of Wilson. The league's copycat element pretty much assures teams, perhaps even the Bears, are looking to uncover the next one. Chicago certainly needs to be at least making the effort.

Sure, Cutler signed a seven-year deal. But at age 30, he essentially signed a three-year contract containing rolling options that mitigate any cap hit if the team decides to part ways after 2016.

So maybe the Bears take an interest in developing a younger player such as Lynch, or maybe even taking a late-round flier on Georgia’s Aaron Murray, an undersized, yet productive prospect whose stock seems to be sliding because he tore his left ACL on Nov. 23 in a 59-17 win against Kentucky.

"I want a coach that's going to push me. I want someone that's going to drive me every single day to improve my footwork, to improve my accuracy, to never be happy with where I'm at," Murray said.

That guy sounds a lot like Trestman.

Lynch, a graduate of Chicgao's Mt. Carmel High School, is another undersized and highly scrutinized prospect, who was extremely productive in college (6,209 passing yards, 51 touchdown passes), generating a record of 24-4 a starter.

"I’m not that 6-foot-5 pocket passer that stands in the pocket," Lynch said. "One of those things about being 6-foot is that it does play to your advantage at times. Being that small, you’re sitting in the pocket and not a lot of defensive backs can get a read on your eyes. That's one of the advantages of being a shorter guy. I throw with anticipation. I throw to spots. Sometimes I can't really see the receiver so you have to buy into the system, trust the system and throw on time."

Trestman's scheme seems to fit that type of quarterback. Drew Brees, another shorter passer, flourishes in a system very similar in New Orleans.

The Bears last drafted quarterbacks in 2010 (Dan LeFevour) and 2011 (Nathan Enderle), but they weren't as well-equipped to develop the position as they are today with Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.

Going into Year 3 as Chicago's general manager, Emery still hasn't selected a quarterback in the draft. Interestingly, the GM has said he'd like to draft at that position every year.

Well, Phil, now's the time.
Can the Buffalo Bills challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC East? Not this year, according to ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton.

Clayton addressed Buffalo's present and future in his latest mailbag Tuesday when asked if the Bills can make the postseason by winning 9-10 games.

"That’s too much to ask," Clayton responded. "The quarterback position is in transition. The receivers are too raw. The defense is switching back to a 3-4. That could lead to a tough start. As the season goes on, EJ Manuel might take over at quarterback. As long as the team can finish the season respectably, the Bills could start building toward 2014."

Buffalo has talent in several areas, and in some ways the team underachieved during its 6-10 season in 2012. The 2013 Bills have a chance to be a threat if they find a way to put it all together and get quality quarterback play from Manuel or veteran Kevin Kolb.

Improvement in coaching also will have a lot to do with Buffalo's success. Former Bills head coach Chan Gailey and former defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt didn’t do a good job of managing Buffalo’s talent. It’s too early to tell if rookie head coach Doug Marrone will be noticeably better in that area.
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The New England Patriots are set to take a step back offensively in 2013. They lost both starting receivers – Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd -- from last year’s group that led the NFL in scoring and replaced them with mostly unproven players and rookies.

New England also has huge question marks at tight end. Rob Gronkowski has had five surgeries on his arm and back since last November and may not be fully recovered for Week 1, and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez also had major shoulder surgery and missed six games last season.

The Patriots signing quarterback Tim Tebow off the scrap heap isn't the answer to New England’s offensive woes. If anything, it shows an unexpected sign of desperation for a New England offense searching for answers.

This is yet another sign that New England’s run of Super Bowl appearances and NFL dominance is coming to an end. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and Belichick have made it to five Super Bowls -- winning three. But it looks more and more like last year may have been the Belichick/Brady era Patriots’ final shot to win a fourth championship when they lost at home to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC title game.

To put it bluntly, New England simply is not good enough to win a Super Bowl this year. Last year’s team was better, especially on offense. Brady, who will be 36 in August, is a year older and has less firepower. Adding Tebow to the mix doesn’t fix anything. It simply brings more media and a huge distraction, which is something Belichick usually tries to avoid.

And what exactly is Tebow’s role in New England?

Tebow is certainly not playing quarterback. Brady is clearly the franchise starter in New England, and I would take my chances with the strong arm of Ryan Mallett over the inaccurate and poor mechanics of Tebow any day. Tebow is the No. 3 quarterback at best.

Would the Patriots really take Brady off the field to insert Tebow in a Wildcat package? Taking an elite quarterback like Brady off the field for any amount of plays is a huge mistake. Opposing defenses would love to see less Brady and more Tebow on a weekly basis. Would the Patriots be silly enough to oblige?

Maybe Tebow can play H-back or on special teams in New England. But that is nothing more than what he did with the New York Jets last year when things went awry. Is all of that worth the extra attention that Tebow brings? The Jets got their answer last year. Now, it's New England's turn to make the same mistake.

I do not see how adding Tebow makes the Patriots a better team. This is a franchise which prides itself on competing for championships. But New England took yet another step backward on Monday.
Jets general manager John Idzik said something Monday on WFAN radio that could make some New York fans nervous.

"I feel comfortable with Mark [Sanchez] being a Jet," Idzik said, according to ESPNNewYork.com.

But the new Jets boss properly hedged his bets with his next statement.

"I told him we're going to add competition and everyone should be up for it," Idzik added. "It's going to make Mark, and everybody else, better."

Idzik properly addressed New York's quarterback situation as it currently stands.

New York will search for the best quarterback possible to improve the position. But Idzik has a tight salary cap this offseason and it will be a challenge to find attractive options. If a suitable replacement cannot be found, Idzik says the Jets feel "comfortable" going with Sanchez for one more year because they would have no choice.

Money obviously plays a factor. The Jets owe Sanchez $8.25 million in guaranteed salary in 2013. Cutting Sanchez would be even more detrimental with more than twice the cap hit.

Seahawks backup Matt Flynn has been mentioned as a trade possibility due to Idzik's ties in Seattle. A top rookie draft pick also is a possibility to add competition. But it appears to be a sure thing that Sanchez remains on the Jets' roster next season. It is Sanchez's role as a starter or backup that is still to be determined.

Another report linking Tebow to Jaguars

December, 23, 2012
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More evidence is starting to add up that Tim Tebow is wrapping up his final games with the New York Jets and heading to the Jacksonville Jaguars next season.

First, it was ESPN's Chris Mortensen's report Saturday night that it is a "virtual certainty" Tebow will land in Jacksonville. Next, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Sunday morning that a Jaguars team source said Tebow "will be a Jaguar" next season.

There is enough smoke here to believe something will happen.

The Jaguars wanted Tebow a year ago, and it appears the organization's thinking hasn't changed. The Jets could be willing to dump Tebow altogether for nothing or trade for a low-round draft pick, if possible. New York just wants to end this failed experiment sooner than later. The Jaguars reportedly are willing to take Tebow in.

As we mentioned earlier Sunday, this move makes a lot of sense. Tebow is a Jacksonville native and former University of Florida star who can sell tickets. Jacksonville also has a vacant quarterback job next year that Tebow can compete for. He never got that chance in New York.

Jets shopping Mark Sanchez is laughable

December, 20, 2012
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Just in time for the holiday season, the New York Jets are offering a hot lump of coal for the extremely steep price of $8.25 million.

Any takers?

The Jets are hoping for a miracle by reportedly trying to trade former starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. Not only has Sanchez regressed significantly the past two seasons, but he’s guaranteed to make $8.25 million in salary and most likely will cash in on a $500,000 workout bonus in the offseason. That’s nearly $9 million going to a quarterback who has committed 50 turnovers since 2011 and was benched this week in favor of third-stringer Greg McElroy.

This is yet another laughable move by those zany Jets. When they call other teams this offseason, the conversation will last about two seconds with a response of "Stop wasting my time, Rex."

The Jets made their bed this past March by inexplicably signing Sanchez to a $58.25 million extension. But the Jets cannot simply pass the buck to someone else. It’s not that easy.

New York must live with this mistake and move forward with Sanchez -- either as next year’s starter or a very expensive clipboard holder. The only other option is the Jets cutting Sanchez and taking on a reported $17.1 million cap hit.

Those are the two realistic choices for the Jets. Trading Sanchez is not an option.

The New York Jets officially named third-string quarterback Greg McElroy the starter Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Not only did McElroy jump former starter Mark Sanchez, but the second-year quarterback jumped No. 2 man Tim Tebow, as well.

The latter is perhaps the most fascinating part of this decision. Everyone expected Sanchez to be benched after committing five turnovers -- four interceptions and one fumble -- in Monday’s heartbreaking defeat to the Tennessee Titans. That Tebow won’t get the next shot to lead the Jets is telling.

Here is the blunt truth: New York's coaching staff simply doesn’t believe in Tebow.

Although Rex Ryan and Co. will never say it publicly, they simply don’t think Tebow is any good. To start a 2011 seventh-round pick (McElroy) over a former first-round pick (Tebow) who won a playoff game last January says all we need to know.

The Jets made the much-hyped acquisition of Tebow with high expectations. Not only did New York expect Tebow to successfully run the Wildcat package, but the team expected him to be ready to take over the team if Sanchez faltered. But Tebow has looked awful at every opportunity. He struggled in the preseason, he’s done nothing for the Jets in the regular season, and you have to assume he looks pretty bad in practice after this decision.

Maybe the Jets will catch lighting in a bottle with McElroy. He played well in spot duty against the Arizona Cardinals, but the zany comparisons to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady are silly. Let’s see what McElroy has these next two weeks, as opposed to a quarter and a half.

But what we do know is Sanchez and Tebow are not the answer for the Jets. The organization passing them over for McElroy Tuesday is confirmation that the Jets have finally quit this experiment.

Sanchez is probably stuck in New York for another year due to his guaranteed $8.25 million contract. But Tebow has more flexibility and needs to get out of New York ASAP if he wants to salvage what’s left of his NFL career.

Mark Sanchez benched for Greg McElroy

December, 2, 2012
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Can the New York Jets' season get any wilder?

After two seasons of undying loyalty to starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, Jets head coach Rex Ryan finally benched his quarterback on Sunday. It took three interceptions in the first half for Ryan to finally pull the plug.

But here is the kicker: Replacing Sanchez is third-string quarterback Greg McElroy. He gets a chance to play for the first time this season after backup Tim Tebow (ribs) was inactive.

Ryan had an opportunity to switch Sanchez for Tebow all season and didn't do it. Yet, after a bad first half Ryan made a bold move to replace Sanchez for McElroy. It’s an odd set of circumstances by Ryan, who looks desperate and clearly coaching for his job.

So who will be the Jets’ quarterback next week? Will New York stick with McElroy? Will the Jets go back to Sanchez? Or should they start Tebow, if healthy?

McElroy already has a touchdown pass in limited playing time. The Jets lead the Arizona Cardinals 7-3 in the third quarter.

Can the Bills cool off Chad Henne?

November, 28, 2012
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The Buffalo Bills (4-7) will see a familiar face at quarterback Sunday when Chad Henne leads the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) into Ralph Wilson Stadium. This is a game involving two struggling teams, but the Henne element adds a little spice to the matchup.

Henne was once considered the quarterback of the future for the AFC East-rival Miami Dolphins. The 2008 second-round pick spent four seasons in Miami -– three as a starter -- and had some success against the Bills.

Henne is 2-2 in four career starts against the Bills, which includes a win in Buffalo in 2010. He’s thrown for 748 combined yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.



The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the NFL but have found new life with Henne under center. He replaced former starter Blaine Gabbert two weeks ago against Houston and nearly led Jacksonville to an upset. Henne then won his first start of the season last week against the Tennessee Titians.

Henne comes to Buffalo with the hot hand. In two games, he’s thrown for 615 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions. Henne also has a 99.6 passer rating.

The Bills are under a lot of pressure and need to win this game. Stopping Henne, an old rival, will be key.
New York Jets backup running back Joe McKnight (ankle) made a return to practice on Friday. It turns out he will play in Sunday’s rivalry game against the New England Patriots.

This is significant because McKnight’s availability could mean fewer opportunities at running back for Tim Tebow. The Jets have been hinting that Tebow, a converted quarterback, could get some carries at tailback this week against New England.

The idea came out of necessity since McKnight and fellow running back Bilal Powell missed most of practice leading up to Sunday's game. But McKnight will spell starter Shonn Greene as the No. 2 tailback. It remains to be seen if Tebow will still get carries at tailback behind Greene and McKnight.

Here are the inactives for New England and New York:

Jets: QB Greg McElroy, RB Bilal Powell, G Caleb Schlauderaff, DT Kenrick Ellis, WR Clyde Gates, DT Sione Pouha, S Eric Smith

Patriots: RB Brandon Bolden, LB Tracy White, S Patrick Chung, G Logan Mankins, DE Jake Bequette, S Steve Gregory, DE Ron Brace

Stanton: Jets willing to bench Sanchez

October, 12, 2012
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It was an interesting offseason for backup quarterback Drew Stanton.

He began the year as a free agent signed by the New York Jets in March. The Denver Broncos signed Peyton Manning soon after, which started a domino effect of Tim Tebow landing in New York.

Stanton realized he was instantly demoted from the No. 2 to No. 3 quarterback with Tebow's arrival. So Stanton asked out of New York and was shipped to the Indianapolis Colts, who will play the Jets on Sunday.

Bob Glauber of Newsday caught up with Stanton, who reflected on his conversations with the Jets during his short stint with the team.

"Had Mark struggled, they said I'd have a chance to play," Stanton told Newsday. "So there was no better opportunity than that, and I was excited about it."

This is an interesting statement for several reasons. It shows that, after four seasons, New York is not above benching Sanchez. The Jets have publicly backed Sanchez as the starter and continues to do so. It also could reveal New York's train of thought behind the scenes with Tebow, who is now the backup quarterback.

If the Jets told Stanton he would have a chance to play this season if Sanchez struggled, why wouldn't they do the same with Tebow, who is a better overall player?

Jets head coach Rex Ryan dodged questions about potentially benching Sanchez. Ryan would only say that Sanchez is the starter "this week."

But the leash appears shorter than ever for Sanchez. He is not playing consistent and needs to step it up Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts (2-2) to keep the struggling Jets (2-3) afloat.
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan caused a stir Wednesday when he said quarterback Mark Sanchez is the starter “this week.”

"I'm telling you right now, he's our starting quarterback this week," Ryan bluntly told New York reporters.

Naturally, those final two words from Ryan opened speculation that the leash is as short as ever for Sanchez. Is Sanchez just one poor outing away from a switch to Tim Tebow?

Still, Sanchez shrugged off Ryan's comments and thinks Ryan is firmly in his corner.

"He has faith in me. I believe that," Sanchez said. "I'm not worried about that. I’m really not."

Sanchez's numbers haven't been good through five games. Sanchez's 48.4 completion percentage is a career low and he's committed seven turnovers (six interceptions, one lost fumble).

To be fair, Sanchez is not working with a full deck. He lost his best receiver (Santonio Holmes) for the season, his starting tight end (Dustin Keller) has played just one game, and New York's running game is nonexistent. But Sanchez has had four years of excuses and Jets fans are tired of waiting.

The growing feeling in New York is any week could be "Tebow Time" if the Jets (2-3) continue losing. Sanchez must play well to keep his job. The Jets will host the Indianapolis Colts (2-2) Sunday and it will not look good if Sanchez is outperformed by Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck at home.

But Sanchez said his focus is on winning this week, not getting benched.

"I don't get into that," Sanchez said. "I just keep playing and playing hard, giving this team my very best. I'm trying to get the best out of them, so that's where my head is at."
Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill's first NFL start got off to a sluggish start. The offense struggled early and Miami's first-team defense gave up 17 first-quarter points.

But the No. 8 overall pick showed poise by hanging in and warming up in the second quarter. Tannehill started the game completing just 3 of 10 passes. But Tannehill completed five of his next six on Miami's only touchdown drive in the second quarter.

Tannehill finished the half 11-for-23 with 100 yards and was sacked three times. Carolina leads Miami, 20-7, at intermission.

Tannehill by no means lit it up, but he did make a few nice plays. His best throw was a 20-yard completion to former college teammate Jeff Fuller on third down. That set up Miami's 71-yard scoring drive.

But there was a big difference between Tannehill carving up Tampa Bay's backups at home last week and playing against Carolina's first-team defense on the road. Tannehill still has plenty of areas to grow, and there were some throws Tannehill would like to have back. But he didn't make bad decisions and didn't turn over the football.

We probably won't see much of Tannehill until next week's third preseason game. Dolphins veteran quarterback Matt Moore and backup Pat Devlin are expected to get most of the reps in the second half.

Observation deck: Redskins-Bills

August, 9, 2012
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The new-look Buffalo Bills began their 2012 season with a 7-6 loss to the Washington Redskins at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: Buffalo's new-look defense got off to a great start, which is exactly what the Bills want. Buffalo forced a three-and-out against Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, then recovered a fumble on the first two series. Bills safety George Wilson's fumble recovery set up Buffalo's first points of the exhibition season, which was a field goal by Rian Lindell. Griffin eventually had some success throwing on Washington's third drive. But the Bills played well defensively throughout the game.

What I didn't like: The Bills' starting offense didn't do much. Buffalo's first team scored just three points in four drives, which was a gift from the defense after a turnover. The Bills also had a Steve Johnson touchdown catch negated with a penalty. Rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn also had a false start. Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw early and often. He was 6-of-14 for 61 yards. The Bills didn't run the ball entire first quarter, but we will get to that next.

Change of pace: The reason Buffalo didn't run the ball in the first quarter was due to an interesting wrinkle. The Bills used a no-huddle offense with the starters. It's a nice change of pace and it will be interesting to see if the Bills will stick with this in the regular season. The no-huddle can be risky if it doesn't work. But it shows two things: First, the coaches have confidence in Fitzpatrick. Second, the Bills feel their defense is improved. Still, the Bills need more balance than what the starters showed Thursday night if this no-huddle offense will be successful.

Return of Kyle: This is the first game back for Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and he played well in limited snaps. Williams missed much of 2011 with a foot and Achilles injury. But he showed some of his old form by recording a tackle and was disruptive in the first two drives.

Young debuts in Buffalo: Backup quarterback Vince Young had to wait a while. But he finally made his Buffalo debut in the third quarter after Fitzpatrick and Tyler Thigpen both had their time on the field. Young still needs work passing. He was 5-for-12 with 50 yards, but Young did rush for 37 yards. Young is in competition with Thigpen for the No. 2 job. Thigpen was 3-for-8 with 38 yards and an interception.

For all the pressure the outside media and fans are putting on New York Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, the pair appear to be fine so far on the practice field.

The latest case of good harmony is the New York Daily News report of Sanchez inviting Tebow to his "Jets West" passing camp. Tebow, in an effort to get better, accepted the invite.

The fact that Sanchez invited his backup, who is pushing him for the starting job, to his passing camp is a sign that Sanchez is inspired, not threatened.

There is always potential for a quarterback controversy in New York this year. Sanchez (25) and Tebow (24) are nearly the same age. Both are former first-round picks and have won playoff games early in their careers. If Sanchez doesn't perform early, the pressure to play Tebow will be immense.

But despite the various criticisms, one thing you cannot deny is the high character of Sanchez and Tebow. Both players are hard workers and have a big will to win. Making the Jets a playoff team again, first and foremost, is what's driving both quarterbacks to improve.

The Jets anticipated the "Tebow effect" would be good for Sanchez when they made the trade. So far the team is correct.

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