NFL Stat Predictions: 10 Quarterbacks Looking to Rebound in 2012

Jeff KayerCorrespondent IJune 7, 2012

NFL Stat Predictions: 10 Quarterbacks Looking to Rebound in 2012

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    With training camps getting closer and closer to opening, anxious football fans will soon see the 2012 NFL season officially kick off. 

    The draft is done, the major part of free agency has taken place and OTAs have been completed. All that is left now is for players to report and enjoy the life of living in dorm rooms for a month. 

    As people get ready for the first snaps to take place, the players who will rightfully take center stage are the quarterbacks. While some like Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers enjoyed career seasons, others struggled.

    For some, such as Colt McCoy, the struggles have likely cost them their jobs. For others, another bad season might land them on the bench. Others may know their seat is safe but need to improve to make their team a Super Bowl contender again.  

    Here are 10 quarterbacks looking to rebound from their 2011 seasons. 

10) Jay Cutler

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    Cutler is maybe the one player who doesn't deserve to be on this list, as he didn't necessarily underwhelm last season. In fact, he was on his way to his best season as a Bear when he sustained a season-ending injury in the latter stages of the season.

    Still, Cutler—who showed flashes of being a truly elite quarterback in Denver—has looked merely above average in a Bears uniform. 

    Cutler threw for over 4,500 yards in 2008 but hasn't come close to that in Chicago. With new talent like friend and former teammate Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jefferey coming into the mix, there will be no better opportunity for Cutler to go from a top 20 quarterback to one who is in the top 10. 

9) Blaine Gabbert

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    Rookie quarterbacks these days—especially those picked in the early rounds—are expected to perform immediately. Cam Newton and Andy Dalton excelled on the football field. Newton set numerous rookie records while Dalton guided his team into the playoffs.

    Gabbert, on the other hand? He struggled in almost every way imaginable. How bad was he? His passer rating was lower than Tim Tebow's—a quarterback many critics believe can't play.

    The Jaguars have already brought in Chad Henne, so Gabbert is on notice. Show signs of improvement or Jacksonville may already start looking for their next franchise quarterback.  

8) Kevin Kolb

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    Kolb signed a nice lucrative deal to replace Kurt Warner in Arizona in 2011. Life seemed great.

    He got out of Michael Vick's shadow and got to throw to Larry Fitzgerald, the best wide receiver in the NFL. Injuries played a part in his struggles of 2011.

    Before the injuries, though, Kolb was not looking like the quarterback who cost the Cardinals around $63 million.

    He threw for just 217 yards a game with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. If that kind of production continues, John Skelton may indeed start getting a real look at being the full-time starter until the team drafts someone new. 

7) Carson Palmer

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    Perhaps you can chalk up the underwhelming performance of Carson Palmer to field rust. But the Oakland Raiders certainly did not trade numerous high-end draft picks for 13 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a rating of 80. 

    For all the flack Jason Campbell took while he was a quarterback in Oakland, his injury likely cost this team a playoff spot, as Palmer just did not have the answers.

    The 2012 season is make-or-break for Palmer.  If he can show the same talents he had in Cincinnati, the Raiders could win the AFC West. However, if he struggles again, then he might as well retire for good this time because no team will want him in the future. 

6) Matt Cassel

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    Despite getting his team into the playoffs in 2010, Matt Cassel has never seemed to warm up to the Kansas City Chiefs fans. 

    His performance before getting hurt did him no favors as yet again, Chiefs fans and analysts seem to get more excited at the notion of bringing in this year's shiny new free agent toy, Peyton Manning.

    Cassel was anemic last year, throwing for under 200 yards-per-game with one of the worst quarterback ratings in the league. Where 2010 was marked by precision with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions, Cassel only threw for 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions before getting hurt after his ninth game. 

    In three years in KC, Cassel has had two bad seasons and one that was Pro Bowl worthy. If he struggles again this year, it will almost certainly mean the end of his career with the Chiefs and could mean the end of him being a bona fide starter in the NFL. 

5) Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    Is Ryan Fitzpatrick the long-term answer at quarterback in Buffalo? Or is he just another in a long line of failed experiments since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired in the 1990's?

    That is the question heading into the 2012 season.

    Fitzpatrick looked like a Pro Bowl quarterback for the first half of the season, guiding the Bills to a 5-2 record in its first seven games with a big win over the New England Patriots. However, he and the team fell apart over the last nine games, going just 1-8 to finish 6-10 as Fitzpatrick played like one of the worst quarterbacks in the entire league.

    He finished the year with almost 4,000 yards passing but with just 24 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. 

    Perhaps more so than anyone on this list, Fitzpatrick saw his team fall apart around him...literally.  Backup running back C.J. Spiller had to line up as a second wide receiver when the team got so thin at the wide receiving position, until Fred Jackson himself got hurt.

    Still, with Vince Young waiting in the wings, the 2012 season is a make-or-break one for Fitzpatrick's NFL career. 

    One thing is for sure, though. Everyone hopes he keeps the beard trend going!

4) Ben Roethlisberger

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    By most peoples' standards, Big Ben did not have a bad 2011 season. But his interception number was the third-highest of his career and he was outplayed by Tim Tebow in the playoffs last year.

    Yes, his ankle was reportedly injured, but that had not stopped him in the past. 

    For a guy who is supposedly a top five quarterback in this league, he has to do better than 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, even though he threw for over 4,000 yards for the second time in his career.

    He and Cam Newton, a rookie mind you, were the only two quarterbacks to throw for more than 4,000 yards and throw fewer than 27 touchdowns.

    With a defense that continues to age, the Steelers will rely on Roethlisberger and the now explosive air attack led by Mike Wallace.

    If they want to win the AFC North and be a contender, I firmly believe he needs to throw for over 30 touchdowns. If he cannot reach that number, Pittsburgh could be fighting for their postseason lives. 

3) Sam Bradford

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    Sam Bradford played fairly well in 2010, guiding the St. Louis Rams to their best season in years. The fact it was still just a 7-9 record speaks volumes to just how much the franchise has struggled.

    Going into 2011, the former Rookie of the Year was part of a team some picked to win the NFC West.  However, the Rams fell off a cliff and Bradford dealt with injuries all year.

    Now Jeff Fisher is in at coach and Bradford gets to hit a reset button.

    This is a big year for him. If he continues to put up the same kind of numbers as in 2010, he will all of a sudden go from a rookie phenom that got hurt into a potential bust.

    Though his numbers were good in 2010, he still only had a 76.5 rating and last year was a poor 70.5. The numbers have to improve or people will start to worry if Bradford has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback in this league. 

2) Michael Vick

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    If there is anything that has been consistent about Michael Vick's NFL career, it is the fact that he has been inconsistent. One year he looks ready to be an elite quarterback. The next? He goes back to being a fast and mobile quarterback with only average passing skills.

    For much of 2010, Vick looked like an MVP candidate. In 2011 he was average, ranking in the middle of the pack in almost every statistical category.

    If Vick were 25, he could get away with that. But at 31, Vick's time is running out. If he plays average again this year, the Eagles will be in a terrible position heading into their next off-season. Do you hope that a then 32-year-old Vick can turn it around?

    Or do you cast him aside, similar to what they did with McNabb at a similar age?  

    The Eagles are a team with great potential, and if Vick can play at his 2010 level, they can win a Super Bowl. However, if he struggles in any way, they could also easily end up with their 8-8 record of last year.

    Like so many on this list, 2012 is a make-or-break year for Vick. 

1) Josh Freeman

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    Will the real Josh Freeman please stand up?

    In 2010, Freeman looked like a revelation, leading a young "buck" Tampa Bay Buccaneers team to a 10-6 record. He threw 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions and looked like a quarterback ready to crash the elite party and cement himself as one of the top guys in the business.

    However, 2011 came around, and it was a disaster. He threw for a few more yards but just 16 touchdowns and an alarming 22 interceptions.  

    Now the Bucs have a new coach and Freeman is starting over again.  

    Is he an elite quarterback? Is he someone who is just going to be average?  Or was 2010 a run of luck and the guy does not have what it takes?  

    At this point no one knows. No pressure for Freeman, right?