Defining Each Starting NFL Quarterback's Fatal Flaw

Vincent FrankCorrespondent IMay 23, 2013

Defining Each Starting NFL Quarterback's Fatal Flaw

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    If you honestly believe your starting quarterback is flawless, you need to rethink your ability to grasp reality. 

    One of the greatest things about the world of football is that the best players find a way to improve on a yearly basis and do it right in front of our eyes. They overcome mistakes to be better players, which separates them from marginal ones. 

    This is magnified at quarterback more so than any other position on the football field. 

    Joe Flacco answered critics who believed he would be nothing more than a marginal starter by putting up one of the best performances in the recent history of the playoffs. 

    Meanwhile, a myriad of young quarterbacks lit the football world on fire like we have never seen before. Three rookies led their teams to the playoffs, while one second-year player with just a handful of starts under his belt led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. 

    All of these quarterbacks have one thing in common. They have certain flaws in their game that could derail their chances to become  the best of the best. 

    Today's article is going to focus on one fatal flaw that each starting quarterback in the NFL possesses at this point. 

Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

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    Fatal Flaw: Decision-making

    This could have as much to do with Carson Palmer feeling like he has to do too much on the field, especially over the last two seasons with the Oakland Raiders. That team didn't have a whole heck of a lot of talent on offense, so Palmer may have felt like the onus was completely on him. 

    As it is, the veteran quarterback seems to have regressed when it comes to decision-making, and his statistics are a prime example of this. 

    Thirty-six percent of Palmer's interceptions came in the fourth quarter this past season. In fact, over 21 percent of his miscues came in the final stanza with the game within one score (via NFL.com). 

    Those numbers need to change if Palmer is going to be able to lead Arizona out of the cellar in the ultra competitive NFC West. He'll to have to rely on an above-average running game (hopefully) and the play-making ability of one Larry Fitzgerald for this to happen. 

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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    Fatal Flaw: Ability in the clutch

    Matt Ryan has improved in nearly every single major statistical category during the regular season in each of his first five years and is now considered an upper-echelon quarterback. 

     

    Last Three Seasons (via NFL.com)
    Season Comp % Yards TD QB Rating
    2010 62.5 3,705 28 91.0
    2011 61.3 4,177 29 92.2
    2012 68.6 4,719 32 99.1

     

    In 2012, Ryan finished fourth in the NFL in passing yards, fifth in touchdowns and fifth in quarterback rating. Needless to say, he is currently at the top of his game. 

    That being said, those numbers decrease a great deal when Atlanta plays in January. 

    As most of you already know, Ryan has lost four of his five postseason starts, throwing nine touchdowns compared to seven interceptions with a quarterback rating of 85.2 (via Pro Football Reference). 

    In order for Atlanta to get past the NFC Championship game and earn a trip to the Super Bowl, it will need Ryan to pick his game up a great deal when it comes to the playoffs. His costly fumble against San Francisco this past January is a prime example of him not being able to do that (via NFL.com). 

    It's unacceptable to turn the ball over on consecutive possessions late in the third quarter of a playoff game. It's even more unacceptable when one of those turnovers is an unforced botched snap. 

    If Ryan can pick his game up in January, Atlanta will likely be playing in February a few times during his career. If not, these questions will continue.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

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    Fatal Flaw: Accuracy

    Joe Flacco had one of the best postseason performances in the recent history of the NFL this past year. What he did to lead a Baltimore Ravens offense through teams like New England and San Francisco was nothing short of sensational. 

    Prior to his late-season heroics and a huge six-year, $120.6 million contract, Flacco was considered an inconsistent quarterback. He would often have a couple solid games followed by one horrible performance (via Spotrac). 

    A lot of this had to do with accuracy issues. 

    Flacco still struggles with accuracy on intermediate routes. He threw just one touchdown compared to four interceptions and tallied a horrendous 46.5 rating on outside passes between 10 and 19 yards (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required). 

    Losing wide receiver Anquan Boldin in a trade with San Francisco isn't going to help matters much here. Flacco didn't necessarily have to be accurate when targeting the veteran. 

    Heading into his sixth NFL season, this is something that the Ravens might just have to deal with when it comes to Flacco. They won't mind too much if he continues to progress in other aspects of the game. 

EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills

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    Fatal Flaw: Decision-making and progressions 

    As with any rookie quarterback, EJ Manuel is going to have a lot to work on between now and the start of the regular season in September. 

    While extremely talented, the Florida State product needs to improve on accuracy, pocket presence, mechanics and field vision. 

    That being said, his primary issue at this point is decision-making. Manuel struggles hitting on his second or third reads after locking on to his first target. 

    Bleacher Report's Sigmund Bloom filed the following report on Manuel back in April:

    Manuel hasn't demonstrated that he can patiently go deep into progressions or process defenses at an advanced level. In general, he wasn't asked to do many advanced tasks as a passer at Florida State. 

    If you don't have the experience performing in a specific scheme, it goes without saying that you will struggle picking up certain aspects of it. Needless to say, Buffalo's new West Coast offense under head coach Doug Marrone requires multiple reads on a majority of the plays. 

    This is something Manuel will have to work on early and often if he is thrust into the starting role in Upstate New York. 

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

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    Fatal Flaw: Lack of maturity

    All the skills are there for Cam Newton to have another successful season and even progress as a quarterback in this third year in the NFL. 

    I have looked at extensive game tape of Newton's since the 2012 season came to a conclusion and saw a lot of good towards the end of his sophomore season. He isn't relying too much on his initial read and has started to do a darn good job looking off initial targets before zoning in on secondary receivers. This is something he struggled with in his first 24 NFL starts. 

    In addition, Newton's accuracy and pocket presence have improved ten fold since his rookie season. This is the type of natural progression you look for in a young signal caller. 

    One primary issue stands from his days at Auburn. Newton seems to lack the maturity and leadership to lead a team to the next level. A myriad of reports came out during his rookie campaign and even last year suggesting that he has failed to take that next step. 

    Bleacher Report's Chris Trapasso filed this report immediately after Carolina's 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons last September: 

    Regardless of skill set or team situation, every signal-caller must deal with adversity and is ultimately defined by how he responds to it. 

    Newton can exhibit sadness after a loss, but sitting alone on the bench with a towel over your head and dodging the media?

    We didn't see Aaron Rodgers pouting on the sidelines after Green Bay was embarrassed by San Francisco this past January. Heck, Colin Kaepernick rode out the storm with his team following a late-game loss to Baltimore in the Super Bowl back in February. 

    Newton needs to act like a leader on the field and on the sideline. This is something that he has failed to do at multiple turns during his first two seasons in the NFL. 

    The good news is that Newton is still only 24 years of age. The bad news is that he is now entering his third NFL season and excuses about him still being "young" will start to dwindle as time goes by. 

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

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    Fatal Flaw: Mechanics

    This is a rare situation for a quarterback entering his seventh season in the NFL. Jay Cutler has struggled with mechanics dating back to his days with Vanderbilt. In fact, it was one of the only knocks on him heading into the 2006 NFL draft. 

    Despite being a relatively successful quarterback up to this point in his career, Cutler still struggles with his throwing motion and mechanics. 

    New Bears head coach Marc Trestman even focused on some flaws as they relate to Cutler's mechanics immediately after he was hired (via The Chicago Sun-Times). 

    He has the ability to have precision mechanics, high-level mechanics...At times, he has them. And at times, he doesn't.

    Trestman went on to indicate that every quarterback in the league struggles with precision mechanics on every play. While this point is debatable (see Aaron Rodgers), I do understand where he is coming from. A vast majority of quarterbacks may not possess the same throwing motion or windup depending on a specific play. 

    As it relates to Cutler, his footwork and release point are both inconsistent. Once he is flushed from his drop-back in the pocket, the veteran quarterback seems to get happy feet and lowers his release point. This causes issue with accuracy down the field. 

    Considering that Cutler has thrown for over 21,000 yards and 136 touchdowns thus far in his career, just imagine what he'd do with refined mechanics. This is what Chicago is relying on. 

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Fatal Flaw: Inability to progress past primary read

    It goes without saying that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has pretty much ran a conservative offense in Andy Dalton's first two seasons as Cincinnati's quarterback. This is one of the primary reasons that I am not going to indicate that Dalton struggles pushing the ball downfield. In reality, he just hasn't been asked to do this too much. 

    Instead, the focus here needs to be on Dalton's dependence on wide receiver and fellow 2011 draft pick A.J. Green.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Green received 54 percent of Dalton's targets to wide receivers in 2012. The issue here is that he caught only 61 percent of the passes thrown in his direction, while Cincinnati's other receivers caught 65 percent of the passes thrown to them.

    Either Dalton needs to improve on his success rate when targeting Green or he needs to spread the ball around more.

    The addition of tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round of April's draft could go a long way in aiding Dalton moving forward. Besides the fact that Cincinnati might not be sold on Jermaine Gresham, this is one of the reasons the Bengals exhausted another early-round pick on a tight end. 

Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns

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    Fatal Flaw: Inability to make secondary reads after locking on to initial target

    Again, young quarterbacks tend to struggle in this aspect of the game. They just weren't asked to read the field and they progressed to secondary reads all too often in college. 

    The same can be said for Brandon Weeden, who ran a spread offense with Oklahoma State. As most of you already know, those types of schemes rely heavily on one-read quick strikes.

    This obviously isn't the case in Cleveland. 

    According to NFL Network, running back Trent Richardson has even gone on record indicating that this was a huge problem for Weeden in 2012 (h/t The Cleveland Plain Dealer). 

    He (Richardson) said as a rookie, (Weeden) really had trouble reading defenses from time to time and they had to skew their offense a little bit, sometimes somewhat predictable.

    In this case, the term predictable means going to short routes, one reads and quick drop-backs. This handcuffs an offense's ability to open up the playbook and tends to water down what it can do on the field.

    In order for Weeden to ever be considered an above-average quarterback, he needs to fix these issues in short order.  

     

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

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    Fatal Flaw: Inconsistency in decision-making

    This may seem like a generic assessment to my readers in Texas, but Tony Romo still struggles a great deal with consistency in decision-making. Considering that he now has 93 career NFL starts under his belt, I am not sure how fixable this issue is right now. 

    We saw firsthand against the Washington Redskins in Week 17 this past season just how much these consistency issues have plagued Romo throughout his career. 

    Dallas was down by just three points with four minutes remaining in the make-or-break game for the NFC East title. Facing a linebacker blitz, Romo threw an interception right into the arms of linebacker Rob Jackson. Washington took over at the Cowboys' 25 and punched it in for a game-clinching touchdown. 

    Just like that, Romo's season was over after a disappointing three-interception performance in front of a national audience with the division on the line. 

    These types of issues (plural) are the primary reasons that Romo has failed to take Dallas to the next level.

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    Fatal Flaw: Lack of postseason succcess

    Yes, Peyton Manning has won a Super Bowl. Go ahead and ignore the remainder of this slide if you are content with focusing on success from eight years ago. 

    For the rest of you who currently live in the moment, something can be said about Manning's inability to perform at the same level in the playoffs as he has during the regular season in his career. 

    The following generic statistics enable you to get a visual of these struggles: 

     

    Manning's Per-Game Career Stats (via Pro Football Reference)
    Situation Comp % Yards TD INT Rating
    Regular Season 65.2 265.6 2.0 1.07 95.7
    Postseason 63.2 284.0 1.6 1.05 88.4 

     

    This doesn't seem like a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but considering that Manning is noted as one of the best quarterbacks of our time, it has to be alarming that he doesn't pick his game up in the second season. 

    Manning has lost five of his seven postseason road starts in his career and has thrown six touchdowns compared to nine interceptions in those outings. Those just aren't acceptable numbers for someone considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league. 

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

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    Fatal Flaw: Regression in mechanics

    Call it a lack of consistency or regression in terms of his throwing motion. Whatever it might be, Matthew Stafford isn't the same quarterback that lit up the NFL back in 2011. 

    He is off balance way too much, even when not faced with a ton of pressure up the gut. He tends to rush the routes, which forces receivers to lay out and disables their ability to actually gain yards after the catch. 

    Most importantly, Stafford just seems to be making things up as he goes. If you sit through an entire 2012 Detroit Lions game, you will notice this a great deal. Rarely is his throwing motion or footwork the same on consecutive plays. He tends to throw off his back foot more often than necessary. 

    I fully understand that being asked to put the ball up 40-plus times a game will cause issues with consistency, but Stafford didn't struggle with that back in 2011. Instead, he seemed to thrive as the game went on. 

    For the talented young quarterback, it is all about getting back to basics this summer. Stafford needs to hone his throwing motion, plant his feet more consistently and avoid falling back on throws. 

    One of the primary issues here is that Detroit lost both of its starting tackles from a season ago and seems to be in somewhat of an unenviable position as it relates to pass protection. As you already know, facing consistent pressure up the middle will force a quarterback to improvise more. That's not exactly good news for Stafford and his mechanics. 

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    Fatal Flaw: Issues when pocket collapses 

    It took me a great while to actually find one flaw in Aaron Rodgers' game. In fact, I had to ask the opinion of those closer to the situation in Green Bay to come to a conclusion after I couldn't find one glaring issue. 

    This is the ultimate complement for a quarterback in the NFL. When skeptics attempting to find a flaw are at somewhat of a loss, you know the signal-caller is doing something right. 

    As with every quarterback in the NFL, Rodgers isn't perfect. 

    One issue that seemed to come up more in 2012 than any previous season is just how uncomfortable Rodgers looked in the pocket when pressure came his way. Instead of sidestepping said pressure and finding a throwing lane on the outside, Rodgers tended to get happy feet back there. He was also hesitant either releasing the ball on his initial read or throwing it way. 

    This, coupled with lackluster pass protection, led to Rodgers being sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL this past season. 

    Improved offensive line play and a balanced attack will make this minor issue moot moving forward. This has to be why general manager Ted Thompson went out there and drafted both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin last month. 

    Find balance and protect Rodgers. If these two things happen, we could be looking at a repeat of his record-breaking 2011 performance. 

Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

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    Fatal Flaw: Inability to push the ball downfield

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Matt Schaub averaged just 10.1 yards per completion to targets outside of Andre Johnson. In addition, the veteran quarterback ranked 31st in the NFL in percentage of passes that traveled 15 yards or more (via Advanced NFL Stats). 

    The simple fact that Schaub ranked below Blaine Gabbert in that latter category has to be alarming to fans. 

    One reason why Houston's offense was so limited down the field was because it lacked another consistent receiving target outside of Andre Johnson. 

    General manager Rick Smith decided enough was enough last month when he selected former Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. The idea here is to get another starting-caliber receiver opposite Johnson, one that can stretch the field and open up the hashes for tight end Owen Daniels. 

    It's now up to Schaub to prove that he is more than a game manager at this point in his career. 

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

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    Fatal Flaw: Ball Placement

    As with Aaron Rodgers before, I had a hard time finding anything of substance that Andrew Luck struggled with as a rookie. 

    While turnovers may tell us a story that Luck struggled with mistakes as a rookie, a lot of that had to do with Colt's receivers dropping a ton of passes throughout the season. 

    Luck was considered one of the most accurate college quarterbacks during his days at Stanford, but ball placement was somewhat of an issue. He didn't always hit receivers on their numbers in stride, which led to less-than-stellar performance after the catch. 

    This single issue came up more often than not during Luck's rookie campaign with Indianapolis. He continually threw the ball behind receivers on passes outside of the hashes and down the field. 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had the following to say in our NFL 1000 series from earlier this year: 

    While there were times when Luck missed the mark, those mostly happened when pressured and/or asked to throw the ball to the right hash up the field. 

    If this is all we have to worry about, Luck will be just fine. 

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Fatal Flaw: Accuracy

    Just one of many flaws within Blaine Gabbert's game at this early point in his career, accuracy is becoming an issue that Jacksonville just might not be able to put up with moving forward. 

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Gabbert completed just 54 percent of his passes that traveled between 10 and 19 yards. That's simply not sustainable in an offense that relies heavily on accuracy on intermediate routes. 

    Interestingly enough, accuracy was a larger issue when Gabbert had a clean pocket, According to Pro Football Focus, the former first-round pick possessed a 74.4 quarterback rating when he wasn't facing pressure, compared to a 85.9 rating when he was under pressure. 

    This is something that needs to be fixed in relatively short order if Gabbert is going to progress into even an average starting quarterback in the NFL. 

Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Fatal Flaw: Downfield passing game

    One of the primary issues that fans in San Francisco had with Alex Smith during his tenure there was accuracy on downfield passes. 

    Smith' apologists will conclude that the 49ers didn't have a ton of receiving options early in his career, but his inability to push the ball down the field didn't improve over the course of the last two seasons. 

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Smith completed just 41 percent of his passes that traveled 20 yards or more in 2011. While those numbers improved to 47 percent in 2012, the sample size really wasn't there to draw a final conclusion. 

    These issues arise primarily when Smith is throwing outside the right hash down the sideline. He tends to either overthrow the receiver completely or force the ball out of bounds in order to avoid an interception. 

    Kansas City will have to take the good with the bad here. I don't envision a scenario where Smith comes to the Chiefs and improves in this specific aspect of his game. 

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

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    Fatal Flaw: Decisiveness 

    Much to my astonishment, Ryan Tannehill progressed in nearly every single category that dogged him prior to the 2012 NFL Draft. 

    His weaknesses were on full display leading up to the annual event at Radio City Music Hall. Skeptics concluded that he didn't possess clean mechanics, accuracy or the pocket presence to be successful early in his career. 

    For the most part, those issues have been quieted. 

    That being said, Tannehill double-pumped a great deal this past season. Once he locked on to a target and didn't see the cleanest window to throw into, he would pull the ball back and look for another receiver. 

    While this is necessary when learning the nuances of how an NFL defense operates in coverage, it can lead to missed opportunities, sacks and unnecessary throwaways. 

    There were other things I could have focused on here, but Tannehill seems to be improving in every other aspect of his game. 

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

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    Fatal Flaw: Arm strength

    Minnesota had to tailor its passing game over the past two seasons in order to make up for a lack of arm strength from Christian Ponder. 

    This is the true representation of the former first-round pick being nothing more than a system quarterback. If he is unable to zip the ball 20 yards down the field on the line from one hash to the outside of the other, he simply isn't going to be someone to lead a high-powered attack.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Ponder completed just 39.7 percent of his passes that traveled 10 yards or more. Doing the math, his quarterback rating in those instances was a miniscule 52.2.

    That's simply not going to get it done, especially when defenses are stacking the box against Adrian Peterson in the running game. 

    Ponder needs to step up in 2013 or the Vikings will end up having to look for a replacement. It really is that simple. 

Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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    Fatal Flaw: Mobility

    When looking for a flaw in one of the great quarterbacks to ever suit up, it takes a lot of research. Brady doesn't possess killer arm strength, but that cannot be considered a flaw after he has been so successful. So, that's a non starter here. 

    As with any aging quarterback, Brady's lack of mobility seems to have caught up with him. 

    On multiple occasions over the past couple seasons, I have noticed Brady sitting behind the pocket looking for an open receiver instead of running the yard or two he needed for a first down. In fact, this happened more than one time in the playoffs this past January against Baltimore. 

    Don't get me wrong here, Tom Brady is fluid in the pocket and does a great job avoiding pressure. This is one of the many things that has made him such a great quarterback over a long period of time.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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    Fatal Flaw: Regression in terms of decision-making

    When a quarterback throws a career high in interceptions in his 12th NFL season, something is wrong. Those who support Drew Brees will point to the absence of Sean Payton on the sideline this past season, and that's a solid point to make. 

    Others will point to the fact that Brees didn't have as stellar of an offensive line in front of him in 2012 compared to previous seasons, but that's taking the easy way out. 

    Looking at it through an objective lens, I'd have to point to a regression in terms of decision-making when drawing a conclusion about the mistakes Brees made this past season. 

    He threw into much tighter windows in 2012 than any season before. The end result was an increased number of interceptions in key situations. 

    Brees threw seven touchdowns compared to six interceptions and compiled a substandard 78.8 quarterback in the fourth quarter in 2012 (via NFL.com). 

    Compare that to the 108.7 rating he had in the final stanza the prior season, and you start to wonder what was going on in 2012. 

    Now that New Orleans has completely revamped its defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan, maybe Brees won't feel that the onus is completely on him late in games. That could have been a primary issue for him this past season with such a horrendous defense. 

Eli Manning, New York Giants

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    Fatal Flaw: Lack of consistency 

    Great quarterbacks do not go through extended stretches of time as a mediocre performer on the football field. Great quarterbacks find a way to overcome struggles and understand why they were struggling in the first place. 

    Despite leading New York to a Super Bowl the previous season, Manning struggled a great deal with consistency in 2012. 

    Five-Game Stretch in 2012 (via NFL.com)
    Opponent Comp % Yards TD INT Rating
    San Francisco 53.6 193 1 0 87.4
    Washington 65.0 337 1 2 78.9
    Dallas 51.7 192 0 1 58.4
    Pittsburgh 41.7 125 0 1 41.1
    Cincinnati  63.0 215 0 2 56.0
    Totals 56.8 1,062 2 6 65.0

     

    For a team that relies so heavily on its quarterback, this just isn't acceptable. While New York did go 3-2 in the above five games, it became apparent that when Manning struggled, the team didn't perform up to scratch. 

    New York was 5-2 in games where Manning compiled a quarterback rating over 90, 4-5 when he didn't. 

    That's all you need to know. 

Geno Smith, New York Jets

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    Fatal Flaw: Footwork

    Young quarterbacks tend to come into the league with a lot of issues as it relates to mechanics. Some struggle with throwing motion, others throw off their back foot too often. Meanwhile, a select few struggle with consistent footwork. 

    Geno Smith falls into the latter category. 

    Bleacher Report's Sigmund Bloom filed the following report on Smith back in April: 

    Smith's footwork is beyond inconsistent. He needs to tighten up his mechanics to iron out issues that result in him missing throws that he should be able to make. He doesn't have a great deep arm, and sometimes, his throws to the sidelines have too much air under them.

    Bloom went on to indicate that Smith's late-season struggles at West Virginia in 2012 were directly attributed to his issues with footwork. 

    Honestly, this is one of the reasons that he fell on my draft board as I viewed more tape. 

    If New York can get this issue straightened out, Smith will be in a good position to play well early in his career. If not, he will throw a ton of errant passes, which will lead to interceptions at this level. 

Matt Flynn, Oakland Raiders

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    Fatal Flaw: Downfield passing game

    Matt Flynn is never going to be one of those quarterbacks that is able to push the ball down the field. This was evident during his career at LSU, which is what most of us have to rely on when it comes to scouting the veteran quarterback. 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had the following to say about Flynn in our NFL 1000 series: 

    Flynn can throw with good velocity inside shorter ranges, but he lacks the power to spin the ball with zip on throws that travel more than 20 yards. Is a touch passer who lives on timing and throwing into space.

    It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that this was a primary reason Flynn dropped to the seventh round in the 2008 NFL Draft. 

    It is also something that Oakland can live with. Not every quarterback in the league possesses the arm strength of a Colin Kaepernick. After all, Tom Brady has been one of the most successful quarterbacks in recent history without relying on a canon. 

     

     

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Fatal Flaw: Decision-making process

    Talk about regression. Michael Vick's ability to make the right read has fallen off the map over the past couple seasons. He tends to throw the ball into too many tight windows, which has led to some questionable interceptions here and there. 

    It's one thing to make a mistake in an attempt to make a play. It's a completely different to force the ball when you don't have to.  

    This is exactly what happened with Vick in 2012. 

    His interception percentage jumped from 1.6 percent in 2010 to 3.3 percent in 2011 before leveling off somewhere in between last season. 

    It is, however, Vick's inability to feel the pressure in the backfield and make necessary reads to avoid it that has caused some to question his viability as a starter in the NFL. 

    After all, he has fumbled 32 times over the past three seasons. Couple that with a high interception percentage and you have a turnover-prone quarterback. 

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Fatal Flaw: Inability to stay healthy

    When on the field, Ben Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback. He has the arm strength, accuracy, pocket awareness and field vision to completely eat apart opposing defenses. 

    The issue with "Big Ben" over the past few seasons is that he just cannot stay on the field consistently. At the very least, he is rarely anywhere near 100 percent. 

    A lot of this has to do with lackluster pass protection up front, but Roethlisberger holds on to the ball longer than a vast majority of the quarterbacks in the National Football League. 

    He is going to need to actually start releasing the ball quicker to make up for the lack of time in the pocket. This may cause issues with Pittsburgh's ability to beat defenses over the top, but it also means that Landry Jones won't see the field in 2013. 

    If that's the case, we could be looking at a playoff appearance for the Steelers after a year hiatus. 

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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    Fatal Flaw: Mechanical issues

    Philip Rivers represents the third veteran quarterback on this list with mechanical issues. All three quarterbacks were first-round picks who have had success in the past. 

    Something is rotten in Denmark, people. 

    Bleacher Report's Tyson Langland filed the following report on Rivers last summer: 

    However, it doesn't seem like arm strength questions are still in play. We know people will always talk about the unorthodox side-arm delivery, but because of his success, we don't take the time to pick apart his mechanics. I don't care how much press, hype or credit he gets, his (Rivers) mechanics leave plenty to be desired.

    Langland later focused on game film when drawing a conclusion about Rivers' mechanics. One thing we both noticed was an issue with throwing off his back foot. Accuracy and velocity are impacted by not setting your feet in the process of throwing. 

    This is something that Rivers didn't do a whole lot during his most successful seasons, but seems to have resorted to since his recent struggles began back in 2011. 

    The larger issue here is that Rivers doesn't only fall back when he is facing pressure. This happens consistently with a clean pocket and on intermediate routes.

    That's what is so glaring to me. 

     

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers

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    Fatal Flaw: Progressing to secondary reads

    Nevada's pistol offense never really forced Colin Kaepernick to progress to secondary reads too often. He was able to lock in on one target with a run/pass option, which was fine and dandy against less-than-stellar competition. 

    San Francisco reworked its scheme this past season to fit Kaepernick's skill set. It worked for the most part. He led a high-octane read-option attack that enabled the 49ers to win the NFC Championship. 

    Once defenses understand that Kaepernick struggles getting to his secondary reads on a consistent basis, his awe-inspiring arm strength and passing ability will be contained to an extent. 

    Enter into the equation recent news that star wide receiver Michael Crabtree will miss a good portion of the 2013 season due to an Achilles tear, and you have to wonder if Kaepernick is set for some sort of a regression. 

    After all, the young quarterback relied on his No. 1 receiver a great deal this past season. 

    With that in mind, I fully expect head coach Jim Harbaugh to work with Kaepernick a great deal during the offseason. As history has proven, this likely indicates that the young quarterback will improve tenfold in this aspect of his game. 

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

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    Fatal Flaw: Decisiveness when throwing

    I indicated earlier that Ben Roethlisberger holds onto the ball longer than most quarterbacks in the NFL. A lot of this has to do with the veteran attempting to make plays at the last possible moment. 

    The same can be said for young phenom Russell Wilson, who jumped onto the scene and led Seattle to the playoffs as a rookie in 2012. 

    Wilson tends to be a bit indecisive when locking on to an initial target, which creates issues with the timing in the passing game.

    I fully expect Wilson to work on this part of his game in the next couple months and for it not to be much of an issue moving forward.

    If this is the one major flaw I can find in Wilson's game, he's in good shape to turn out a stellar sophomore campaign.

     

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

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    Fatal Flaw: Check-down king

    Let me qualify this for a second. Sam Bradford has not had the necessary receiving weapons to get the ball down the field on a consistent basis. All of his primary targets since being selected No. 1 overall back in 2010 have been possession receivers. 

    It is still alarming that he ranked 26th among qualified quarterbacks with an average of 6.7 yards per attempt in 2012 (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required). 

    It's even more alarming that Rams receivers averaged just 7.6 yards per target and 12.3 yards per reception in 2012 (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required). 

    The excuses are now over. 

    St. Louis added electric young receiver Tavon Austin in the first round of April's draft and signed tight end Jared Cook away from Tennessee in free agency. 

    For his part, Cook averaged 13.8 yards per reception in his final two seasons with Tennessee. Considering that those numbers were higher than Rams receivers last season, it's now up to Bradford to prove he is anything more than a game manager (via Pro Football Reference). 

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Fatal Flaw: Decision-making process

    One would think that Josh Freeman's inability to be an above-average decision-maker in the NFL would have changed in 2012 with the additions of running back Doug Martin and wide receiver Vincent Jackson to an already loaded Tampa Bay offense. 

    It's pretty obvious that didn't happen. 

     

    Statistical Breakdown 2010-2012 (via Pro Football Reference)
    Year Attempts TD INT INT %
    2010 474 25 6 1.3
    2011 551 16 22 4.0
    2012 558 27 17 3.0

     

    Some will point to improved statistics this past season compared to 2011, but it's hard to do worst than throwing six more interceptions than touchdowns the year after throwing 19 more touchdowns than interceptions. 

    It's also important to take into account Freeman's newfound weapons in 2012. He can't use the excuse of not having the necessary tools to rely on outside or a balance on offense. 

    Those excuses are now over.  

    It's now time for Freeman to step up and prove that he can be a top-tier quarterback in the NFL. If he can't do it in his fifth season as Tampa Bay's starter with this offense, it's hard to envision him ever becoming a star in sunny Florida. 

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans

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    Fatal Flaw: Accuracy issues

    One of the major knocks on Jake Locker coming out of Washington in 2011 was his accuracy. After all, Tennessee's starting quarterback never completed more than 58 percent of his passes in any of his four college seasons. 

    This is where statistics can be skewed to an extent. Locker didn't have the talent around him to succeed at Washington, as his receivers dropped a ton of passes. 

    He doesn't have the same excuse in the NFL. 

    Locker completed just 56 percent of his passes in 2012, including a pedestrian 37 percent of his passes that traveled over 20 yards (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required). 

    These numbers have to improve if Tennessee is going to be able to open up its offense and force opposing defenses to respect its passing game. This will also have a direct impact on Chris Johnson's success running the ball. 

Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

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    Fatal Flaw: Making secondary reads

    Washington didn't necessarily dumb down its offensive attack to help Robert Griffin III as a rookie. Instead, it relied on timing routes, intermediate outs and a combination of play-action passes. RGIII's ability to take over the game with his amazing set of skills is the primary reason Washington was able to succeed with a somewhat watered-down playbook. 

    Expect the Redskins to open up their offense a great deal with RGIII in 2013. He will have a year of experience under his belt and can be trusted to make the right reads down the field. 

    A lack of experience in this aspect of the game coming from Baylor's scheme in college leads me to believe that Washington made the right decision. 

    It's time to see just how good "the franchise" can be with a full arsenal of plays at his disposal. 

     

    Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft, co-host of Draft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET, and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus.

    Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.