Though unencumbered by the rotational trend that makes running back predictions so difficult, quarterback predictions are difficult to make, especially in a year when team change (Donovan McNabb, Jason Campbell, Jake Delhomme), coaching staff turnover (Hasselbeck, Cutler), and the advancement of youth (Stafford, Sanchez, Freeman, Flacco, Ryan) are all factors that will affect starting quarterbacks.
Predicting how players of any position will do amongst the array of unexpected scenarios that crop up over the course of a year becomes an exercise in futility, yet is still an enjoyable way to pass dead time between the NFL draft and the upcoming preseason.
Here is the list of each team’s primary starter and how they are expected to do. It will be noted that this list is operating on the assumption that a given quarterback plays between 14 and 16 games rather than trying to gauge injury or demotion—of course not all will fulfill that, but it gives a context to work with.
Jay Cutler stands as living proof that unless the proper pieces surround him, securing a franchise quarterback alone does not equate to instant success. This year, McNabb could face similar supporting-cast difficulties.
Washington gave their newfound leader a franchise left tackle to keep him in one piece, but Trent Williams is still a rookie albeit a promising one. He could have some early growing pains while the receiving corps remains very thin.
Santana Moss has been a consistently strong wideout for the past seven years, averaging 67 catches for just under 1,000 yards per year across that span (995). But at this stage in his career, he is probably best suited to being a great number-two wideout rather than the franchise guy.
Unfortunately he will have to continue to be the ‘it’ player in the Redskins passing game as the next three players on the depth chart combined for 13 fewer catches and 163 less yards than Moss alone.
His saving grace could be the Fred Davis/Chris Cooley combination, which combined for 77 catches despite Cooley playing in only seven games.
Final Verdict: Keep in mind McNabb and Campbell already posted fairly similar numbers (albeit with McNabb missing two games) while McNabb had the better supporting cast. A desire to prove his old team wrong along with the infusion of new blood should boost his numbers slightly—expect between 3,600 and 3,800 yards with 22 TDs to 12 Ints.
The Dallas Cowboys have been a strong offensive machine that constantly improves under Romo. While they have suffered a tendency to make a big play at the right time, the Cowboys have put up good year-end totals.
Romo’s receiving corps was further bolstered with the addition of consensus number-one wideout Dez Bryant, who was picked up to pair with the emerging Miles Austin and the thus-far unfulfilled potential of Roy Williams.
Balancing the chemistry of a loaded wide receiving corps will be Romo's primary task. Already the reliable Patrick Crayton is seeking a way out for a team less crowded at the position.
Romo may also have to put his improvisational skills to good use if Doug Free has a difficult transition in becoming a full-time left tackle.
Final Verdict: Romo’s yardage totals should remain similar to last year’s numbers (4,200 to 4,400) though expect his phenomenal TD/INT ratio to slip slightly from 26/9 to around 28/12 as the Cowboys gamble a little more and air it out with their field-stretching talents.
The toughest player to predict within the division. Kevin Kolb had a solid run in his two starts averaging 359 yards and two touchdowns per game. How that translates to a full schedule remains to be seen.
Philadelphia’s young offense does not appear overtly upset by McNabb’s departure, so chemistry issues should be limited, though fan comparisons will haunt him throughout his first few years at the helm.
Kolb does have plenty of weapons to work with, inheriting a solid offense with plenty of weapons in place. The starting four skill position players are all extremely young (Brent Celek is the oldest of the group at 25), which should translate to improvement and upside.
McCoy and Celek should offer up a nice safety valve while Maclin and Jackson offer up nice field-stretching ability.
Andy Reid’s playcalling, coupled with a changing of the guard at running back should equate to Kolb being thrown right into the fray, and his attempts should be fairly high from day one.
Final Verdict: An improvement on McNabb’s 60.3 completion percent should translate to a yardage boost (3,800) but his youth will show up in the decision making area with an interception spike as well (25/15 TD/INT ratio).
After four and a half years as a starter Manning finally had a top-ten caliber season in his fifth full year. Manning eclipsed the 4,000 yard mark for the first time while posting the best touchdown and completion percentage totals of his career.
This was due in part to a receiving corps that, while perhaps less talented than years past, was much deeper and allowed Manning to spread the wealth. Four different players posted over 40 catches, including Steve Smith who emerged as Manning’s primary target with 107 catches for over 1200 yards.
New York, like Philadelphia, is going to be the benefactor of a young talented group that should improve as a collective as they gather more experience.
A big part of Manning’s career year was a disappointing turn by Brandon Jacobs at running back. If Jacobs can regain his form, that should cut into opportunities for Manning.
Final Verdict: New York will look to regain a more balanced approach that will reduce Manning‘s attempts from 32 per game to 28-30 per game, with a similar efficiency that translates to about 3,700-3,800 yards and a 25/12 TD/Int ratio.
Given that there is no promise that any quarterback will hang onto a starting role all season, Trent Edwards will be used here to represent the combined 16 starts by the Bills quarterbacking crew.
Buffalo’s new front office may look to liven the team up, but they are still extremely limited in the passing game. Wide receiver Lee Evans suffered a sharp decline as the offense around him crumbled (a mere 44 catches for 612 yards to lead the team) and the rest of the receiving corps (including tight ends) combined for 32 catches the entire year.
The three-headed running attack will look to take the bulk of the load. Spiller could be a high-reception running back if Edwards is forced into a number of dump-off and emergency valve passes across the course of the year.
Final Verdict: With defenses stacking against the run, Buffalo’s quarterbacking crew may combine to hit the 3,000 yard barrier while putting up an 18/18 TD/INT ratio.
Another hard-to-predict team. Chad Henne enters as a day-one starter with a respectable initial campaign to build on despite Miami’s injury-plagued offensive unit. He now has one of the league’s better receivers in Brandon Marshall and a well-respected rushing attack to keep defenses honest.
What form of balance the offense strikes in 2010 will be interesting to watch, as the team moves away from the run-heavy wildcat offense borne out of necessity in the Pennington era.
Henne’s 2,878 yards in 14 games would have translated to just shy of 3,300 had he played a full 16 game season—still very middle of the road by current NFL standards. The Marshall deal should have a trickledown effect however, as the team now has a nice 1-2-3 punch at wide receiver.
Final Verdict: Henne will have the usual growing pains of a young quarterback, pairing a few great nights with the occasional bad throw and untimely interception. The Dolphins ground game still remains strong while they translate during the year into a more active passing game. Henne posts 3,500 yards and a 17/13 TD/INT ratio.
Sanchez is facing some high expectations for a second-year player with a 63.0 passer rating and the most interceptions of anyone not named Jay Cutler last year.
He showed development as the year closed, and the presence of Santonio Holmes (albeit after not until game five) should have a great effect as Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery will be able to slip into more natural second-fiddle receiving roles.
The Jets still figure to be a run-centric team that will live or die by a reworked backfield featuring two new backs (Ladainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight) and the only holdover (Shonn Greene) moving up into the starting role.
If they can put up numbers close to last season then New York will be content to let Sanchez come along slowly by filling out a Trent Dilfer-esque role. Should the running game take a step back however, Sanchez will be asked to do a good deal more than simply not turn the ball over.
Final Verdict: Sanchez may have an extra weapon, but New York wants to maintain its identity and pound the football. He may knock on 3,000 yards thanks to two or three big games, while improving to a 15:15 TD:INT ratio.
While it feels like Tom Brady equates to an automatic 4,000 yard season given his nearly 9,200 yards passing over the last two years, that is actually a relatively recent occurrence. He averaged roughly 3,700 yards per season in the five years prior (3,590 if you include his 2,800 yard year in 2001).
Concerns over a potential Randy Moss disfavor and questionable (albeit improved) Wes Welker injury situation should be tempered by the emerging Julian Edelman and revamped tight end position.
Another concern is that while a return from injury may have impacted Brady’s slower start (in weeks 2-5 he was nearly 40 yards a game below his season average), his finish to the season cannot be written off as easily.
In his final five games (including the opening round playoff loss) Brady averaged a mere 182.8 yards per game, nearly 100 below his 275 per game season average.
In a division that is suddenly looking like one of the NFL’s strongest, Brady will need more consistency in 2010 if the Patriots wish to retain their divisional crown.
Final Verdict: Still solid, but a minor downturn at 4,100 yards and a TD/INT ratio of 26/14.
Joe Flacco’s expected to have his emergent year in 2010 after the first signs of pulling the training wheels went fairly well last year. The team shifted back away from him down the stretch as he failed to put up more than 234 yards in his final seven games(including playoffs).
This year he will be expected to take on more of the offensive burden as Baltimore’s receiving corps added Cardinals great Anquan Boldin along with the potentially field-stretching Donte Stallworth to round out a group that instantly went from mediocre to quite impressive.
Add in the slowing but reliable Todd Heap and the team has five solid weapons for Flacco to spread the ball to, while their rushing game should serve to keep opposing defenses from keying in on the young signal caller.
Final Verdict: It is hard to envision Baltimore completely changing its run-first style given the backfield talent, but Flacco takes another step forward as Baltimore establishes itself as a dual-threat on offense behind 3,900 yards and a TD/INT ratio of 22/12.
The Bengals established their identity in 2009 as a traditional rust-belt hard-nosed team that preferred to shove the ball down a team’s throat rather than toss it over their heads.
Benson’s career year came alongside Palmer’s worst as the former pro-bowler averaged less than 200 yards a game over a full season for the first time in his career. His yardage, touchdown, and completion percentage all stood as his worst in a full year.
The Bengals attempted to rectify this in the offseason by replacing Laveranues Coles with Antonio Bryant and drafting the top-ranked tight end in Jermaine Gresham.
Cincinnati’s offseason moves were likely to add balance over shifting back to a Palmer-led attack however, as they are still not particularly deep at wide receiver and Bryant is inconsistent in the best of situations.
Final Verdict: The offense now goes through Benson, not Palmer, though he will get some opportunity as the team tries to preserve Benson a little more in his second campaign. 3,400 yards and a 23/14 TD/INT ratio.
Pittsburgh’s offseason was nothing if not tumultuous. Ben Roethlisberger’s first 4,000 yard year was soured by a four-game suspension to start the 2010 season, while their leading (yardage-wise) receiver was traded away for a fifth round draft pick.
The team further prepared to transition back to its power-running roots by unloading veteran back Willie Parker in favor of 220 pound rookie Jonathan Dwyer to backup Rashard Mendenhall.
How this duo fares in the first four games should affect how the team will operate once big Ben returns, meaning a return to 2006-2008 type numbers would not be a surprise.
Should they struggle however, Roethlisberger will need to count on rookie Mike Wallace’s ability to take on a more prominent role while hoping Hines Ward can continue to defy time at 34 years old.
Final Verdict: Establishing the running game serves to both balance the offense and give some insurance against any further incidents surrounding Ben. In parenthesis would be his 12 game totals translated to a full 16 game season for comparison to other QB’s. 2,700 yards (3,600) and an 18/9 (24/12) TD/INT ratio.
For the sake of argument it will be assumed that Jake Delhomme does at least enough to hang onto his job for one full year in Cleveland. That said the Browns are not scaring anyone through the air in 2010.
The promising receiving corps is still very young and lacking in a number-one threat, although the top four should be relatively solid as a whole. Ben Watson used to be a solid option for New England, and should get extra attention as a safety valve in Cleveland’s offense, but he will be more of a security blanket than a true threat for the Browns.
The Browns will likely start the year as a run first (or run second, maybe even third as well) team after the emergent Jerome Harrison was given a backfield playmate in Montario Hardesty while the receiver position remained untouched.
Final Verdict: Cleveland looked to rebuild itself on the defensive side first, meaning few weapons were added for new quarterback Jake Delhomme (who is something of a concern himself) to work with. He’ll be an uptick over the Quinn/Anderson duo, but not by a whole lot. 2,800 yards 14/16 TD/INT ratio.
Jay Cutler was something of a disappointment in his inaugural Bears season with high yardage and attempt totals coupled with a mediocre completion percentage and league-leading 26 interceptions (six more than rookies Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford).
For a Chicago team that welcomed him with much fanfare, it quickly became apparent that a former pro bowl quarterback cannot step into an ill-fitting scheme with limited offensive talent and make things happen on his own.
Chicago looked for answers in the offseason by installing Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator along with offensive role-players Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna.
What they failed to do however was significantly address an offense that needed front-line help over supporting cast additions.
Chicago’s offensive line and wide receiver positions both went virtually untouched despite being among their most glaring needs. Obviously they were hamstrung by a Cutler-trade depleted draft, but wideouts could be traded on the cheap this offseason and a Santonio Holmes or Anquan Boldin could have aided Cutler’s cause tremendously.
Final Verdict: The Taylor/Manumaleuna additions should have a greater impact on the league’s 29th ranked rushing attack, but third-down Taylor dumpoffs won’t significantly improve Cutler’s numbers. Martz’ offense should see his attempts remain high. 3,700 yards 26/20 TD/INT ratio.
The Lions went from laughing-stock to simply bad team in 2009. This offseason they took a few more steps on that path to respectability by giving second-year quarterback Mathew Stafford a multi-threat weapon in the backfield with Jahvid Best and a pair of receiving threats in tight end in Tony Scheffler and wideout Nate Burleson.
The offensive line is still shaky and Burleson is probably better suited to being the number three guy, but it is still another step forward.
Beyond the overall talent level, Detroit will also have to focus on keeping Matthew Stafford alive after various injuries limited him to 10 games in his inaugural season.
If he can remain in the lineup for 14+ games, Stafford can build on the solid foundation he laid down in his rookie year that the team looks to build on as they try stepping out of top-5 draft pick territory.
Final Verdict: The Lions still need too much to predict a great year, but the pieces are slowly coming together. Stafford throws for 3,600 yards and a 22/20 TD/INT ratio.
Aaron Rodgers made the move from good to great last year behind a 4,400 yard 103.2 rated season. The biggest offensive concern was a league-leading 50 sacks, which Green Bay looked to address with both first-round pick Brian Bulaga and mid-round guard Marshall Newhouse.
The highly effective Packers offense remains otherwise quite similar to 2009, which should be a good thing for Rodgers’ effectiveness.
Final Verdict: Another 4,400 yards as Rodgers earns one or two MVP votes, but his great turnover ratio suffers slightly with a 32/10 TD/INT ratio.
One thing 2009 taught us was to never count out Brett Favre. The less he trains in the offseason, the more he appears to have left for the regular season. He finished the year as one of only four players to garner MVP votes.
The Vikings' powerful passing assault went relatively untouched in the offseason, but like Green Bay that is probably a good thing as the Vikings already appear to have both the top-end talent and depth to run their offense.
Expecting another 107.2 rated season is something of a stretch for any player, especially as teams start shifting away from stacking against Peterson to renew their focus on the future hall of fame quarterback. How he responds will be interesting.
Final Verdict: Not the season for the ages he had in 2009, but still highly effective. 4,100 yards 30/10 TD/INT ratio.
Matt Ryan’s second season didn’t turn out quite the way he had in mind. With all the buzz and excitement in Atlanta going into the season, Ryan’s campaign was hampered by injury (both to himself and running back Michael Turner) which ultimately resulted in a 500 yard downtick and seven point drop in quarterback rating.
Assuming health there is little reason to believe Ryan can’t pick up where he left off in his rookie year. The offensive weapons are still in place, although one of these days Tony Gonzalez has to start slowing down.
The biggest boost to Ryan’s numbers could be a healthy Turner, which opens up space as the Falcons pounder can force defenses to choose their poison.
Final Verdict: Ryan’s attempts may be somewhat limited by Turner’s success, but will open space when he does throw. 3,800 yards 24/14 TD/INT ratio.
In the pantheon of hard-to-predict quarterbacks, Matt Moore has to rate quite high. The Panthers signal caller turned the team’s fortunes around when he took over quarterbacking duties en route to a 4-1 record as a starter in 2009.
That said, he maintained a fairly modest pace across that span, which would have translated out to a 3,300 yard season across 16 games (helped considerably by one 299 yard game—he only averaged 172 yards in each of his other four).
Carolina is a run first (and second) team that doesn’t have to shy away from ground reps thanks to a two starting-quality running backs to split the load.
The Panthers are also still fairly thin at receiving talent. Steve Smith is getting older and needs more help than what Dwayne Jarrett and Jeff King are able to provide. Brandon LaFell has good potential down the road as a big target for Moore, but needs a little polish and will unlikely break higher than third on the depth chart his rookie year.
Final Verdict: Moore will do a much better job protecting the football, but to expect the Panthers to suddenly air it out with their receiving corps is folly. 3,400 yards 23/10 TD/INT ratio.
Drew Brees has been a statistical juggernaut in his time in New Orleans, averaging over 4,500 yards per season. He actually had his lowest numbers as a Saint in 2009 mainly due to the team finally establishing a solid running attack behind Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell.
Bell’s departure could signal an attack halfway between the pass-centric 2008 team and last year’s balanced approach, as Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush both present injury concerns at the tailback position.
Betting on his success is one of the surest things right now in the NFL.
Final Verdict: The running game means he won’t be reaching 5,000 yard territory again, but he does throw a bit more than last year. 4,500 yards 35/14 TD/INT ratio.
Josh Freeman showed the Buccaneers that he had the tools to be the first franchise quarterback in a long time for the Bucs. He also showed how young and raw he was, averaging two interceptions per start (translating to a league leading 32 across 16 games).
He finished the year at just over 200 yards per game (a 3,200 yard pace) but those totals came in a very up or down fashion (highlighted by following up a 321 yard game with a 93 yard clunker).
Tampa did make some effort to give him weapons by drafting talented wideouts Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams, but they also lost starting wideout Antonio Bryant to free agency and Williams’ talent comes with many character concerns.
The Bucs offense will likely live and die with Cadillac Williams’ health without trying to push Freeman to develop too fast. Tampa’s low budget approach also yields low expectations that should give Freeman the least pressure of the three sophomore starters.
Final Verdict: He has a few standout games coupled with a few where he looks very young, and Tampa keeps it on the ground for the most part. 3,300 yards 17/22 TD/INT ratio. Look for him to break out in year three, not two.
Matt Schaub has been one of the least heralded highly productive quarterbacks of the past two years (translating his 2008 numbers up to 16 games would equate to over 4,400 yards).
He has a powerhouse attack that led the league through the air last season with over 4,700 yards behind nearly 600 passing attempts.
Due as much to Houston’s inability to run the football consistently as their aerial strength, the Texans looked to take some pressure off of Schaub’s arm in drafting Ben Tate to be Steve Slaton’s running mate.
The assumption is that Houston will obviously remain a pass-first team, but in a far more balanced fashion that is not solely reliant on the Schaub-to-Johnson combination.
Final Verdict: The slight bump to the ground attack chews a little at Schaub’s totals. 4,500 yards 27/14 TD/INT ratio.
For all of the MVP awards and winning streaks Indianapolis managed put up last year, there has to be a few points of concern. Manning had his highest interception total since 2002 with 16 in the regular season and his impressive string of 192 straight regular season games portrays a remarkable string of both good protection (averaging less than 18 sacks per season across his career) and great luck.
This doesn’t mean 2010 will be any different in the injury department, but it does mean the Colts may be mindful to dial him back slightly and try to bump that running game out of the cellar.
Indianapolis was understandably content to leave its offense relatively untouched from last season, but look for them to keep it on the ground a few more times, not even necessarily enough to be termed ‘balanced’ but rather see that 1,294 yard 32nd ranked total to jump to into the 1,500’s and still be bottom 10.
Final Verdict: Manning’s 2007/2008 seasons are probably more reflective of what a team wants from a more balanced approach. He will have to throw a bit more than that, but less than 2009. 4,200 yards with a 32/14 TD/INT ratio.
What to think from Vince Young? For as much credit as he received when the Titans turned their fortunes around followed his return to the field, Young put up fairly average numbers for Tennessee.
Across a full season his averages would have barely eclipsed 3,000 yards along with a 16/11 TD/INT ratio. Averaging almost 30 a game on the ground helps, but he will need to win a few games with his arm, especially given that it would be nearly impossible for Chris Johnson to repeat his staggering 2009 totals and should see a 200-300 yard dropoff (which still equates to leading the league by over one-hundred yards).
He was given one new weapon in Damian Williams, a late first/early second round talent that slipped to 77.
That said, the Titans are still a team with solid receiving depth that is very much in need of a true number-one guy, and Tennessee will be forced to continue to ride Johnson until they find that player for Young.
Final Verdict: Young puts up respectable blue-collar numbers, but won’t turn heads. 3,200 yards 17/12 TD/INT ratio.
David Garrard may not have been the right quarterback to be representing the AFC in the pro bowl, but he is perhaps a bit unfairly maligned.
With no receiving corps to speak of, Garrard put together a respectable 3,600 yard season for the Jaguars. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Jacksonville’s offense looks very much the same less Torry Holt. Garrard found one starter in Mike Sims-Walker, but he is ideally suited to being a solid second-weapon not the primary target for the Jags offense.
Defenses will stack against Maurice Jones-Drew more and more until the Jaguars can find a more effective outside threat, something they ignored in favor of drafting an entire defensive line.
Final Verdict: On a team with a decent supporting cast Garrard should be a solid quarterback that falls just out of the top-ten tanks. He isn’t talented enough to make something of nothing, and Jacksonville continues to struggle. 3,500 yards 16/11 TD/INT ratio.
Matt Leinart is in an interesting position. He is taking over a finely tuned machine that put up over 3,700 yards in essentially 13 ½ games for Kurt Warner. He is neither seasoned veteran in a new system (Donovan McNabb, Jason Campbell, Jake Delhomme), or a young newcomer (Sam Bradford).
At 27 years of age, having spent his entire career in a Cardinals uniform, Leinart should be just coming into his prime, but instead posted still unremarkable numbers in limited duty in 2009.
Four years into the league he is a 71 rated passer who has only made six of his seventeen career starts over the last three.
That said, he has four years of familiarity with the team and system, while maintaining a great receiving corps even in the wake of Anquan Boldin’s departure. He should have some of the pressure taken off as the Cardinals are expected to lean a little more on a Beanie Wells-led rushing attack and not force him into a Kurt Warner role.
Final Verdict: Leinart will go through some struggles in his first year, but do enough to fend off Derek Anderson and keep the starting role for at least one extra season. 3,300 yards 22/15 TD/INT ratio.
Alex Smith continues a divisional trend of being difficult to gauge. San Francisco saw enough of him in 2009 to feel comfortable unloading Shaun Hill and making him the uncontested starter. That move could be a dangerous one, as Smith has yet to see 3,000 yards or 20 touchdowns in a season while boasting a career quarterback rating below 70.
He does however enter the 2010 year with the best supporting cast he has ever had to work with while building on a respectable 81.5 rating last season.
The 49ers could still use one more solid receiver to pair with Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan (unless rookie Kyle Williams can step into the role), but at least Smith finally has a true number one.
The Anthony Dixon/Frank Gore duo will continue to keep San Francisco as a run-first team, but don’t be surprised if Smith is given a bit more freedom to either prove he is the guy or let San Francisco brass know once and for all that they need to go another direction.
Final Verdict: Smith does enough to hang onto his job, but not enough to take the 49ers to the next level. 3,400 yards 20/12 TD/INT ratio.
What Matt Hasselbeck can do is completely dependent on his health. If he can avoid too many dings he is still a very solid starting quarterback that can run Seattle’s offense to divisional contention in the weak NFC West.
Unfortunately he has suffered through an array of injuries that have either held him out of games (eleven the past two years) or forced him to take the field at a reduced level.
He is also undergoing an entire regime change coupled with a significant personnel turnover that puts the overall makeup of the team in flux. There’s a lot of new talent coming in, but they are also getting much younger on offense as Golden Tate and Russell Okung look to play a significant role as rookies.
Picking up LenDale White and Leon Washington shows a commitment to at least balance if not an actual run-first attack, which takes the pressure off Hasselbeck and should contribute to fewer hits across the course of a season.
Final Verdict: He’s definitely on the downturn of his career after peaking in 2007, but the infusion of fresh blood around him brings about a solid 3,700 yard 20/14 TD/INT ratio campaign that holds off Charlie Whitehurst until halfway through the 2011 season.
Sam Bradford is in an unfortunate spot. The past five rookie starters have accounted fairly well of themselves in entering the league (despite the turnover-heavy growing pains of last year’s threesome).
They all had at least a few offensive weapons to work with. For Bradford there’s very little around him after running back Steven Jackson, whose years of abuse carrying a bad Rams team has left him nicked up unable to play a full 16 games more than once in his 6 year career.
Rookie Mardy Gilyard could quickly emerge as a number 2 or 3 option for Braford, whose current starters combined for 72 catches and 742 yards (or the average numbers of a good receiving tight end).
Expect a fairly painful opening campaign regardless of Bradford’s long-term potential, as the Rams look better but don’t move forward all that much in the win column.
Final Verdict: Bradford spends too much time in his rookie year running for his life with no one to throw to. 2,800 yards 14/22 TD/INT ratio.
Philip Rivers stands with Drew Brees and Brett Favre as the only other MVP vote-getters after the near-consensus Peyton Manning.
He posted one of five 100+ quarterback ratings (interestingly enough none of those five were named Manning) and returns essentially the same offense with the exception of a running-back turnover as Ryan Mathews steps into the position long held by Ladainian Tomlinson.
The assumption is that the younger, sprier Mathews will log a greater workload then Tomlinson was able to handle in 2009, although the team will retain its image as a passing team.
The greatest asset Rivers has is the matchup nightmare that is his receiving corps. His three primary targets are all 6’5’’ and great jump-ball receivers capable of plucking the ball away even when opposing corners do everything right.
Final Verdict: Mathews may eat an extra 2-3 reps per game, but it might also give him extra space. 4,200 yards 30/12 TD/INT ratio.
Kyle Orton was similar to David Garrard in that he may not have performed at an elite level, but it would be difficult to say he was a weak point on the team.
He ended the year one spot away from breaking the top ten in yardage, while putting up a respectable 62.3% completion rate and 21/12 TD/INT ratio.
This year however he will face more pressure with two potential starters waiting in the wings and a receiving corps that replaced one of the NFL’s premier threats with a rookie whose talent outpaces his polish at this stage.
The Broncos may elect to lean a bit more on second-year back Knowshon Moreno after a near 1,000 yard rookie campaign while hoping Eddie Royal can step up after a major downturn that saw him suffer a 54 catch 640 yard drop-off.
Final Verdict: Orton performs similar to 2009, but without Brandon Marshall it equates to less production. 3,600 yards 19/12 TD/INT ratio.
The first year of Matt Cassel bore what could kindly be described as mixed results behind a sub-3,000 yard season that ended with a quarterback rating below 70.
This was not entirely on Cassel, as the Chiefs suffered a painful lack of offensive talent that was only partially addressed as the season ran down.
He will enter the 2010 year with a few more tools in Dexter McCluster and a running back tandem that should keep both Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles fresh while Tony Moeaki could give him the outlet he lacked last year.
But the Chiefs still have concerns along the offensive line and could have used a true running mate for Dwayne Bowe rather than a scatback/slot receiver combo player. Chris Chambers upgraded the position from terrible to adequate, but given that Bowe is not a ‘take a game over’ type of wideout in the lead spot, adequate is probably not enough.
Final Verdict: Unless McCluster becomes his Wes Welker, Cassel will still have a tough time with a suspect line and receiving corps. 3,300 yards 18/15 TD/INT ratio.
The Jamarcus Russell ended with a thud as Jason Campbell steps up to the plate as the Raiders most legitimate quarterback in years.
He still must contend with an offense that is sorely lacking in effective playmakers. The young top-three wide receiving corps combined for 72 receptions and 1,010 yards (i.e. fewer combined catches than 25 different individual wideouts and fewer yards than 23).
While that is due in part to the ineffective play of their former starter, it also is a representation of the combined youth and lack of a true number-one guy. In two or three years they could be a rather effective group, but a stabilizing veteran presence would have gone a long way to helping a unit that had difficulties with drops and separation in 2009.
Campbell is accustomed to working through difficulties as he has thus far spent his career in a dysfunctional Redskins system that has failed to give him solid receivers beyond Santana Moss.
Final Verdict: The Raiders are on the rise, and Campbell may just be the one to lead them out of their five win ceiling, but while waiting for the young receivers and rookie linemen to develop he encounters a minor statistical downturn. 3,400 yards behind a 19/13 TD/INT ratio.