NFL: 10 Starting Quarterbacks with Something to Prove in 2011

Nick McAndrews@@NickMcAndrewsCorrespondent IIIJuly 18, 2011

NFL: 10 Starting Quarterbacks with Something to Prove in 2011

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    Quarterbacks in the NFL are under enormous amounts of pressure week in and week out. These men play arguably the most important position in all of America's Game.

    Every team's QB needs to be able to lift his team up on his shoulders and be "the guy" on the field and in the locker room. 

    With the kind of responsibility that comes with this position at this level of the game, it's no wonder why these guys get the big money. 

    Also with that kind of responsibility, they must stay competitive to remain at the same great level of play every week. 

    Every game, every player has something to prove. Whether it be dominance or simply the worthiness of being on an NFL roster. 

    The stakes are much higher for quarterbacks. 

    Here are 10 NFL starting quarterbacks and what they have to prove to not only themselves or their fanbases, but to the entire NFL. 

Aaron Rodgers

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    Aaron Rodgers is on the top of the world right now. 

    Not only did his team just win the Super Bowl, but also he was named Super Bowl MVP. 

    Rodgers is the most beloved man in all of Wisconsin (other than Vince Lombardi, of course) and probably the most hated man in Minnesota and Illinois. 

    Rodgers is a great QB and can compete with the best at his position, but how long will it stay that way?

    His offensive line is getting older, and many of his teammates struggle to stay healthy. 

    He will reportedly lose WR James Jones to free agency and WR Donald Driver to retirement, leaving Jordy Nelson as a starter. 

    How will Rodgers fare with an aging line and a reduced receiving core in 2011? 

    Aaron Rodgers must prove that he is talented and mature enough to continue being "that guy" for the Packers. He must prove that he can live up to the expectations that he set for himself in 2010. 

Jay Cutler

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    The Chicago Bears dominated the NFC North for most of 2010. 

    Jay Cutler played well on the offensive side, helping the team reach the playoffs and eventually the NFC Championship game to face their long-time rival Green Bay Packers.

    Cutler got absolutely mopped all over the field. 

    He left with the game on the line from a somewhat minor injury, ultimately allowing pretty much everyone to question his toughness and drive when the game is on the line. 

    I think Cutler is a good QB, but when it matters, I wouldn't want him calling plays for my team. 

    Jay Cutler must prove that he is tough enough to compete in the NFC North, a division known for being the toughest. He also must prove that he is mature enough to play hard even when facing adversity. 

    One could argue that the Bears don't have much of a receiving core. If they enter the market to bring a big name wideout to the Windy City, Cutler will also have to prove that his lack of production was from bad receivers and improve his stats with a new target. 

Matthew Stafford

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    Matthew Stafford has a lot of potential as a starter in the NFL. He has shown some some of these glimpses in the short time that he has started in Detroit. 

    Unfortunately, Stafford has spent more time on the sideline, injured, than he has on the field. 

    His teammates believe in him. He is an emotional leader for the Lions, the only problem is that he appears too fragile to play at this level. 

    With all of the great young players the Lions organization has brought to Detroit, Stafford has the weapons around him to take his team to the next level—if he can stay healthy. 

    Matthew Stafford must prove that he is tough enough to make it through 16 games. I think that if he can do that, the Lions might be on their way to the playoffs. 

    The outcome of each game won't always fall on Stafford's shoulders, but he must show that he can at least stay in the game long enough to help his team compete in the toughest division in the NFC.

Tony Romo

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    Did you forget about this guy? 

    Tony Romo is undoubtedly still the starter in Dallas while he's healthy. 

    With how much of a disaster 2010 was for the Cowboys, I don't think expectations are that high for Romo. 

    However, he must show that he can still play at an NFL level after being injured for essentially two seasons. 

    Romo has some very good players around him, so it shouldn't be that difficult for him to play at a high level. But he needs to show that athletically, he still belongs on a football field and not just the golf courses that he has grown so accustomed to. 

    Tony Romo must prove his athleticism and toughness in 2011, and if his team is to make the playoffs, he will have to continue his struggle to show that he can win in the playoffs. 

    Tony Romo has a lot to prove. 

Donovan McNabb

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    Donovan McNabb could be a hot commodity for teams with rookie QB's. He has been linked to several teams including the Cardinals, Vikings and Dolphins, but will ultimately need to be traded out of Washington first (or get cut). 

    At age 35, McNabb still has some juice left in the tank and just needs to find the right team and the right system for his services. 

    After two failed seasons in 2009 and 2010, McNabb must show that he can still play at a high level and make a team a contender. 

    I'm sure that wherever he ends up in 2011, he will be the starter. With that being said, Donovan McNabb must prove that he still has a few good seasons ahead of him and that he is still worth a chance to lead a team. 

    Naturally, the team he ends up with will require him to mentor a young QB, as he is merely a transition player at this point in his career. So he also must prove that he is capable of being a good teacher to a young new player. 

Michael Vick

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    Michael Vick's storybook comeback to the NFL is nothing short of inspiring. 

    He began the season as a second string QB, and from his first snap since Kevin Kolb went down, Vick has been sensational. 

    For many fantasy football owners (including myself) Vick was the pick-up of the year, and with the kind of numbers he put up, the pick-up of a lifetime for the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Michael Vick must prove that he can continue to play at this high of a level, he must prove that the firecracker of a player won't fizzle after one season back and go into remission. 

    If Vick has another year like he did in 2010, the Eagles could be Super Bowl bound. This will require, though, that he doesn't have anymore embarrassing defeats like he had to the Vikings in 2010. 

Philip Rivers

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    Before 2010, the San Diego Chargers had made the playoffs every year since 2006. In 2010, however, the Chargers were beat out by the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.

    Philip Rivers has always been a bright spot for the Chargers, while his team has begun to fade, Rivers continues to perform at a high level. 

    In 2010, Rivers through for 4,710 yards, 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and had a passer rating of 101.8. This performance was enough to earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl and rank him among the top five QBs in the NFL in 2010. 

    Rivers' team, on the other hand, was a disappointment which could put his leadership in question. 

    If the Chargers can get a better showing out of their offensive line and now sophomore RB Ryan Matthews, I think that could be enough for them to rebound and earn a playoff spot. 

    Philip Rivers will need to prove that he has the leadership ability to keep his team together for a whole season and get each of his teammates to play to their full potential. 

Kevin Kolb

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    There is perhaps no more coveted a trade acquisition than Philadelphia Eagles QB Kevin Kolb. 

    Kolb was the starter for the Eagles at the beginning of the 2010 season, but ultimately lost the starting job to Michael Vick after a concussion at the hands (and helmet and turf) of Packers LB Clay Matthews. 

    Kolb will definitely be moved out of Philly once the lockout is lifted, but the question that remains is where will he end up?

    To be completely honest, it doesn't matter within the context of this article. 

    Kolb has two things to prove:

    1) That his injury in 2010 won't linger when Kolb reaches his new team.

    2) That he is worth the high price that the Eagles are asking for him. 

    These two combined beg the question how can anyone bank on Kevin Kolb be an immediate starter when he's so unproven?

    There's no guarantee that Kolb will be a savior for any team that he ends up with. His acquisition does not mean a complete turn around for anyone. He needs to prove his worth in 2011, no matter where he ends up.

Peyton Manning

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    Peyton Manning is one of the most iconic players in the NFL. Not only is he a great player, but a great mind and entertainer as well. 

    No one will question Manning's football knowledge at this point in his career, but has he slowed down? Yes. 

    It has been reported that Manning underwent surgery this offseason, and that he didn't participate in his own passing academy. 

    If the Colts are to succeed in 2011 and on, Manning will have to show that he can rebound from this injury and that he has not aged too much to compete at the level expected of him. 

    Manning was voted by his fellow players as the second best player in the entire NFL, second only to rival Tom Brady

    Peyton Manning will have to prove that he has earned that designation.

Tom Brady

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    As I stated in the previous slide, Tom Brady was voted the best player in the NFL by his peers on the NFL's top 100 players of 2011. 

    Since 2001, the Patriots have only missed the playoffs twice and have been to four Super Bowls and won three in that same period. 

    Brady has lead the team for those last 10 years and has shown no signs of slowing down yet, but how long can that last?

    As he enters his 11th season in the NFL, Brady is seen by pretty much everyone (other than the spiteful Colts fans) as not only the best QB in the NFL, but the best player. Period. 

    With that kind of recognition comes the same pressure that I described in the introduction slide.

    Tom Brady must prove that he is the best player in the NFL and that he can make another push through the playoffs to another Super Bowl before he ends his spectacular career. 

    But who better than Tom Brady right? The guy can do it all. 

Rookie QBs

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    Cam Newton

    Newton must show that he was worth the No. 1 draft pick and live up to all of the hype that surrounds a player of that caliber, especially after winning a national championship at Auburn. 

     

    Christian Ponder

    Ponder must prove that he possesses the arm strength to be a starting QB in the NFL, he must show that he has what it takes to lead a team coming right out of college as he did. He must prove that he was worth the first round pick that the Vikings took him as.

     

    Jake Locker

    Locker must prove that he, too, was worth a first-round pick. He must show that his athleticism is not his only upside and that his accuracy should not be questioned. 

     

    Blaine Gabbert

    Gabbert must prove that he can play in an NFL system after playing only in a spread system in college. He must show that he was worth all of the media hype that surrounded him before the draft.

     

    Andy Dalton

    Dalton must show that he has the poise and maturity to deal with the media frenzy that will likely come with the battle between Carson Palmer and the Bengals organization. Dalton could likely be in a situation similar to that of Aaron Rodgers only a few years ago.