Dove Valley, CO. Thursday was a historic day for any Denver Broncos fan. It was the first official training camp practice with Peyton Manning directing traffic in the orange and blue. “Manning Camp” has now begun as the entire team was together, with helmets on, for the first time this summer. Seeing #18 in the Broncos colors is still pleasantly strange, and watching him bark out calls at the line of scrimmage had to excite any Denver fan in attendance. This is real, Peyton is a Bronco, and he continues to look and sound extremely motivated to have an enormous season ahead. With that said, in this chapter of the “Top 7″ series, here are the seven QB’s with the most to prove in 2012…..
7 – Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams - After having a nice rookie year of 3,500 yards and 60% completions in 2010, Bradford played in only ten games last year because of nagging injuries. When he did play, he was very ineffective and the Rams struggled all season. Bradford needs to prove he is the franchise QB that St. Louis thinks they have. They chose not to pick Robert Griffin III in this years draft, and instead traded that pick for a slew of future picks. 2012 is a year for Sam to show everyone he is the Rams QB for years to come.
6 – Mark Sanchez, N.Y. Jets - Well, well, well….will there be a QB under more fire the first few weeks of 2012 if the Jets start, say 1-2 or 1-3? This is gonna be some great reality TV, with Timmy sitting on the sidelines, and the Jets faithful clamoring for #15 to come into the game. Sanchez will have to play lights out to keep the attack dogs at bay. Will he? Who the heck knows. He could be motivated and come out strong, or fold like a cheap suit. Either way, Jets games are gonna be very entertaining.
5 – Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears - Through 6 seasons in the NFL, Cutler has fairly decent stats. Last year, he showed he can be outstanding at times and deserves to be Chicago’s main man. But then he broke his thumb and the wheels flew off the Bears wagon. Chicago added Brandon Marshall and Michael Bush in the offseason, so he now has the most weapons he has ever had in the windy city. Skeptics have questioned his toughness and body language many times, so this is a big year ahead for Mr. Cutler. He needs to take that next step to be considered a top notch NFL QB.
4 – Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles - The human video game has always been freakishly talented, but he and Philly were a huge disappointment in 2011. Vick missed 3 games because of injury, and the team just looked a little off all year. Last August, he signed a six-year, $100 million deal and many wondered if that was a smart decision for the Eagles to invest in a somewhat unproven commodity. He is and always has been exciting, but leading a team deep into the playoffs has not been his thing. 2012 is going to be a year for Michael and the Eagles to prove the critics wrong.
3 – Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons - “Matty Ice” will be entering his fifth season as QB for the Falcons, and he has a ton to prove now. Atlanta has had a lot of regular season success the last few years, but Ryan is 0-3 in the playoffs. This offense is extremely explosive after adding Julio Jones last year, but scored only 2 points in a January post-season loss to the Giants. The Falcons faithful have to be frustrated that Ryan can’t seem to get it done come playoff time. It won’t matter what Atlanta does in the regular season, because Matt Ryan will have to come up big when it matters most.
2 – Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys - Talk about a polarizing player in the NFL right now, and Romo is near the top of that list. Is he really good, or an underachiever? Is he a choker, or can’t catch a break? Tony Romo has put up some impressive stats in his few years as Cowboys QB, but like Matt Ryan, has had plenty of trouble in December and January. Did you know….Tony Romo has the 2nd highest career QB rating (96.9) of all time. He also has an impressive QB/Int ratio of 149/72. But to be considered one of the great QB’s in the game, playoff success has to be there. 2012 is a huge year for Romo, as he is squarely on the hot seat.
1 – Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos - I need to write that again, Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos…..still sounds a tad weird…..Peyton arguably has the most to prove in 2012 to NFL fans, critics, and to himself. Is he truly 100% healthy and will he be back to his old self when the Steelers come to town in week 1? Will he have the zip on the ball and will there be any limitations to his game once the season begins? One thing is for sure. Nobody that has watched Manning during his career or listened to him the last 2 months can question his fire or determination to succeed. He has the look of a guy who is quietly getting his game back, and slowly gaining confidence in that right arm once again. 2012 is going to be so much fun for Broncos fans to witness, and the fact that a future Hall of Famer will be running the offense still hasn’t sunk in for most people. Something tells me that this year is going to be very memorable, as Peyton shreds opposing defenses like he has done so many times before.