Compelling QB situations (cont.)
6. Buffalo Bills
The Upshot: With the exception of adding Troy's Levi Brown in the seventh round Saturday, the Bills' three-man quarterback contingent returns intact from 2009. But with a new head coach in Chan Gailey and a new general manager in Buddy Nix, nobody has much of a grip on any job in Buffalo. So the part worth watching this season will be how Gailey sorts through his passers and finds the one he's willing to live with. His history is to run the ball, play field position and not ask his quarterback to put the game on his shoulders. Edwards is still the guy who makes the most sense to start, but Fitzpatrick is Gailey's type of game-manager QB, and some folks are very interested to see if Brown can be that rare late-round pick who's more than just developmental material.
Potential For Change: In Buffalo? There's the potential for a change at quarterback every week. If I had to pick one team that could hit for the quarterback cycle this season -- starting four players -- it would be the Bills.
7. Denver Broncos
The Upshot: The selection of Tebow in the first round Thursday night may not wind up greatly impacting the 2010 season, but with head coach Josh McDaniels' fate now tied to the ex-Gator quarterback, it's clear that everything about Denver's future revolves around the former Heisman winner. Orton is entering the final year of his contract, and in a perfect world he plays well this year and then leaves via free agency. Quinn just had his path back to relevancy blocked by Tebow's arrival, and he's just an insurance policy in case Orton gets hurt at this point. At best he's playing for an opportunity with a third NFL team. Brandstater actually had his fans in Denver, but the field is too crowded and he's probably the odd man out.
Potential For Change: Orton still has a commanding edge when it comes to the starting job, but it'll be fascinating to watch how the Broncos employ Tebow in either specialty packages or getting-his-feet-wet, mid-game roles. There's certainly a chance for Orton and Quinn to feel some frustration this year because they can read the writing on the wall in Denver, and it doesn't include their names.
8. Philadelphia Eagles
The Upshot: There should be no quarterback controversy in Philadelphia this year now that Donovan McNabb has finally met his destiny and become an ex-Eagle. The job belongs to Kolb and he's had three years to prep for this opportunity, much like Aaron Rodgers did replacing Brett Favre in Green Bay. But this being Philadelphia, I'm curious to see how long the fans remain in love with Kolb now that he's not the backup option, but has to turn his promise into production on a week-to-week basis. And could Vick's pinch-hit role in the offense increase with No. 5 out of the way, and is he willing to stay patient and quiet if he has to spend 95 percent of the time on the sideline again in 2010?
Potential For Change: We know Andy Reid doesn't do knee jerk, so Kolb doesn't have to look over his shoulder this year. But Vick can't be completely sold on the situation, and how long until someone starts agitating to see what the wonderfully named rookie late-round pick Kafka can do?
9. St. Louis Rams
The Upshot: If I had to put a buck down, I'd say Bradford's rookie season will be closer to the Matthew Stafford experience in Detroit last year than the Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez magic-carpet rides of 2008 and 2009: Some good, some bad and plenty of ugly. But that says more about where the Rams are as a team than it does about the ex-Oklahoma quarterback. Bradford doesn't have to win the starting job per se, he just can't lose it. The Rams didn't draft him first overall to sit, watch and learn while Feeley plays. He'll be center stage from day one, and in the long run, St. Louis will be better off for it.
Potential For Change: Only an injury or a complete loss of confidence will result in Bradford leaving the Rams lineup. The best thing St. Louis did for the rookie was use its second-round pick on Indiana University offensive tackle Rodger Saffold, and if you don't understand the wisdom of that move, just ask Marc Bulger.
10. San Francisco 49ers
The Upshot: Smith's grip on the starting job got a little more secure when the 49ers passed repeatedly on Notre Dame's Clausen last Thursday and Friday nights. But it remains less than vise-like. The 2005 top overall pick is entering the last year of his rookie deal, and he's playing for his NFL future this season. He's San Francisco's clear-cut starter entering camp, but he'll be operating on a short lease this season because it's win-now time for Mike Singletary's 49ers. Should Smith struggle, you'll see Carr (another former No. 1 overall pick) and maybe even second-year man Davis given a turn under center.
Potential For Change: I liked what we saw out of Smith's career-resurrection last season, and my sense is he's by far the best option to run the 49ers offense. If San Francisco reverts back to a running-game-centric offense and gets away from what Smith does best, spreading the field and finding the open receiver, he could be back in the soup. But the 49ers are a team on the cusp, and Smith gives them the best possible chance to get where they want to go. The 2010 season is and should be in his hands.
NFL Truth & Rumors