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Spill-Over of the QB Carousel
By Matthew Campbell
Special to paydirtfootball.com

Junkyard Dog’s First Quarter QB Appraisals and Predictions for the rest of the Season
Of all the things that make a good read, Opinion is the most dynamic. It takes a “balls to the wall”, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” approach to create something that will be worth reading. That’s the approach I’ll be taking here under the surname Junkyard Dog. I aim that you find this article worth reading… twice.
Trade-mania hit PFL this past month like the 2008 Asian Bird Flu. The newbie GM’s in Jacksonville and Arizona took the lead most of the time until the Ravens decided to completely gut their roster. (Seven teams acted as sluggards and logged zero trades.) Some trades resulted in strong improvements and others were as pointless as if had celebrated the trade of two seventh round picks for a sixth round pick. In all of it, one theme could not be avoided: “The quarterback is the most important position in PFL.” In response, I will rank the teams in order of their quarterback situations and how they may perform this season. It doesn’t matter to me if the quarterback has a future beyond this season. I will only write in terms of what they can do at the present.
Do not feel personally attacked by the rankings. Instead, PROVE ME WRONG. You have about 12 weeks left to do that.
~ Junkyard Dog

#32 Donovan McNabb
If it were up to paper, he would not be the basement. On the field of play he has not passed for a touchdown yet and the future is bleak. It’s possible the coach is hesitant to pass in the Red Zone and McNabb is not to blame. If that is true though, do not expect much improvement. There is definitely something that keeps the coach from pulling that trigger.

#31 Jason Campbell
Before the season, GM Angel Dawson announced he is the “unquestioned starter” with his gifts of “leadership and poise.” There was no quarterback controversy. That confidence is not there anymore. Campbell is good against lower tier defenses and struggles mightily against average or upper tier units. Kyle Boller’s name has been whispered about the practice facility again. The Raiders will have a performance deficit at that key position.

#30 Trent Edwards / JeMarcus Russell
Even though they acquired Michael Vick, the team assured me they were going to start Russell, a known commodity. Russell has a strong enough arm to hit the deep target and inflate his stats but he’s inaccurate enough to give his coach nightmares of poorly placed passes and passes that should have never left his hand. It looks like Russell will once again be able to Hoover more Nathan’s Hot Dogs in one sitting than the number of touchdowns he’ll throw. Edwards has stepped in against the Patriots and played very well. The QB situation is soft and brittle. Good money is on seeing a Vick start before the season ends.

#29 Jimmy Clausen
To say this season has not begun the way the Panthers planned is an understatement. Halfback Stewart is the only steady performer on offense. With no TD passes, Clausen looks lost. He’ll need a miraculous improvement to even get a sniff of last season’s above average form. I don’t see it happening. Mallett, you want to try?

#28 Eli Manning
Fortunately for the G-Men the NFC East is really soft when it comes to quarterback performance. According to their coach, “Eli has made me look like a much better coach than I really am.” I do not think that’s happening this time around. Glass half-full drunk: the only way to go from here is UP UP UP. Glass half-empty drunk: or this season could be so bad we’d prefer WATERBOARDING. The only way for glass-half full drunk to be correct is for a running game to suddenly become existent.

#27 Tony Romo
Romo has a love-hate relationship with Dallas management – they hate his quarterback play and he loves the game checks. The odd thing is that it’s working out. The team is undefeated in the first three weeks. None of that is due to his efforts, of course. His play does not reflect his real abilities and it doesn’t appear much will change. Ironically if they keep winning, Romo will get a key to the city and not even deserve it.

#26 Philip Rivers
The Chargers have been unable to put a lid on their opponents late in the game and Rivers now bristles at the mention of the team’s winless record. He should be looking in the mirror if he wants to pinpoint the problem he can fix. He has been average with one spike of brilliance, a loss at the hands of rival Denver. To top it off, he’s getting unremarkable performances from his skill teammates. Hopefully a couple of wins surface as the schedule moves on and the ‘Bolts get their act together.

#25 Josh Freeman / Zachary Fischer
There’s drama in Tampa. Freeman expected to be the starter but could not get a grip. It looks like the Bucs front office does not care that the Chiefs and Saints are two of the most devastating defenses to opposing quarterbacks and pulled Freeman, put his arm on the trade block, and started rookie Fischer against the Chargers. Fischer performed well, throwing more touchdown passes than interceptions and got sacked only four times. He’ll probably be the starter now and Buccaneer fans will be in for very choppy waters.

#24 Bill Carpenter
Getting face-planted 17 times in the first three games is a rough introduction to the PFL. A couple of noteworthy defenses have snuffed out the Seahawk running game and forced Carpenter to shoulder the burden. It’s going to be a brutal season if he has to average over 35 pass attempts per game. And consider this – the schedule stays this demanding the whole way through. There’s barely a respite for Seattle.

#23 Brodie Croyle
There’s no confidence in KC. Although the team is undefeated, it has nothing to do with Croyle. In that way he’s having a similar plight to Romo. In the Chiefs’ case, the winning has everything to do with their defense. Croyle cannot take over the offense, much less the game, and the team is holding tight to their backup John Skelton. “Just in case”, of course.

#22 Jay Cutler
Although it flies in the face of common sense, there is a growing chant coming from the Dawgpound for Seneca Wallace to get the start over non-injured Jay Cutler. Wallace was responsible for the astounding 21 point fourth quarter miracle to beat the Jaguars. There’s no miracle or even plain ol’ magic coming from Cutler. All indicators point to a repeat of last season’s results if the depth chart remains unchanged.

#21 Pat Devlin
Devlin is proficient at taking advantage of blown coverages. He does not get the job done if coverages stay solid and fundamentally sound. Opposing defenses tend to put all their focus on Chris Johnson and Devlin prospers. Therefore, if a defense can bottle up Johnson, Devlin will suffer, and the Titans’ fortunes may tank.

#20 Matt Ryan
When he’s good, he’s pro bowl good. When he’s bad, he is an embarrassment to the practice squad. When he faces a pressure defense Ryan wilts like an unwatered plant. Add to the situation that Turner is barely a presence, averaging less than three yards per carry. The running game disappears in the tough times. With no supporting cast, it’s going to be a rocky season for Matty Ice.

#19 Ben Roethlisberger
The front office told me “I’m comfortable with my starting quarterback in Big Ben” but that is no surprise when you take a look at the whole picture. Ben has two significant advantages – an over –the-top aggressive defense and a great offensive line. His flaws are hidden to most people by the victories. I see them. His performance is just a bit above average.

#18 Joe Flacco
Dear Anquan, Please consider returning to the Ravens. Things are much better now. I really miss you. Sincerely, Joe
To say that Joe misses last year’s safety valve is like saying February in Columbus, Ohio is a downer – it’s a massive understatement. The rookies are not ready to step up and Heap can be covered by defenses with good fundamentals. The front office is pleased with Joe and knows that he has no weapons to help on the field. An anonymous source has confirmed they are already plotting the acquisitions for next season. It’s a bad year to be Joe.

#17 Sam Bradford
Carson is in Minnesota and he ain’t returning to the Jungle anytime soon. After Bradford’s great showing in week one against Cleveland, he has one touchdown and five interceptions. He has not just stumbled but fallen flat on his face. The game tape from San Francisco shows he has skills. The schedule’s not bad and his targets are solid. The front office is anxious for him to pick himself up off the ground and perform the way he can.

#16 Matthew Stafford
The lone touchdown pass was in week one against the Colts. Stafford began on that peak and has slipped ever since. He has decent protection and a good completion ratio. The running game is not establishing itself as a legitimate concern and has barely accrued over 100 yards in a game. Stafford’s not built to carry the team and Pettigrew will not always be open like before. Detroit will have to get their act together for Stafford to shine and get a ticket to the playoffs. I wouldn’t put money on that happening.

#15 Matt Cassel
They knew it was not good before the season started. Cassel was named the starter but if there was another legitimate option, he would be riding the bench next to Kolb or wearing another jersey on Sundays. Fortunately the Cards know how to run the ball and play sound defense. Therefore Cassel, an average quarterback with a good play caller will likely end the season with decent numbers. Then he’ll be traded to another team who thinks they can duplicate the results and he will crash and burn, teaching them a lesson. Sound play calling counts for something.

#14 Homer Wells
There is a bold clause in his rookie contract that will give him the largest bonus in the league if he wins the PFL Rookie of the Year award. Well, he’s on one of the best squads for that to happen. The Niners are gentle with their young player and have only asked him to pass around 20 times a game. He has struggled to find his rhythm though. Because of that, the Niners have had MJD carry the offensive load and Wells has more time to develop. Homer Wells will continue to have setbacks but at least he will have fun doing it.

#13 Colt McCoy
If he wasn’t already sacked 22 times in four games, his numbers would be much better. Of course half of those sacks were against an blood-thirsty Saints defense. McCoy is a solid gamer who will facilitate drives but the Bears have called on him to carry them in some games. He may not be equipped to handle that task at this point, but that time will come soon. I think he has a bright future and he’ll show moments of brilliance as the season continues.

#12 Blaine Gabbert
The gasps were audible in the pressroom when Patriot boss “Wiggy” Tibbs stated “Brady’s era has come and gone in New England.” New acquired quarterback Gabbert, received in a trade with the Cowboys, is said to have the youth, size, and attributes to become an elite player in the PFL. Fast forward to this part of the season and no one can say Gabbert’s stats are good. They’re not. Do not neglect the fact he’s mostly faced teams with playoff potential and defenses with an insane hatred for quarterbacks. He’ll be fine but badly bruised and battered by the time he reaches the end of this first full season as starter.

#11 Aaron Rodgers
Here’s a formula for disaster – average nearly 40 pass attempts per game. Only Rogers can make losing look as good as he does. Rookie starting halfback Jackie Moon is a non-factor so far. Regardless, Rodgers has the ability to raise the output of players around him, a fact that the Packers coach is counting on. In my opinion the best thing that Green Bay can do is figure out how to distract the opponents into monitoring someone else, at least occasionally. If the status doesn’t change, he’ll probably be Pro Bowl bound as his team sits home during the playoffs.

#10 Drew Brees
How does it feel to be the king of crap? Brees is the best quarterback in a division of putrid signal calling. And as the king he leads a Philly team that is showing us how to go .500 without a real running game. He has a 7 to 1 TD to interception ratio as he basically slices and dices through defensive backfields. Additionally, Brees is throwing the ball over 30 times per game. This success can not continue as the schedule remains very challenging (not counting the intra-division games) using the same formula. I expect a running game to emerge sooner rather than later and Brees to continue to slice and dice.

#9 Kyle Orton
As long as Orton performs as a high tier quarterback and Tebow is eventully bonifide, the Broncos could claim to have the most solid set in the league. The offense is clicking with a solid running game and prized targets Fitzgerald and TE Graham. Watch for a couple of stumbles during the midseason but the Broncos will finish strong, with Orton leading the charge.

#8 Mark Sanchez
On paper he’s boring and vanilla. Sometimes called steady but all I see is deficient. Of course that was my perception until he decided to play the role of Stud in the screenplay called PFL. He hit his wall against St. Louis when he gave their defense three interceptions. Sanchez has a good set of receivers and a dependable running-back-by-committee. The real tests come in a few weeks. He will finish well to grab a piece of the playoff pie.

#7 Derek Baird
Baird has recovered nicely from the 5.0 rating he earned against the rival 49ers in week one. (Update: The Niners just gave him another thrashing, though not as severe.) He’s only been asked to attempt 20 passes or so as rookie runner Walt Hitchcock has found his groove. With decent targets, solid protection, an opportunistic defense, and a schedule full of winnable games, expect Baird’s stock to rise.

#6 Nicholas Hatzis
How do you interpret the selection of Hatzis in the first round of the draft? Was it nepotism?? Not necessarily. The Miami front office summed it up as “the Dolphins did not see Henne’s development come along as rapidly as we had hoped.” They say Henne will get an opportunity but I observe a coaching staff that is convinced Hatzis is ready to lead the team now. Hatzis was my top rated prospect at QB and already has better Awareness than over half of the starting qb’s in PFL. Though he stumbled out of the gate, I see his confidence grew after the win against New England. The Dolphins will continue to shield him from having to carry the offense on his arm.

#5 Carson Palmer
It is like turning a key. Some say the Vikings have the upper hand in their division due to the addition of a competent quarterback. Realize that Palmer has the luxury of having Adrian Peterson rip up the field and he shouldn’t have to win many games on his arm alone. It’s the current Vikings logic: Rule 1 – Give AP the ball. Rule 2- Complete a pass. Rule 3 – If unable to carry out Rule 2, See Rule 1. Add targets like Harvin and Rice and there is a offensive mix that will, by default, give Palmer a productive season behind center.

#4 Tom Brady
The Brady project, as the GM in Jacksonville called it, was the focus of the entire off-season. There is no mistaking the value of that scheme now. He could be the leader of a three win team, instead of a one win team, if the defense had not failed multiple times. If the situation improves and Gore continues to produce, Brady will shine to the end. Look out, though, the schedule is stacked against this team.

#3 Peyton Manning
He’s a good one, a future hall-of-famer. By all accounts this is his last season and there are at least three teams glad to see him soon become ballot eligible. He would be more effective if his line offers better protection, but he’ll do plenty of damage with blitzers in his grill. If the Colts make another playoff appearance, it will be because Addai figured out how to provide a consistent running game and Curtis Painter did not get much playing time.

#2 Matt Schaub
Why is he so effective? Because people blitz him, thinking they can get to him before he releases. In some sort of bizarro world, Schaub seems to invite people to get in his face, blocked or not. It does not mater. He will still locate TE Owen Daniels or one of his premium receivers Crabtree and Johnson. This guy is good and the schedule is not bad enough to beat him down. Time to think playoffs.

And Junkyard Dog’s forecasted TOP PERFORMER for this Season is…
#1 Colt Montana
I looked for reasons not to put a rookie at the top but could not find one. It was a rocky first game for top draft pick Montana but he quickly settled into form. Apparently that form is playing at the highest level. Anything else seems uncomfortable. Shockey is the safety valve and new teammate Ryan Grant has carried his load at halfback. With a defense that will always put Montana in enviable field position, look for him to continue thriving statistically, right into the playoffs.
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