With this story, myself and my fellow AFC East writers wrap up what has been a fun Around the AFC East series. Every year, it gets a little more interesting. Switching from a question format to ranking player positions has certainly spiced things up. But all good things must come to an end and with this last entry, we talk about quarterbacks.
Since I routinely get smacked around for rating a group as a whole (ie: our backfield-by-committee) or including quarterbacks when talking about wide receiver production, I'm sticking with starters in this case and no others. I'm sure I'll catch flack for that, too (you're just doing that because you have Brady!). Oh well.
- Tom Brady - I would be dilusional not to put Tom Brady at the head of this class. Yes, I think he'll be a bit rusty and yes he may be a bit tentative in the beginning, but he's been working out on that knee for months. And he has about six weeks of training camp and preseason games to shake things loose. I've always thought he's one of the most immobile quarterbacks in the business anyway, so how much more immobile can he be with a brace? I'm not sure he's ready to break his own 50 touchdown record, but I DO believe he'll put up 40 and I DO believe he's got a massive chip on his shoulder. He will lead the Patriots in a clinching of the AFCCG, even if his old friend, Jason Taylor, will be gunning for him.
Chad Pennington - Jettisoned by former Jets HC Eric Mangini, "His Favre-ness" took the reins in New Jersey while Chad Pennington headed south. Pennington, part of the plan to revive the 1-15 Fins, found a home in Miami and boy did he ever light it up. Rallying his team to an AFC East division title, a crown our Patriots held for so many years, Chad led his team to a 9-1 record in the last 10 games of the regular season (one guess as to who was responsible for "The 1" in the loss column ;-)). Pennington's ability to architect wins when they were needed was impressive and, if you're a believer in Football Outsider's DVOA, was ranked sixth. Not too shabby. With the confidence a Division Title brings, I think Chad will have a good year.
- Trent Edwards - I was looking for a reason to put Trent Edwards ahead of Chad Pennington - seriously. But I simply couldn't find one. Maybe Edwards needs more experience; afterall, he's only got two season's to Pennington's nine. Simply looking at the stats, Edwards started off super strong in the beginning of 2008, but struggled at the end of the season. QB ratings took a nose dive compared to Pennington's and Trent simply had a tough end of the season. The good news is, even missing two games in 2008, he managed a 2,699 yard season. Look for this to increase when Mr. Popcorn makes his debut. Oops, was I supposed to mention another player?
- Mark Sanchez - Mark Sanchez could have tremendous upside. He could be the second coming. Or he could simply be a rookie starting quarterback. Without much to go on, other than his college career, it's hard not to list him fourth in the rankings. It's rare for a rookie QB to garner significant success, so the odds are simply against Sanchez (yes, Dan Marino went 7-2, but even the great John Elway went 4-6 while Peyton Manning went 3-13).