- Gary Horton, Scouts Inc.
There are three games in Week 1 that have intriguing quarterback story lines. All six of these teams enter the 2007 season crossing their fingers that their quarterbacks won't let them down and here's a quick look at who's already under the microscope.
Bright Lights, Big City
alt="Eli Manning" width="65" height="90" border="0">
alt="Tony Romo" width="65" height="90" border="0">
New York's Eli Manning and Dallas' Tony Romo both play for marquee franchises and the spotlight is always on them. This season, the pressure is is on them right from the start. They are expected to raise their game and carry their respective offenses. So far, Manning has not shown that he is capable of that kind of consistency. He is without RB Tiki Barber, but he does have good weapons in the Giants' three wide receivers, one tight end sets. They will move around TE Jeremy Shockey to dictate good matchups and give Manning a safe target, but will a potentially inconsistent run game reduce the play-action package? The other question is will Manning show good mechanics or will he get sloppy in game situations like he has in the past? With all these questions, facing a Dallas 34 defense that will attack from all angles is probably not what the Giants and Manning want to see in Week 1.
Romo looks ready to take his game to a new level. He's worked hard in the offseason to eliminate bad decisions and do a better job of making a safe and low risk play. He has a lot of offensive weapons and while the team seems to believe in him, Jerry Jones did not give him a new contract despite this being Romo's last year of his current deal. The Giants are vulnerable in the secondary, especially when they are forced to utilize nickel and dime schemes. If Romo plays under control and with patience, he will have excellent matchups available to him.
Looking For Answers
alt="Vince Young" width="65" height="90" border="0">
alt="David Garrard" width="65" height="90" border="0">
Questions linger around both Tennessee's Vince Young and Jacksonville's David Garrard. Some wonder if Young can take his game to the next level as a passer or if he's simply a gifted athlete who will make more plays with is feet than with his arm. In Jacksonville, everybody is still trying to adjust to coach Jack Del Rio's bombshell decision to get rid of Byron Leftwich and start Garrard. It will be a decision that may be second guessed every week. Garrard is more mobile than Leftwich, more disciplined in his fundamentals and had a better preseason. That may be why he is the opening day starter. The Jags will run the football with their 1-2 punch of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew and the passing game will evolve from the power run game. Garrard has big targets in the passing game, but there is still inconsistency among his receivers. The Jaguars will play great defense and they will run the ball. Garrard will simply be asked to manage the game, eliminate turnovers and take shots in the passing game off play action and versus single coverage. This is a caretaker position for the Jaguars in 2007.
Young will see defenses adjust to him in his second year by forcing him to throw the football and containing his ability to run. His accuracy is slowly improving, but his receiving corps and running game are still works in progress. If he has to win games with his arm and decision making instead of his scrambling and creativity, it will put a lot of pressure on an offense that does not have another big play weapon.
Step Into The Spotlight
alt="Joey Harrington" width="65" height="90" border="0">
alt="Tarvaris Jackson" width="65" height="90" border="0">
Atlanta's Joey Harrington and Minnesota's Tarvaris Jackson are two players who have been thrown into the spotlight, but under different circumstances. Harrington inherited Michael Vick's job and he must scramble to get up to speed and play with some consistency in 2007 all while doing it in a circus atmosphere. He's had a decent preseason and the throws he will make under Bobby Petrino are well defined. This is a good thing for Harrington since he's had problems with his decision-making in the past. Atlanta's receiving corps seems to be improved, especially with the addition of veteran Joe Horn. While this unit has let the team down before, Harrington does have a reliable target in TE Alge Crumpler, who will likely be the go-to guy. Atlanta was the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL in 2006 (although that was partly a result of Vick scrambles), but they were dead last in passing. Petrino's schemes and Harrington's ability to run the offense and make adjustments could bring the passing numbers to the middle of the pack and that would make this offense much more consistent.
In Minnesota, Jackson has been given the job by head coach Brad Childress, but the Vikings recently traded for backup Philadelphia QB Kelly Holcomb, so you wonder if Jackson has solid support or will there be a quick hook. He has excellent physical tools and arm strength, but in two starts in 2006, he did not show great awareness or decision making and will likely see a lot of blitzes to force him to get rid of the ball quickly and make a mistake. We will have better feel after this game if either Harrington or Jackson is ready to carry their respective offenses.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm called The War Room.
2hJohn Keim and Adam Caplan