Eight NFL quarterbacks under the spotlight in training camps

The fates of almost all NFL franchises rest on the arms of their passers. It’s a quarterback league, and they fetch the highest contracts of any position. When things go well, fans love them. But when they don’t? It can turn quickly. 

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) stands on the field during a timeout in the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium.

While they are not involved in a battle for the starting job, here’s a look at the quarterbacks who enter training camp facing the most scrutiny.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Coming off an MVP campaign and NFC crown in 2015, Newton underwhelmed last season (52.9% completion rate, 3,509 yards, 19 touchdowns, 14 interceptions). He underwent shoulder surgery on his throwing arm in March, forcing him to spend the offseason program rehabbing. Carolina drafted versatile running back Christian McCaffrey in the first round and wide receiver Curtis Samuel in the second. The message was clear: Newton now has more weapons, so it’s time for him to return to his previous levels of production.

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

The Rams traded a fortune of draft picks to move up and select Goff with the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. When he finally took over, his play was uneven (54.6% completion rate, 1,089 yards, five touchdowns, seven interceptions), but he faced constant pressure and was sacked 26 times in just seven games. Los Angeles bolstered its front with left tackle Andrew Whitworth and added a few weapons. It’s time for Goff to start backing up that No. 1 pick billing.


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Eli Manning, New York Giants

The Giants now have arguably the top receiving corps in the NFL with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard. They also drafted athletic tight end Evan Engram in the first round. This will be Manning’s fourth season in coach Ben McAdoo’s offense (second with McAdoo as head coach), and New York’s defense is one of the league’s best. The team’s window to win is narrowing. Fair or not, the praise or blame for this season will fall on Manning’s shoulders depending on whether the Giants meet (or exceed) expectations.

Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

In line for a massive long-term deal — either before the July 17 deadline or next offseason if he hits the open market — Cousins is in a spot where he needs to continue to prove his worth. That’s the problem with the series of one-year arrangements Washington has opted for with consecutive franchise tags. Even if Cousins, who would make approximately $24 million this season playing on the franchise tag, agrees to a lengthy contract before training camp, he’ll have to show that he was worth all the money.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Since the Ravens signed Flacco to a massive contract in 2013, the team has posted records of 8-8, 10-6, 5-11, and 8-8, making the postseason only once in that span. Granted, the Ravens have had awful luck with injuries, and their roster has lacked consistent and dynamic skill position players. But for whatever reason, Flacco faces questions about his ranking among his peers that many other quarterbacks don’t. He put up solid numbers (64.9% completion rate, 4,317 yards, 20 touchdowns, 15 interceptions) last season, but the pressure will be on for him to take Baltimore back to the playoffs.

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags announced they were picking up his fifth-year option for the 2018 season, but it’s guaranteed only for injury. So if Bortles continues to regress like he did last season – showing mechanical flaws with an elongated throwing motion and continuing to rack up interceptions – the Jags could cut him at the end of this season and move on.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Almost six months after undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in his shoulder, Luck still isn’t throwing. That certainly seems ominous, but it makes sense for the Colts to be cautious with their $140 million franchise QB. An offensive line that surrendered 44 sacks last year has allowed Luck to get battered and, as a result, injured. With few offseason upgrades, the 2017 group will be largely the same. Luck played well last season despite his lackluster supporting cast, but he may have the odds stacked against him. And similar to Flacco’s case, the blame likely falls on Luck if Indianapolis misses out on the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

It’s odd to see the reigning offensive rookie of the year on this list, but that’s what happens when a quarterback takes over the league’s most visible franchise and supplants a fan favorite in Tony Romo. All eyes are going to be on Prescott to see if his rookie year (67.8% completion rate, 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, four interceptions as well as 282 rushing yards and six rushing scores) was a fluke. if he struggles at any point, there will be plenty of questioning whether the team would have been better off with Romo.


Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.

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