Quarterbacks On The Rise In 2003
Kerry Collins of the New York Giants: Many people forget that Collins was on the verge of losing his starting job in New York during the first half of the 2002 season. Inconsistency not only with Collins' game, but that of the entire team had the Giants in a crisis situation heading into the homestretch of the season. Collins significantly elevated his play over the last seven games of the 2002 season, leading the Giants into the playoffs.
Having a tight end of the quality of Jeremy Shockey to throw to opened up numerous options offensively for the Giants. Look for the Giants to improve upon their 2002 season, with a re-signed Ike Hilliard back to complement Shockey and All-Pro wide receiver Amani Toomer. Let's not forget that New York has a solid rushing attack led by Tiki Barber.
Collins is a physical quarterback with deft touch. While not pulling the ball down and running, Collins is sufficiently mobile to elude defensive pressure. Consistency is the key for the signal-caller, if he can continue to build upon the second half of the 2002 season, the Giants will have one of the better quarterbacks in the league.
Overall, the Giants are tinkering with the offense to utilize more of the two-tight end sets that Collins prefers. We expect Collins to pickup where he and the Giants left off at the end of the 2002 season.
Matt Hasselbeck of the Seattle Seahawks: Over the last six weeks of the 2002 season, Hasselbeck was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the league. Over this period, Hasselbeck passed for 2062 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Hasselbeck, brought to Seattle by head coach Mike Holmgren from Green Bay, appeared to be lost in the Seattle offense prior to the late surge of productivity in late 2002. Appearing tentative, mainly due to the short leash of Holmgren, Hasselbeck rarely showed the talent he displayed with the Packers as a backup to Brett Favre.
Now, being named the starting quarterback and backed by a commitment from the organization, Hasselbeck should have the opportunity to build upon the success he and the Seahawks tasted in 2002. Lining up with workhorse running back Shaun Alexander, wide receivers Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson, Hasselbeck is leading an explosive Seahawks' offense.
Hasselbeck has shown to be an accurate quarterback who gets rid of the ball quickly, and is very capable of hitting the receivers on the run. Relatively inexperienced, though being the Seattle starting quarterback for a portion of the 2001 season, Hasselbeck came into his own in the second half of the 2002 season. The key for Hasselbeck was his ability to recognize the defense, anticipate the scheme, and make the right throws.
Patrick Ramsey of the Washington Redskins: Say what you want to about head coach Steve Spurrier, he loves the pass-oriented offense and is loyal to "his" quarterback. Patrick Ramsey is quickly becoming Spurrier's quarterback. For a young signal-caller that wants to throw the football, Washington is the place to be. Patrick Ramsey is a football player. Tough with all the tools to throw the football (strong arm, quick release, smart and accurate), Ramsey can run the complex Spurrier offense. The Redskins have shown confidence in the second-year quarterback by naming him the starter.
Following a rough beginning to his professional career in early 2002, Ramsey elevated his play late in the season once he began to understand the offense and was able to breakdown the opposing defenses. During the offseason, Ramsey was diligent in his 2003 season preparation.
The Redskins will have questions in the backfield as they seek a replacement for running back Stephen Davis. They will have struggles at the quarterback position until Ramsey garners more experience and consistency. A large benefit that will come into play is that the Redskins are surrounding Ramsey with explosive talent at the wide receiver positions and have solidified the offensive line.
The late-season success of Ramsey was a sign of things to come in Washington. That success and gaining a solid relationship and chemistry with the receivers should develop Ramsey into a quarterback on the rise in the 2003 season.
Drew Brees of the San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are a run-oriented team with LaDainian Tomlinson carrying the load for the conservative San Diego offense. It is not difficult to question that philosophy, but for San Diego to have a chance in the tough AFC West, they will need to improve in the passing game. That improvement begins with the utilization of quarterback Drew Brees.
Brees is not the prototypical quarterback that teams clamor for in the league today. Barely 6 feet tall and not graced with a cannon for an arm, Brees is the type of quarterback that is mentally prepared, has tremendous awareness, and is a true leader. Though he lacks arm strength, Brees can make all the throws, it certainly will help that the Chargers invested in standout wide receiver David Boston to compliment the consistent Brees in the Chargers' offense.
With an adequate offensive line to protect him, Brees will have the opportunity to shine in the 2003 season, not due to the fact the Chargers intend on opening up the offense but more so due to the notion that the San Diego defense will struggle as they influx youth into the scheme. The Chargers will either open up the offense to combat defensive inefficiencies or the team will play from behind; in either case, Brees will have the opportunity to shine.
Add wide receiver Reche Caldwell and Stephen Alexander to the mix and Brees has numerous weapons to utilize. He may not be one of the elite quarterbacks in the game, but Brees is a solid player that with a good supporting cast can be an extremely effective and proficient player.
Daunte Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings: In 2000, Daunte Culpepper appeared to be well on his way to becoming one of the very best quarterbacks in the NFL. With the physical build of a linebacker and speed uncanny for a man of his stature, Culpepper was a raw, yet extremely dangerous weapon for the Minnesota Vikings. Once the talent base in Minnesota started to deteriorate, Culpepper and the Vikings began their downward spiral to mediocrity. From questions about his mental awareness to inconsistency and inability to refrain from turning the ball over, Culpepper has had a difficult ride in Minnesota for the past two seasons.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been the calming influence that has helped elevate the play of Culpepper during the second half of the 2002 season. Linehan has worked diligently with Culpepper on minimizing his mental mistakes, being more prepared, all of which has led to the maturing of Culpepper. Coincidentally, Culpepper became a much better quarterback with the rushing threat of Michael Bennett. Improved talent surrounding Culpepper will again make him a very viable threat and leader of the resurgent Minnesota offense.
A rushing attack, second to none in 2002, will be a challenge for the Vikings. Michael Bennett could be lost for the season after complications from foot surgery this offseason. Replacing Bennett will be a challenge for the Vikings, which all could mean that additional pressure will be placed on Culpepper to play at the level he did in 2000. Helping Culpepper's cause could be an extremely talented and effective offensive line, an offensive line that many in the NFL believe is the best in the game.
Many questions remain in Minnesota, many of which will directly relate to the performance of Culpepper. The offensive line is excellent, and a tremendous rushing attack opened up options for the Vikings and Culpepper. But behind All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss and tight end and Jim Kleinsasser, the depth options are limited by youth and inexperience. If Culpepper can rise to challenge and lead this young, talented, and rejuvenated group in Minnesota, he once again will become one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
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