As the NFL season marches closer, roster questions get more urgent. And no queries burn hotter than those about the QB. Which of the contenders have the biggest concerns under center?
5) Tom Brady. While some might peg Carson Wentz or Baker Mayfield on this list, neither one of them can push their teams into Super Bowl status. The GOAT however, is the key that unlocks the Bucs from bad to bad ass. Brady's mysterious departure from training camp begs the question whether this comeback was the right decision. Is he having second thoughts? Are there family responsibilities at home? The Bucs are a disaster without #12 under center, as Blaine Gabbert would be the signal-caller for new head coach Todd Bowles. More than likely Brady plays most of the season, and leads Tampa Bay into the playoffs. But it certainly feels like that's no guarantee yet.
4) Matt Ryan. The Colts are Super Bowl contenders as long as they get good quarterbacking. Can Matty Ice be better than Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz, or will he melt like them? Indianapolis' search for competent play under center has reached a new level of desperation. If Ryan doesn't work Frank Reich and Chris Ballard might not get another swing. Ryan says he's re-energized after years with the terrible Falcons, and he's got the foundational pieces to have success. The offensive line is one of the best in football, and so is Jonathan Taylor at running back. Good Ryan, and the Colts are one of the AFC's best teams. Bad Ryan? Indy fans don't want to even think about it.
3) Derek Carr. The Raiders signal-caller is out of excuses. One of the more polarizing quarterbacks in the league, he has an equal number of defenders ("Carr has never had a supporting cast!") and critics ("Carr is mediocre at best!"). But in reality his beauty has been in the eye of the beholder. Do you focus more on his consistency of 15+ games started in each of his 7 seasons? Or the fact he had his best campaigns in '15 and '16, has seemed to regress ever since, and has never won a playoff game? There won't be much room for interpretation this year. He's got perhaps the best WR in the league in Davante Adams, one of the best TEs in Darren Waller, and a respected offensive mind in Josh McDaniels. Sink or swim time in Vegas.
2) Tua Tagovailoa. No quarterback is under more scrutiny than in Miami. Tua has been given the keys to a potentially dynamic offense, but the football world is split on his potential. New burner Tyreek Hill says Tua is the most accurate QB in the league. Head coach Mike McDaniel claims his quarterback throws the most catchable ball he's ever seen. The Dolphins have plenty of weapons at the ready. But questions about Tua's leadership and ability have dogged him since he was drafted. Sports Illustrated calls Tua the "most polarizing player in the league." He's only heading into Year 3, but without a breakthrough the Dolphins will likely look to draft his replacement. The Dolphins will need a big season from their QB to compete for a playoff spot. If Tua shrivels, it's curtains for him and the Fins.
1) Jacoby Brissett. He'll never be a star, but he's the Browns quarterback until further notice. He's also entrusted with keeping the season afloat until Deshaun Watson is eligible in Week 13. Cleveland has a well-rounded roster with stars at many positions. The Browns have an excellent running attack, and defense to keep them in games. Brissett will be asked to manage the offense and not be the reason the Browns sink. If he's even mildly successful the franchise can dream of making a late season push to the playoffs. But in the meantime he has to also calm the extremely choppy waters that surround the Browns and their controversial offseason. While it might be unfair to a limited quarterback like Brissett, he's being asked to save a season that's already burning.