4 AFC Quarterbacks Entering Make-or-Break Seasons

E.J. Manuel might not get too many chances to start for the Buffalo Bills. After being replaced by Kyle Orton in week 4, who is now retired, I can’t imagine Rex Ryan going through more quarterback struggles. The defensive guru that Ryan has been, simply can’t afford to ignore the offensive side of the ball anymore, especially under center. Ryan vouched for his quarterbacks with the New York Jets, previously, between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. Who knows, Buffalo could also be Ryan’s last stop as a head coach. Manuel has the support of the front office so he will get an opportunity to show that he was worth the first round pick in 2013. The run game has been consistent, Sammy Watkins is a promising receiver, and they have an elite defense. Manuel should be on short leash if they aren’t getting wins in the first half of the season, but offensive coordinator Greg Roman did great things with Colin Kaepernick  in San Francisco in the last few years.

Speaking of Geno Smith,he gets a fresh start with a new regime moving forward. Initially, it’s a good thing. Then again, he’s an inherited player that this staff has no ties to. Smith has shown glimpses of making big plays, but is far from a consistent quarterback in this league. He is hesitant when it comes to making quick decisions. Maybe working with new offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey, can help the young signal caller grow with a run-oriented system in place. Whether Michael Vick returns or not, the Jets will surely bring in some competition, either to beat Smith for the job or replace him if he falters again.

Ryan Tannehill is the third quarterback in the AFC East entering a make or break year. He’s probably been the best of the three former first round picks, but go figure that the New England Patriots have been most successful with a 6th round pick as the franchise guy, the one and only Tom Brady. Tannehill is solid on the short and intermediate passes, but he hasn’t been able to connect deep with Mike Wallace. He used his legs as a threat in the middle of the season, but he’s been reluctant to use that ability. His future with the Miami Dolphins may very well depend on him improving the deep ball, completing around a dozen more passes downfield than next season. Another year with head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Tannehill will likely have the entire season to prove himself going forward.

Andy Dalton makes playoff appearances, but often times, a team like the Cincinnati Bengals with a strong ground game and defense can get you there in spite of their passer. Weaknesses get exposed in the postseason, something Dalton has been. Entering his 5th season, he could use a little bit of health at wide receiver. A.J. Green was banged up last season, and Marvin Jones missed every game. Dalton goes through streaks, where he has games for 0-1 touchdowns, then he has the multiple-touchdown games. No, he doesn’t scare a defense downfield, but Green has is a top talent that make plays on the ball. He’s a heads up player, so he could stop forcing passes and use his legs some more. Not only would it alleviate pressure by the corners challenging him in man defense, but that gives a quarterback the avenues to take off. His 19:17 TD:INT ratio is just not good enough to contend.