July is underway which means that it is less than a month until training camps start. Before predicting what players will breakout this upcoming season, it’s a good time to recap what players I thought would breakout last year. What I wrote about the players last year can be found here.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers: Freeman is one of the bigger enigmas in the league. At 6’6 240 pounds with a big arm and running ability the potential to be a top ten quarterback is there. The main problem is consistency. From weeks 6-14, Freeman threw for 20 touchdown passes and four interceptions in a stretch that included five of the seven Buccaneers wins. However, the final three weeks of the year things got much worse. In his last three games, Freeman threw only two touchdowns compared to nine interceptions.
A main reason for these inconsistencies could be Freeman struggling with accuracy as he only completed 54.8 percent of his passes last season. Another off-season to work Vincent Jackson and his receivers should help. The Buccaneers are a sleeper playoff pick for a lot of experts right now and a lot of that comes down to how well Freeman will play in the last year in his contract.
Hit or miss: Push
Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars: Last year the Jaguars incorporated a passing attack that consisted of three step drops and quick throws for Gabbert. In the preseason it looked like he was making great strides and they carried on to his first game of the year where he had a nice game throwing the ball. For the year, Gabbert ended up with 1,662 yards passing nine touchdowns and six interceptions before undergoing surgery for a torn left labrum.
Entering his third year, Gabbert is now on his third head coach and offensive coordinator. The Jaguars look to be right in the middle of the Jadaveon Clowney/whoever the top quarterback prospect is sweepstakes. He should get another chance to start this season, but it might be best for his career if he got a chance of scenery.
Hit or miss: Miss
Christian Ponder, Vikings: There are a lot of people saying Adrian Peterson would be even more effective running the ball with another quarterback under center. From what I saw, Ponder made some very nice improvements in year two. He made great improvements in accuracy, had some impressive wins (49ers at home, the Texans on the road and the Packers to clinch a playoff spot) and did all of this with his top receiver Percy Harvin missing half of the season.
Harvin was traded to the Seahawks this offseason but the Vikings replaced him with Greg Jennings and drafted arguably the best receiver prospect in the draft in Cordarrelle Patterson. That goes along with Peterson and one of the league’s better young tight ends Kyle Rudolph. It could take Ponder a little while to adjust to his new targets, but after this upcoming season it will be easier to see what the Vikings really have at quarterback.
Hit or miss: Push
Jake Locker, Titans: Last year I wrote that I didn’t think Locker would have been starting as he was. Like any young quarterback, he had his ups and downs. His accuracy improved slightly from his rookie year and he still remains the dangerous running threat he was entering the league. Knowing that the NFL is a copycat league, it will be interesting to see if Locker does any work out of the read option this upcoming year. While defenses have all offseason to prepare for it, that style caters to Locker’s strengths at this point in his career. Like Ponder, this second full year as a starter will be one to really determine how he has grown as a quarterback.
Hit or miss: Miss