While Super Bowl 50 gave us a matchup of perhaps the two best defenses in football, the NFL will remain a quarterback-driven league for years to come. A quarterback such as Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers can mask a lot of team weaknesses – or make up for them altogether.
But you already knew that, After all, those two have combined for four MVPs, four Super Bowl MVPs and five Super Bowl titles.
So, what about the young quarterbacks in the NFL? Who appears poised to make a big leap in 2016?
“This is not a name that people don’t talk about, but I’m really anxious to see (Marcus) Mariota play this year,” NFL Films producer Greg Cosell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think he’s got a lot of ability. I think he’s got a sense or awareness and smarts about him. I’m real anxious to see him play this season.”
Mariota, 22, had a solid rookie season. He completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 2,818 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 12 games. Delve a little further, though, and you’ll see that Mariota was all-or-nothing for much of the year, as 18 of his 19 touchdowns came in just six games – which means he had just one in his other six games combined. Moving forward, consistency will be key for Mariota.
The same can be said for Jameis Winston. The No. 1 overall pick threw for 4,000+ yards and accounted for 28 touchdowns (22 passing, six rushing) as a rookie and led the Buccaneers to a 6-10 record.
Tampa Bay won just six games in 2013 and 2014 combined.
“Far more good than bad,” Cosell said, when asked to assess Winston’s rookie campaign. “Had to chance to talk to him at the Super Bowl at an event. Really impressive guy in talking football because I was able to talk to him about plays because that’s what I do. It wasn’t a lot of BS talk. We went over specific plays. Really sharp kid. I really hope he stays focused on football because I think football is truly important to him, and I think that he’s got a high football IQ. I think if he works on his lower body in the offseason, which I think needs work, (he’ll be even better). I thought his rookie season was a very solid season, but I definitely feel that he needs to work on his lower-body mechanics a little bit. It’s funny. When you watch every play as I do, there were times where he moved and sometimes it looked like he was going to fall down. He needs to get a little quicker with his feet. I think that’s something you can work on.”