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Breaking Down The Roster -- Part 5 -- Quarterback

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Cutler Has Everything Needed To Succeed

Four breakdowns in the books.  Four positions down, eight to go, and while this is a bit cumbersome I am really enjoying it and actually look forward to completing them just to see what you guys and gals are going to say.  Keep it coming!!!

Some might consider today's breakdown as a bit of a break.  If this was last off-season and I was doing a breakdown of the Quarterback position it would have a bit more drama to it.  We'd be talking about Jake Plummer coming off a trip to the AFC Championship Game now battling for his job with a Rookie quarterback the Broncos traded up to get.  Yea, a lot of meat there to be sure.  This year we don't have to "worry" about that and I am definitely relieved.  I have said it before and will say it now, any quarterback controversy, real or perceived, is a negative to a football team.  It may not be as exciting for people who cover the team and want to sell newspapers, but for us fans it is great to know with 100% surety who will be taking the snaps this season.

That doesn't necessarily mean there aren't some questions regarding the quarterback situation, and you know, if there are questions I am going to ask them.  Let's take a look at the most important position in Denver sports, the quarterback of the Broncos.

  Jay Cutler (6-3, 233) --

COLLEGE

PRO

It's been a while since I have been this excited about the prospects of the Broncos offense.  For years the Broncos enjoyed the most prolific offense in football.  In recent years that offense has become a shell of its former self, bottoming out in 11 pretty embarrassing performances to start the 2006 season.  Yes, the Broncos went 7-4 in those games, but Mike Shanahan knew that an offense averaging about 17 points a game WAS NOT going to succeed in the playoffs.  We know the rest of the story - Jay Cutler named the starter, shows flashes of brilliance and moments of stupidity, like all rookie quarterbacks, and the Broncos fall short of the playoffs.  Cutler is that much better for going through the experience, however, and an off-season to prepare knowing he was the #1 guy will only bolster his confidence and shorten the learning curve.

There is no doubting the physical tools Cutler possesses.  Like Elway, Cutler possess a rocket arm, which people need to look no further than the 70-yard, in the air, TD pass to Javon Walker to experience firsthand what this kid can do.(see below)  Shanny is now able to dust off sections of his playbook that were unusable under the Brian Griese/Jake Plummer years.  I piscture in my mind an old Wizard who goes to his bookshelf to get an old book of spells, drops it on the table, blows a thick layer of dust off and prepares to recast spell unseen for years.  Such is the Broncos offense.

There are questions, however.  Cutler is still a quarterback  that has started only 5 games in his professional career.  Like any young quarterback, Cutler has tremendous confidence that can, at times, get him into a bit of trouble.  Though I never blame the results of a football game on a singular play, the two pick-6s Cutler threw, one against Seattle, the other against San Francisco, definitely went a long way towards losing those two football games, turning a possible 11-5 season into a 9-7 season.  Such are the growing pains of a rookie quarterback, and in my opinion better last year than this year.  Hopefully Cutler learned that he doesn't have to make the big play every time, learned that he can take a sack, or better yet throw the ball into the 15th row.  I am not too concerned, however, because Cutler has proven throughout his football career to be a fast learner and definitely has the head on his shoulders to learn from his mistakes and most importantly NOT repeat them.

While his physical tools are enough to excite me, it's the non-physical aspect of Cutler that really has me pumped.  The Broncos have had physically gifted quarterbacks under center since the retirement of John Elway.  Brian Griese and Jake Plummer both had the physical ability to be solid NFL quarterbacks.  What they lacked, and John Elway had in gallons, is that fire to be great, that desire to be the best, to do whatever it takes to win.  You got the feeling that Griese and Plummer were football players but didn't enjoy playing football.  Jay Cutler loves football.  He wants to be great, wants to win, and is willing to do whatever it takes.  What made John Elway great was how he handled adversity, how he handled the bad times.  Griese and Plummer couldn't handle the bad times.  It remains to be seen how Cutler responds when things get tough but from everything I have seen he'll shake it off and come out firing.

Perhaps the biggest thing in Cutler's favor is the talent Mike Shanahan has surrounded his young quarterback with.  Javon Walker is a legitimate #1 receiver.  Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler are solid weapons at Tight End.  Travis Henry is a legitimate #1 running back.  We could go on and on.  Even the additions on defense will help Cutler, reducing the pressure on him to win games himself. Cutler will have every opportunity to succeed and every opportunity to take this football team deep into the playoffs.  I am pumped to see Cutler get going, pumped to see what the kid can do and pumped about the future of the Broncos.

  Patrick Ramsey (6-2, 225) -

I'll be the first to say I wasn't a big fan of Ramsey coming on board.  I wanted a veteran quarterback, a vet that had some success in the NFL, playoff success even, that could be a sounding board for Cutler, someone that could look at film, could be on the sideline and talk about opposing defenses.  Ramsey may be able to do that, but with 35 total games under his belt in 5 seasons in the NFL, Ramsey isn't the most experienced of backups.  I can only hope Ramsey's mind for the game is similar to Gary Kubiak, who was a career-long backup to John Elway and was instrumental to Elway's growth as a young quarterback.  On the field Ramsey has a solid arm and was never really given a chance to be the guy in Washington.  Of course, the hope is Ramsey never sees the light of the field unless it is in garbage time of a big Broncos win, but I will be watching this Training Camp and Pre-Season to see just how performs in the Mike Shanahan, quarterback friendly offense.  Losing your starting quarterback can be catastrophic to a football season, but the Broncos have tried to lesson the severity of such an event.  Think of it this way, we could have done a lot worse....just look at various rosters around the NFL and look at the backup quarterbacks.

  Preston Parsons (6-4, 232) - Hmmmmm....Is there really anything to say about Parsons?  Just for your reading pleasure I would have included the career college stats of the Northern Arizona product, but couldn't find any.  I probably have as good a chance of making the team, let alone seeing any playing time, as Parsons.  Ok, that was cruel, but such is the life of a third string quarterback that plays for a team that has, in recent years, kept only 2 quarterbacks on the active roster.  With all the additions at receiver and the defensive line it would seem appropriate that the Broncos do the same again this year and for my money Darrell Hackney seems to be a nice player to place on the practice squad.  This might be the most written about Parsons during his Broncos career...It's a lonely, lonely job.  Parsons and Cutler are good friends, however, one tidbit that certainly can't hurt his chances.

Darrell Hackney (6-0, 240) - Gotta love Wikipedia.  Here is the entry in the not-necessarily-accurate Wikipedia for Hackney -

Hackney entered the 2006 NFL Draft, and was signed as an undrafted free agent. He is often compared to Byron Leftwich, having a powerful arm and not much of a threat to run away from the defense. However, more than one opposing cornerback discovered that he is more than capable of running through and over them.

Attending college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he was redshirted in 2001 as a true freshman. Hackney currently holds several of the career UAB passing records, including passing yards (9,886 yards), touchdowns (71 touchdowns), completions (694 completions) and most total offense per game (243.4 yards per game). He also holds several single-season records for the Blazers.

Critics cite his height (5' 11") as well as his inconsistent passing accuracy as being major disadvantages, but concede that he has one of the strongest arms in the NFL.

Hackney was not drafted and was subsequently signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns cut him on September 2, 2006. On January 2, 2007 he signed with the Denver Broncos.

Anything else to add?  Feel free.....

My Depth Chart

  1.  Jay Cutler
  2.  Patrick Ramsey
  3.  Darrell Hackney(Practice Squad)
I know many of you will say Parsons will be the #3, but I don't think the Broncos will keep 3 QBs on the active roster, and I think there will be another team that will take a look at Parsons.  Remember, if a team is willing to sign a player to it's active roster they can pluck players off the practice squad meaning the Broncos probably won't be able stash Parsons over there.   That said, if that is the biggest quandary facing the Broncos quarterback position this Training Camp it is going to be an awesome season in 2007.

My Shocker

John Elway comes out of retirement.  That's about the only way, besides injury, that something strange happens with the Quarterback position.  What a difference a year makes.