There’s no doubt that after sensational rookie seasons, a lot of attention will be paid this season to Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson, as they embark on their sophomore season in the NFL. There should also be plenty of focus on fellow second-year quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill, as he tries to prove he belongs in the same category as the other three, and Brandon Weeden, who will try to prove that he has a future in the league. But with so much attention on the league’s second-year quarterbacks, it’ll be easy to forget about the quarterbacks entering their third year in the NFL, which would be a mistake. There’ll be plenty of curiosity surrounding the quarterbacks from the class of 2011, and here’s why:
Andy Dalton – Dalton has been steady and dependable while getting the Bengals to the playoffs in his first two seasons, but now it’s time for him to do more. Cincinnati invested its first two draft picks on offensive skill players, adding to an already impressive arsenal that features wide receiver A.J. Green, so there’s no doubt that he’s got enough help around him. Now it’s time for Dalton to be more than a quarterback on a playoff team; it’s time for him to be the quarterback that leads his team deep into the playoffs, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can take that step this year.
Blain Gabbert – It’ll be interesting to watch how long Gabbert is able to hold onto his job. Surprisingly, the Jaguars have decided to stick with him to start the 2013 season, but there’s nothing to indicate he’ll have any more success this season than he’s had the past two seasons. This is essentially his last shot and being a starter in the NFL.
Collin Kaepernick – Kaepernick may be the most intriguing quarterback heading into the 2013 season, and he doesn’t even have a full season as a starter under his belt. The 49ers are one of the leading Super Bowl favorites, with Kaepernick’s play over the second half of last season being a big reason why. Kaepernick may have the most potential of any quarterback in the league, and seeing how much progress he makes and how good he can be during his first full season as a starter will be fascinating to watch.
Jake Locker – It’s about time for Locker to grab the reigns and show the Titans that he can be their quarterback for the long term. He’s got some good running backs behind him and enough quality receivers to throw to, as the Titans have set him up for success. However, Tennessee has also brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick to compete with him because they’re not convinced he’s the answer they’re looking for at quarterback. There’s a lot of pressure on Locker to distinguish himself this season, and that’ll make him an interesting player to watch.
Cam Newton – There’s always going to be a lot of attention on Newton; he just always seems to be in the middle of things. In his first two seasons, he’s talked a big game and put up a lot of great numbers, but the team success has yet to come. The excuses of youth and immaturity are growing old and are no longer viable. Newton needs to prove that he can lead a winning team, and being that it’s his third season in the league, it’s time for that to start happening.
Christian Ponder – Ponder took a big step last year by helping get the Vikings to the playoffs, but he needs to be able to build off of that in 2013. Not only does he need to make sure Minnesota is back in the postseason, but he also needs to be a big reason why they get back to the playoffs. Instead of playing it safe with Ponder and relying on Adrian Peterson, the Vikings need to be able to depend on Ponder to make plays and throw the ball down the field without making mistakes and turning the ball over. He has some potential, but the jury is still out on how good he really is, and some of those questions should get answered in 2013.