For more on the NFL, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1
NFL training-camp time is upon us, so you know what that means: Non-stop quarterback chatter.
Here's a look at the Top 5 quarterback stories of intrigue heading into 2014:
Brian Hoyer enters training camp as the No.1 quarterback, with Johnny Manziel the prodigy-in-waiting. This won't be pleasant for anyone in the short term. Training camp might run smoothly, as Manziel learns with No.2 team reps. But as the Browns move into preseason games, the pressure and questions will mount.
If Hoyer stumbles even a bit, the fans will be restless for some Johnny Football. The media (hello ESPN!) will get into the action, too, wanting to know when Manziel will be thrown into the mix. There's a possibility for a circus atmosphere and every team with an established quarterback will look at the Browns and send up a prayer of thanks for their good fortune. It doesn't help that the Browns top receiver, Josh Gordon, won't be around to help a needy QB out.
Matt Schaub hopes to revive his career, which took a nose dive in Houston, and he'll open camp as the starter. But rookie Derek Carr, younger brother of David Carr, looks to be the long-term hope for Raiders, who haven't been relevant since Jon Gruden was on the sidelines.
Schaub has had some outstanding seasons. He threw for 4,770 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2009. But that is going on six years ago now, he's 33 and the tread is off the tires. Schaub's last season in Houston was a disaster as he threw 14 interceptions and lost all semblance of confidence. The Raiders like the idea that he returns to form this fall, but Carr will be there pushing him. If Schaub struggles, the pressure to move Carr up and into his future slot as the franchise quarterback will be significant.
Geno Smith will start training camp – and the season, barring any injury – as the No.1 quarterback with Michael Vick as his backup. One-time main main Mark Sanchez is now with the Eagles. It's interesting having a backup like Vick, given the fact he's capable of turning out incredible games when he's healthy and in sync. Smith has the right attitude entering the season, having told NFL Network of his Super Bowl aspirations. Crazy, yes, but putting that type of goal on the record doesn't hurt.
Smith will be working with a new No.1 receiver in Eric Decker, as we find out whether Decker really is an elite receiver or just plays one when Peyton Manning is throwing him the ball. The Jets' passing offense ranked 31st in the NFL last season. So Smith must up the ante and Decker must prove he's among the top receivers in the league, not just a product of Manning greatness.
The Texans collapsed last season, parting ways with Schaub and moving up the draft charts. But they opted not to go quarterback with their No.1 pick, taking Tom Savage much later with an eye on letting him develop behind a veteran. The veteran is Ryan Fitzpatrick, who put the journey in journeyman. Fitzpatrick has skills, and he can win games, but he also gambles for plays beyond his reach and makes costly mistakes. Still, Case Keenum did not prove to be a worthy replacement for Schaub, so Fitzpatrick will be the man for the moment.
Maybe the Texans' addition of Jadeveon Clowney, whose singular goal is to sack Andrew Luck, will improve the defense enough that a quality game manager can handle the quarterback role and put the needed points on the scoreboard. Yeah, right. You have to have a quarterback to win in the NFL. Fitzpatrick will need to shock everyone.
Palmer will turn 35 before the season ends, but he has the mobility of a 40-year-old. His arm suits the bombs-away approach of coach Bruce Arians, but it's a question whether his entire body can handle 16 games worth of shootouts. He threw for 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, which sounds good until you include the 22 interceptions and six fumbles. There's a great quarterback inside Palmer, but age and injures make it tougher to conjure that on a weekly basis.
Like other teams on this list, there's a rookie waiting in the wings: Virginia Tech product Logan Thomas. Arians knows quarterbacks, so the decision to draft Thomas was no doubt informed by a belief that he can develop and win in this league. The Cardinals had a strong season a year ago, missing the playoffs mainly due to playing in an incredible division. Drew Stanton, who backed up Luck in 2012, is also on the roster if Palmer gets hurt and Thomas isn't quite ready. This is a good team with a fragile quarterback situation.