September 7, 2021
By Rory Carroll
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Veteran quarterbacks including Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will look to maintain their dominance amid an influx of new talent in the sport’s most crucial position when the NFL season kicks off this week.
A record eight QBs were taken in the first three rounds of this year’s draft but it is the sport’s biggest names who are best positioned for further success.
Brady led Tampa Bay to a blowout Super Bowl victory last season in his first year with the franchise to claim his record-extending seventh championship ring.
The 44-year-old is looking to improve in his 22nd season and make the Buccaneers the first team in 16 years to win back-to-back titles, leaving desperate fans in the NFC South to ponder whether there is any hope for a postseason.
“(Offensive coordinator) Byron Leftwich said something really good the other day: It’s a very simple game that’s so hard to execute,” Brady said in an interview with NBC Sports.
“It’s a totally imperfect game that you’re trying to do as perfectly as possible. Every day I come out trying to do it. I’m hoping this is my best year.”
Brady said he planned to play until he is no longer a “championship-level quarterback”, which could be another several years given his mastery of the position.
Reigning league MVP Rodgers could also have renewed focus following a drama-filled offseason where it appeared the 37-year-old might not return to Green Bay.
The Packers raised eyebrows when the team traded up to select quarterback and possible eventual Rodgers replacement Jordan Love in the 2020 draft.
Rodgers said his future with the team was uncertain after falling to the Bucs in the NFC Championship last season.
But the fiercely competitive Rodgers will be back under center for the Packers and if he can channel any lingering frustration into his play on the field, the rest of the league better look out.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes will look to avenge last season’s Super Bowl thumping at the hands of Brady and the overpowering Bucs defense.
Mahomes, 25, was touted as the future of the league after he led the Chiefs to a come-from-behind victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV and will be out to prove that his lethal combination of speed and accuracy is the future of the position.
Mahomes last year signed a blockbuster 10-year, $503 million contract extension, the biggest in NFL history.
But rookie signal callers are also poised to make their presence felt.
First overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence will make his debut for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday while second pick Zach Wilson will be handed the keys to the struggling New York Jets franchise.
Mac Jones, selected in the first round by New England, will also be thrown right into action after the Patriots’ surprising decision last month to part ways with veteran quarterback Cam Newton, who underwhelmed last season after a strong start.
Jones has impressed during the preseason and will look to keep that momentum going in the league’s expanded, 17-game regular season.
Quarterback drama could play out in San Francisco, where the 49ers will have to decide whether to stick with the established but often-injured Jimmy Garoppolo or hand the reigns to rookie Trey Lance, who the team took with the No. 3 pick.
And fans will be fascinated to see how Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff respond after switching teams this offseason, with Stafford now part of the Los Angeles Rams and Goff a member of the Detroit Lions.
The NFL’s 102nd season begins on Thursday when the Bucs host the Dallas Cowboys.
(Additional reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Ed Osmond)
Source Link NFL-Quarterbacks old and new battle for glory as season kicks off