The Schein Nine  

 

Michael Vick, EJ Manuel among nine hot-button quarterbacks

One week of the preseason is in the books, and we've already learned a lot about various quarterbacks and quarterback situations around the NFL.

Here are the early hot reads on nine hot-button signal-callers:

1) Pick Vick

Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly shouldn't overthink this situation; it really isn't that hard. Michael Vick should be the Eagles' starting quarterback. He looked strong flicking the football against the New England Patriots on Friday night. The beefed-up offensive line will keep Vick healthy.

Vick's play and leadership gives Philly the best chance to win this year. In Kelly's system, Vick is a vastly better option than Nick Foles. And I don't want to hear about rotating quarterbacks; Vick needs to be the man in the driver's seat.

2) Just Flynn, baby

Remember this about Matt Flynn: He didn't lose the starting job with the Seattle Seahawks last season; Russell Wilson won it. Flynn, who showed flashes while subbing for Aaron Rodgers during his four years as a Green Bay Packers backup, can play in this league. He looked solid on Friday against the Dallas Cowboys. Where previous quarterback Carson Palmer was a bad fit in Oakland, making decisions that cost the Raiders games, Flynn is just right for this offense.

There is no quarterback controversy in Oakland. Flynn is right for this job.

3) Pryor makes a statement

I've always believed that Terrelle Pryor will have a career in the NFL, and sure enough, he flashed some sizzle for the Raiders on Friday. Pryor is good enough to back up Flynn and occasionally step in to run the Wildcat. Both Pryor and Flynn, meanwhile, are better than Tyler Wilson.

4) Manuel's the man

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There's no quarterback derby in Upstate New York. If Kevin Kolb is the answer, I would love to know the question.

New Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone made EJ Manuel his franchise quarterback by picking him in the first round of April's draft. With Kolb hurt, Manuel took the bulk of the reps with the first team and played the entire first half of Sunday's preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts -- and he played well. That was needed and valuable experience.

The Bills have a strong running game and underrated weapons in the passing attack. Even though he's a youngster, Manuel has the skills and leadership to make it click. This Buffalo offense is going to be better than you think.

5) Poaching Palmer will pay off

When the Arizona Cardinals traded for Carson Palmer, I was very skeptical. Palmer looked finished after his time with the Oakland Raiders.

But in an appearance on my SiriusXM Radio show "Schein on Sports," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said he's been very pleased with Palmer's play since he arrived, including his performance in last weekend's preseason matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

Keim also related the following illustrative anecdote: The night of the trade, he and Palmer had dinner. The next day, Palmer texted Keim at 6 a.m. to see if he could get into the Cardinals' facilities and get to work. Color me impressed.

"He's even better than advertised," Keim told me. "The touch, the timing. He has worked so hard to develop a great rapport with (receiver) Larry (Fitzgerald)."

With a new, veteran signal-caller throwing to him, Fitzgerald is in a different frame of mind. After a down 2012 marked by poor quarterback play, Fitzgerald will resume putting up the kinds of numbers we've grown accustomed to seeing.

Keim added that Michael Floyd is having a great camp, having made "huge strides" from his rookie year. The GM also provided this interesting nugget: cornerback Patrick Peterson is in line for a lot of playing time at wideout. Keim raved about Peterson's play at the position, saying he considers Peterson his "fourth receiver."

This all adds up to Palmer being better than he was in Oakland -- and the Cardinals shocking a lot of people.

6) Starting Smith a must

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I can't listen to spin doctors tell me Mark Sanchez played well after throwing a pick-six in the New York Jets' first preseason series of the year. Here's the bottom line: After giving up 52 turnovers the past two years, Sanchez promptly turned the ball over, and that is totally unacceptable. Sanchez represents failure. The Jets need a fresh start with Geno Smith.

Now, Smith didn't exactly light the world on fire against the Detroit Lions. But he displayed some toughness by practicing on Sunday and Monday after spraining his ankle in the game Friday. I think the comments and questions that have arisen about his character are flat-out wrong.

Use the law of syllogism: The Jets need hope. Starting Smith represents hope. The Jets need to start Smith.

7) A backup who can step up

It is pretty clear that Kirk Cousins can play quarterback. In fact, he could start for 5-10 teams right now. While backup quarterback is an important position on a team that employs Robert Griffin III, it would make sense for the Washington Redskins to trade Cousins next year for a first-round pick and recover one of the picks the team surrendered when dealing for the right to draft RGIII in 2012.

As far as this year goes, if there is any doubt about RGIII's health, coach Mike Shanahan should start Cousins in Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Cousins could -- and would -- win that game.

I think it's great that RGIII will start to get reps in 11-on-11 drills. But if there's any cause for concern, Shanahan needs to step in. It would be better to have RGIII for the bulk of the year than have him exacerbate his health situation early on.

8) Time to believe in Weeden?

Not yet. But it is crystal clear that Brandon Weeden is better suited for new coordinator Norv Turner's offense than he was for former Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur's system. Against the St. Louis Rams on Thursday, Weeden looked sharp and confident and better than he did at any point in 2012.

Last year was brutal, but Turner has a knack for getting quarterbacks to thrive.

9) Brees is back

Drew Brees dealt with a contract dispute last year. He also played without suspended coach Sean Payton. There is no question that, with Payton now back, Brees is primed to return to elite form and jump firmly into the MVP mix.

Many of the pieces are in place. Jimmy Graham is the best pass-catching tight end in the game. Darren Sproles is a gem when catching it out of the backfield. The Saints are still ironing out their receiver depth behind Marques Colston and Lance Moore, but when I talked to general manager Mickey Loomis on "Schein on Sports," he raved about Nick Toon, Kenny Stills and Preston Parker. Of course, remember that with Brees, his favorite receiver is the open receiver.

Loomis acknowledged that Mark Ingram's development and the Saints' running game is a "focal point" right now. He wants Brees and the offense to have some balance. It's paramount -- and I think it will happen.

Bottom line: Brees will lead the Saints back to the playoffs.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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