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(nypost.com)

Shooting the breeze: Rising sophomore quarterbacks in the NFL

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Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are a team on the rise, and they may just have the best young quarterback in the NFL to boot. Armed with a quality offensive coordinator in Bill Musgrave and a stud wide receiver in the making in Amari Cooper, Derek Carr is more than capable of leading the NFL's laughing stock franchise back to relevance. The 24-year-old from Fresno State has a strong, accurate arm and good mobility in the pocket, passing for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns in a chaotic rookie season in Oakland. Carr has also shown the advanced ability to read play coverages and as a result has only 12 of his passes picked off last year. With expectations rising for 2015, the sophomore quarterback went a long way in silencing his critics with a dynamite performance last week versus the Baltimore Ravens. Carr completed 65 per cent of his passes, throwing for 351 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception. The catchphrase of the late and legendary Raiders' coach, general manager and owner Al Davis was "Just win, baby!" With Derek Carr behind centre, fans in Oakland should expect to see many wins to come in the near future.

– Jeff Bridges

Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles was not the name Jacksonville fans were hoping to hear out of Commissioner Roger Goodells’ mouth during the 2014 draft. But Bortles flashed his immense potential in his first year in the league and cut short Jags fan’s previous longing for Cleveland bound Johnny Manziel. Last season, Bortles led /all/ quarterbacks in the league with an average of 7.5 yards per carry, proving he’s a threat not only in the air, but also on the ground. At 6’5” and 232 pounds, Bortles has the prototypical size for a starting quarterback and consistently draws comparisons to one of the best in the business: Two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger. While he does have room to improve, Bortles has the talent and athleticism needed to excel at the professional level. If his offensive line can keep him off the ground, and his skill position players continue to grow with him, Blake Bortles and the Jags should be making waves in the AFC in the coming years.

– Zach Lanys

Teddy Bridgewater – Minnesota Vikings

Bridgewater was the third quarterback to come off the board in 2014, taken after Bortles and Manziel. The Louisville star was a pleasant surprise early in the season, but it wasn’t until Week 14 against the Jets that Vikings fans got a taste of what he was capable of. Pinned up against his own end zone, Bridgewater completed an 87-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jarius Wright to win the game. It would be the second longest pass thrown all season, and Bridgewater would end his rookie campaign with the third-most game winning drives in the NFL. His 64.4 pass completion percentage was good for 11th in the league, putting him above Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, and Andrew Luck. Aside from Mike Wallace, Bridgewater’s receiving options are pretty thin this season, but through two games he has recorded a 74 per cent completion rate. With Bridgewater quickly maturing into one of the league’s most accurate passers, Adrian Peterson may finally have a partner in crime that can help him get the Super Bowl ring he deserves.

– Elie Waitzer

Johnny Manziel – Cleveland Browns

Johnny Manziel can straight out ball. His draft profile on the NFL’s website described him as “a once-in-a-generation, run-around, ad-lib, sandlot-style quarterback who consistently won games.” Manziel is perfect for the Cleveland Browns: He is a playmaker on a team with little offensive talent. His game changing abilities were on display for the Browns against the Tennessee Titans in week two; The Heisman Trophy winner hit receiver Travis Benjamin for two touchdowns of 60 and 50 yards, respectively. Manziel’s elusiveness and gun-slinging attitude makes him a potential fan favourite in terms of drama, but his well-documented immaturity shouldn’t spill over into his sophomore year. He went to alcohol rehab, coaches are praising his new work ethic, and he has space to develop his game as Josh McCown’s backup. Given time, Johnny Football will live up to his moniker and be the most exciting quarterback in the league.

– Ziko Smith

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