Originally written on Down and Distance  |  Last updated 10/30/14
Every year there are some marquee players in the NFL who for some reason have sub-par seasons. Whether it be due to injury, coaching change, or just age, this seems to happen all the time. Ahead are the five quarterbacks who need to step it up in 2012 for their teams to have success. Mark Sanchez-New York Jets Marc Serota/Getty Images North America Mark Sanchez is always criticized for his lack of accuracy and decision making; last year was no different. 2011 was Sanchez’s best as a pro, but that isn’t saying much. He posted nearly 3,500 yards and threw 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for a rating of 78.2. His debacle against Miami in the last game of the season had Jets fans clamoring for a change. They got that change in the one and only Tim Tebow, whom the Jets acquired from Denver for a fourth and fifth round pick. Perhaps legitimate competition is just what Sanchez needs to take that next step as a franchise quarterback. Philip Rivers-San Diego Chargers Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America Philip Rivers showed everyone last season that he is in fact human. After three straight years of elite level play, Rivers’ production dropped last season. He threw for 4,624 yards with 27 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Perhaps injuries to Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, and Malcom Floyd took a part in Rivers’ struggles. Nevertheless, the Chargers have always been a team that has underachieved. Rivers needs to have a season like he’s used to for San Diego to compete with the teams in the AFC West. Josh Freeman-Tampa Bay Buccaneers Larry French/Getty Images North America After an excellent 2010 campaign for Freeman and the Buccaneers, all was looking bright in Tampa. Then the 2011 season rolled around. The Bucs finished 4-12 on the year and Freeman had a rough year. Freeman threw for 3,592 yards with 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. The young Bucs made some huge moves in the off-season, including picking up Vincent Jackson from the San Diego Chargers. With Jackson in the mix, Freeman now has a number one receiver he can rely on. Peyton Manning-Denver Broncos Justin Edmonds/Getty Images North America There isn’t much that needs to be said here. Peyton Manning (perhaps the greatest regular season quarterback ever) is coming back from multiple neck surgeries at 36 years old. If anybody can come back from these injuries, it is Peyton Manning. Manning is looking to stick it to Colts owner Jim Irsay for cutting him and not believing he could come back from injury. John Elway and the Broncos are hoping to get the Manning of old and they just might. Manning is primed and ready to continue his Hall of Fame career. Michael Vick-Philadelphia Eagles Rob Carr/Getty Images North America Vick’s situation is similar to Josh Freeman’s. After a very good 2010 season in which he was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Vick struggled in 2011. He threw for only 3,303 yards with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Vick had an identity crisis in 2011, as he tried to figure out whether he wanted to be a pocket passer or a running quarterback. Injuries to key players perhaps contributed to Vick’s dilemma. The preseason Super Bowl favorite didn’t even make the playoffs due to injuries and lack of chemistry. With a full off-season to become acclimated with one another, watch out for Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012.                  

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