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The Trojan Horse

For the first time in the NFL, four former

University of
Southern California
quarterbacks will be starting in Week 1 for their teams. Have you only counted three? Do not forget about Matt Cassel

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Despite the recent negative publicity and investigation, USC has produced four starting quarterbacks that hope to captain their teams to a playoff run in 2010. Let us discuss the value of each of these quarterbacks and their potential upsides.

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Carson

Palmer
– At 30 years old, Palmer is the “old man” of the USC alumni. From 2005-2007, Palmer was one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, averaging more than 28 touchdowns and 4,000 passing yards. However, 2008 was a lost year for Palmer and his Bengals as he missed nearly the entire season with an injured elbow and broken nose. Even with a decent rebound in 2009, Palmer should not be drafted in the same rounds as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. However, he may provide major value in the middle rounds for those waiting on drafting a quarterback or looking for a strong backup. Both Palmer and Chad Ochocinco have shown signs of age, but should still have enough fuel in the tank for several more productive seasons together, especially if runningback Cedric Benson continues to add consistency to

Cincinnati
’s run game.

Matt Cassel – Despite never owning the starting gig at USC,
Cassel’s rise to fame was the result of a season-ending injury to Tom Brady in 2008.
Cassel went from a nameless backup to the Patriots starter with one play against the Kansas City Chiefs. With the team’s season on his shoulders,
Cassel stepped out of Brady’s shadow to lead the Patriots to an 11-5 season. Although
New England barely missed the playoffs, Casell earned the respect of the fans and the entire league. With Brady returning for 2009,
Cassel received a generous contract from the Kansas City Chiefs where he will be earning almost $12 million this season. With targets Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers, it would be unfair to expect the same numbers as he placed with Randy Moss and Wes Welker catching for him. The combination of Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles on the ground should open up the field for
Cassel. Draft him as a backup quarterback as the Chiefs offense is still developing.

Mark Sanchez
– Although Sanchez left USC with another year of eligibility, he quieted critics by winning the first three games of his NFL career. Fans immediately jumped on his bandwagon. However, the wagon began to crash and burn as the Jets lost six of their next seven games as Sanchez threw for 14 interceptions and only six touchdowns. The streaky Sanchez was able to mature quickly and redeem his season by winning five of his next six games and clinching a playoff berth. After knocking off fellow alumn Carson Palmer and the Bengals, the Cinderella Jets were able to reach the AFC Championship. Unfortunately for

New York
, the Indianapolis Colts were well rested and ready to crush Sanchez’s unprecedented playoff run.   Although he may not have the arm strength of other top quarterbacks in the league, Sanchez does have a strong receiving core featuring Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Jerricho Cotchery. Although Thomas Jones is no longer in the backfield, Sanchez will be handing off to young and talented downhill runner Shonn Greene and former Chargers superstar running back LaDainian Tomlinson. If one thought Rex Ryan had a chip on his shoulder, try talking to Tomlinson about the upcoming season. Sanchez has weapons on offense and defense, which will propel the Jets to another winning season and potential playoff run. Also, the GQ Magazine cover boy should stay healthier as he learned how to “slide” from New York Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi.

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Matt Leinart
– Last but not least, the Arizona Cardinals will be handing signal calling duties to Leinart. Starting his fifth NFL season, Leinart has finally taken the reins from retiring Kurt Warner. While Warner has been setting passing records and taking the Cardinals to the playoffs and Super Bowl, Leinart has been forced to sit on the sidelines taking notes. Leinart seems to only gain publicity off the field for his celebrity girlfriends and pool parties. Even with only minimal playing time since his rookie season, Leinart will be commanding a high-powered offense with stud receiver Larry Fitzgerald catching his passes.  While Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower will provide a decent running game. It is expected that Leinart will experience a fair share of growing pains, however, he has the weapons to win another division championship and restore his reputation.

Each of these quarterbacks has a completely different skill set and style for their craft. Nevertheless, all four players are tied to the winning tradition of the USC Trojans.   It will be intriguing to see how Palmer,
Cassel, Sanchez and Leinart measure up this season. Whether you are fan of their current teams or not, USC fans may cheer for their alumni as their former quarterbacks look to make their alma mater proud.

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