By Steve Silverman
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Where is the NFL’s next generation of star quarterbacks?

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Just a couple of years ago, it looked like the NEXT quarterbacks would be led by a trio that included Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.

However, Luck has been plagued by a series of injuries this season and his play has been poor. While Wilson is capable of leading a good team to wins with his arm and his legs, he lacks some of the classic characteristics that make a quarterback great. He has a strong arm and can make plays on the run, but accuracy is an issue and he never looks comfortable throwing from the pocket.

RGIII is a complete mess, having lost his starting job in Washington to Kirk Cousins. He has become the forgotten man.

But while those quarterbacks have issues, there are several others who are exceeding expectations this season, and one of them ripped up the Jets last Sunday for 333 yards and four TDs.

Derek Carr paid a price and learned quite a few lessons last year as a rookie with the Oakland Raiders. While he took some heavy shots and was often on the run, he started and played in all 16 games and finished the season with impressive stats, completing 348 of 599 passes for 3,270 yards, with a 21-12 TD-interception ratio.

Those are excellent numbers for a rookie, especially one playing on a struggling team. But he solidified his position, and the Raiders also found a good-looking running back in Latavius Murray. They further helped Carr by drafting explosive wide receiver Amari Cooper.

That gave the Raiders the semblance of a balanced offense. This year, the Raiders are competing hard and winning important games, including last week’s 34-20 victory over the Jets. Carr has thrown for 1,793 yards and has completed 65.3 percent of his passes. He has also thrown 15 TD passes and just three interceptions.

Carr is on the verge of becoming a star.

Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Bucs is not close to that level, but the No. 1 pick in this past spring’s draft is starting to get quite comfortable leading his team.

It didn’t start out that way as Winston threw two interceptions in the season opener against Tennessee and the Bucs were beaten 42-14. Three weeks later, Winston threw four interceptions in a loss to the Carolina Panthers and it looked like he might challenge the rookie record for interceptions in a season as he had thrown seven picks in his first four games.

While Winston was struggling, he was also learning. He has not thrown any interceptions since that loss to the Panthers, and he has improved every week. He has led the Bucs to two wins in their last three games, firing four TD passes in that span while showing off his athletic ability by escaping the pass rush.

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Winston has thrown for 1,648 yards and his interception ratio has improved to 10-7. He will get to play against a Giants defense that is allowing more yards than any team in the league and one that just gave up seven TD passes to Drew Brees. Winston may have an opportunity to do some damage at home against New York.

Washington head coach Jay Gruden had seen enough of RGIII and his constant run of mistakes, so he benched him this summer and gave the job to Cousins.

Cousins is completing 68.7 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1,737 yards. His TD-interception ratio is just 9-8, but Cousins has shown he can read defenses and take the short pass when it is available.

Unlike RGIII, he is not throwing the ball into tight (or even closed) windows. He is taking the sure thing and that is allowing the Redskins to keep drives alive.

Most expected the Redskins to be among the worst teams in the league, but they are 3-4 and have played respectable football. They lost by 14 points to the Jets earlier this season, their biggest margin of defeat.

The Redskins appear to be getting better, and are more comfortable with Cousins at the helm than they were with the erratic RGIII.

The other young quarterback who appears to be learning his trade is Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles. The Jaguars are almost like the NFL’s forgotten team, and nobody is paying much attention to them.

But the 2-5 Jags are developing a potent passing game, as receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson are dangerous playmakers.

The two Allens know how to get open, and they have taken advantage of Bortles’ size and arm strength. As a rookie last year, Bortles threw short- and medium-range passes fairly well, but his deep ball lacked confidence.

That’s not the case this year as he has completed 151 of 271 passes for 1,812 yards with 15 TDs and just eight interceptions.

Bortles is well on his way towards becoming one of the young guns of the league.

Few people are noticing in and around Jacksonville, but the rest of the league understands just how good he is.

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