August 14, 2012
After Dallas’ less than scintillating 3-0 victory over the Oakland Raiders on “Monday Night Football”, the first full week of preseason action came to a close. Despite having a full sixty minutes of action to begin gauging personnel and potentially altering depth charts, it’s more than likely that several teams with unsettled questions at quarterback will continue to evaluate before rendering a decision. It’s important to note that the teams that have quarterback issues are clubs who struggled in 2011 and that are looking for a way to turn the corner.
Will any of the following teams have much luck in 2012? It’s hard to say, but we’ll take a look at teams with no clear cut starter at the moment and offer insight as to who might end up taking snaps with the first team offense come Opening Day. Let’s take a spin around the league, shall we?
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have been a team that has needed quarterback help since the retirement of Kurt Warner following the 2010 season. Arizona paid a steep price to acquire Kevin Kolb from Philadelphia despite his less than stellar performances and inability to hold off Michael Vick. Kolb failed to impress the Cardinal faithful, missing time with a myriad of injuries and finishing the year with a record of 3-6 in nine starts. He completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 1,955 yards with nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions while being sacked 30 times. It’s safe to say that those are the kind of numbers you expect from a guy that you just signed to a $63 million extension.
Kolb’s competition for the job is John Skelton, an unheralded undrafted free agent out of the football power of Fordham. Skelton played in eight games, starting seven last year for Arizona with Kolb out, and the team responded to the tune of a 5-2 record. Sure, Skelton completed only 54.9 percent of his throws, but he did total 1,913 yards and tossed 11 touchdown passes. He also had 14 interceptions and was sacked 23 times but he showed the ability to lead his team in crunch time. He was fourth in the league in both fourth quarter comeback victories (4) and game winning drives (5) last season.
Neither quarterback has been lights out in preseason so far but sources say that Skelton has the inside track on winning the job. Kolb is 2 of 9 for 25 yards in preseason action and suffered bruised ribs in the Hall of Fame Game, while Skelton is 7 of 12 for 67 yards and an interception. Kolb is expected to start the team’s third preseason game Friday against the Raiders.
Prediction: Skelton takes the job despite the large price tag attached to Kolb. Arizona would have dropped Kolb had they been able to ink Peyton Manning during the offseason. Larry Fitzgerald isn’t getting younger and Skelton’s ability to rally late is something that cannot be discounted.
Miami Dolphins: What was originally a three-way battle for the job between Matt Moore, David Garrard and rookie Ryan Tannehill has been thinned to a pair but not due to poor play. Garrard is expected to miss about a month after undergoing knee surgery. That leaves Moore, who was the starter in the latter stages of 2011, to compete with Tannehill, who was taken with the eighth overall selection out of Texas A&M. Tannehill’s college coach, Mike Sherman, is now the offensive coordinator with the team.
Moore is not a sexy pick or one that will get a bunch of headlines in the paper. He was 6-6 as a starter last year, completing 60.5 percent of his throws for 2,497 yards and 16 touchdown passes against nine interceptions. He has 25 NFL starts to his credit, which of course, is 25 more than Tannehill has in his career. For that matter, Tannehill has just 18 starts to his credit as a college quarterback, having converted from wide receiver. He did lead the Dolphins to their only touchdown in Friday’s 20-7 preseason defeat against Tampa Bay. In that game, Moore was 7 of 12 for 79 yards and an interception while Tannehill was 14 of 21 for 167 yards and a touchdown pass.
The major issue, of course, is the fact that no matter who wins the starting job, there’s a lack of talent in the receiving corps. To be perfectly blunt, Miami may have the worst starting receivers in the league with the pairing of Davone Bess and Brian Hartline. Brandon Marshall was traded to the Bears and his expected replacement, Chad Johnson, was let go Sunday after he was arrested after an incident with his wife. That makes the quarterback’s job even more difficult.
Prediction: The pick to cater to the masses is to hand the ball to the rookie and let him learn on the fly, but if the Dolphins want to try and win football games, Tannehill would be better suited to taking reps in practice and learning the offense along the way. Moore should be the starter in week one but things are extremely fluid in south Florida right now.
Tennessee: The Titans are another team with a bubbling quarterback controversy between a long standing veteran of the NFL wars and an up and coming young gun looking to take over the job. Matt Hasselbeck will turn 37 in September and hopes to fend off Jake Locker, who was a first round selection by the Titans last season. Tennessee went 9-7 last season despite issues all over the offensive side of the field and it won’t be long before a change has to take place for the good of the franchise.
Hasselbeck was under center as the starting quarterback in all 16 games last season, completing 61.6 percent of his throws for 3,571 yards with 18 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. Hasselbeck averaged a pedestrian 6.9 yards per attempt, though he managed to stay upright most of the season, taking just 19 sacks. Locker appeared in five games for Tennessee and, staying near his college numbers, completing only 51.5 percent of his passes for 542 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Locker was similarly inaccurate in college, connecting on 54 percent of his throws for the Washington Huskies.
Hasselbeck was 5 of 9 for 45 yards and a pair of interceptions in Tennessee’s 27-17 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks. Locker completed 7 of 13 throws for 80 yards without a touchdown or interception in the game and is expected to start Tennessee’s second preseason game this week as well.
Prediction: Hasselbeck may get the nod as the starter in week one, but if he continues to play poorly in the preseason, Locker could just as easily steal the job away. Either way, it’s a safe bet that Locker will start at some point in 2012.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are anything but a closed deal at quarterback despite the fact that the team shelled out $19.5 million to ink Matt Flynn to a three year deal. Flynn still has to deal with incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, who is familiar with Pete Carroll and his system having been with the team last season. Russell Wilson, who led Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl victory last season and was selected in the third round by Seattle, also is expected to be in the mix.
In the team’s preseason opener Saturday night, Jackson didn’t even take the field, as he was kept out of the lineup by Carroll since the team already knows what he can do in the offense. If you’re scoring at home, that amounts to not much: he completed 60.2 percent of his throws for 3,091 yards with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 15 games, 14 of which were starts. Jackson was also sacked 43 times for a league high 292 lost yards.
Flynn looked sharp in the game, as he completed 11 of 13 throws for 71 yards and an interception. That pick came when linebacker Colin McCarthy cut underneath the route Flynn was attempting to throw and made a play. Flynn led Seattle to three points on the night; Seattle’s other first half score came on Brandon Browner’s interception return on the first play from scrimmage., Meanwhile, Wilson looked impressive in the second half of action, hitting on 12 of 16 passes for 124 yards, including a 39 yard scoring strike to Braylon Edwards. Wilson also led the team with 59 yards rushing, including a 32 yard touchdown in the final two minutes to close the scoring.
Flynn will again get the starting nod for the second preseason game for Seattle against Denver in the Mile High City on Saturday night. Wilson is expected to play in the second half while Jackson, who took almost all the first team reps in practice Tuesday, will watch from the sideline.
Prediction: Flynn should end up as the starter in Seattle in a move not solely based on money but on performance. Jackson has never developed into a quality quarterback and seeing no preseason action in the first two games has to pretty much rule him out as a contender for the job. Wilson has skills but is a rookie and lacks the size to be a prototypical starter in the NFL at quarterback. Flynn didn’t have prolific numbers in college but should be able to run a Seattle offense that is run oriented.
This list is by no means comprehensive, as there are situations in flux like Cleveland, where Brandon Weeden is expected to start in a move that all but signifies the end of Colt McCoy, while in New York, Tebowmania is running wild and Mark Sanchez is holding on to the role for now and both Indianapolis and Washington, where the top two picks in the draft are the starting quarterbacks as of now.
Is your team set at quarterback or a team looking for their next signal caller?