Ten most compelling QB situations
Matt Moore will be looking over his shoulder with the Panthers
Derek Anderson, now in Arizona, has battled a first-round QB for a job before
Bills could hit for the QB cycle in 2010 -- starting four quarterbacks
With the NFL draft having reshuffled a few quarterback depth charts around the league, let's take stock of the shifting arms-race landscape as we await the opening of training camps in about three months. It's a quarterbacks' world in the NFL, but it seems to change about every other week, so you have to stay current.
Here's our list of the 10 most compelling quarterback situations to watch when the season starts, and in the interest of full disclosure, we do not consider Minnesota (you know No. 4 is coming back) or Pittsburgh (it's still Ben Roethlisberger's job) as having vacancies.
1. Carolina Panthers
The Upshot: After Moore went 4-1 to end the season in his first real shot at the No. 1 job, the Panthers let Jake Delhomme, A.J. Feeley and Josh McCown walk and handed the job to Moore, the former Oregon State star who stuck in the league after going undrafted in 2007. But the draft threw Carolina's quarterback depth chart in a whole new light because the Panthers went out of character and nabbed both Notre Dame's Clausen (second round) and Cincinnati's Pike (sixth). Clausen is obviously well-positioned to challenge for Moore's job from day one, and don't overlook Pike's potential to get himself noticed with some solid preseason work.
Potential For Change: I like Moore; when he's been given a chance, he has produced during his three years in Carolina. But with Clausen being a first-round talent in the eyes of many, the reality is he's going to get a chance to play at some point as a rookie. And let's not forget, Panthers head coach John Fox is in the final year of his contract, so he's not going to hesitate to make a move if Moore struggles early. The "Clausen to the Rescue'' clamor will be heard in 2010.
2. Arizona Cardinals
The Upshot: With Kurt Warner retired, this is Leinart's team, and Leinart's time to shine. But with an ex-Pro Bowl pick in Anderson added in free agency, and the promising Skelton drafted in the fifth round, the Cardinals are intent on making the 2006 first-round pick earn it. Leinart really can't afford to show much rust in the preseason because Anderson will be itching to seize any perceived opening and exploit it. He knows all about competing with former first-round picks, and let's just say he left Cleveland without ever believing Brady Quinn legitimately beat him out for the Browns starting job.
Potential For Change: The Cardinals have a lot of time and money invested in Leinart, and he'll be given every possible chance to succeed. I made the case earlier this offseason that Leinart played better in 2006-07 than folks really remember, but all that matters now is what he does with the opportunity. Anderson can look very good at times, and Skelton, who has been compared to Joe Flacco, is a raw but intriguing talent who's intent on becoming the NFL's next Fordham Flash.
3. Oakland Raiders
The Upshot: When the Raiders wisely traded a 2012 fourth-round pick to Washington for Campbell on Saturday, it showed Al Davis was finally waking up and smelling the coffee in the case of the disappointing Russell. Davis will reportedly release Russell any day now, but given the Raiders owe him $3 million guaranteed this season, I'm not sure the point of whacking him now. There's time for that at the end of the preseason. Campbell walks in the door as the team's most accomplished starter, and that's saying something given the five-year ride he just took in Washington. If I'm new Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, my depth chart reads Campbell, Gradkowski and Russell, in that order. Boller and Frye look like camp arms only, or maybe the team's No. 3 if Russell is released.
Potential For Change: Oakland's starting quarterback slot has been a revolving door since Rich Gannon left town, but Campbell now gets his turn to end all the instability. He'll put in the time and the work necessary to earn the job, unlike Russell, who only won it via his contract and draft status. Gradkowski can't be completely overlooked, but Campbell's experience makes him the best of three first-round quarterbacks on the roster (Boller in 2003, Campbell in 2005, Russell in 2007).
4. Cleveland Browns
The Upshot: You still wonder if the Browns viewed all of Delhomme's game film from mid-January 2009 on before giving him $8 million to play this season, but Cleveland has mystified us on the quarterback front many times before. He'll get the first crack at the starting job, but can anyone envision him keeping it for all 16 games? I still see Wallace pushing Delhomme in the preseason, and now you're going to have a groundswell of support for the people's choice: McCoy, the third-round rookie who happens to be the all-time wins leader in major college football history. Browns football czar Mike Holmgren said he doesn't expect McCoy to play this year, but that's no fun. Just let the Browns offense struggle for two games and see how fast McCoy's learning curve changes.
Potential For Change: I'd bet cash money Delhomme, Wallace and McCoy all get at least one start in 2010 because that's how things have gone for the Browns at quarterback for a while now. Cleveland should spend most of its time and energy this season figuring out if McCoy is the future, but with head coach Eric Mangini needing to win every game he can to protect his job, his goals and the team's goals might not perfectly jive on that front.
5. Seattle Seahawks
The Upshot: The plan in Seattle this year was to improve the team around Hasselbeck and let the veteran have one season to see what he can do as the team's clear-cut starter. But you might have noticed that plans can change rather abruptly in the NFL. Last month's surprising Whitehurst trade added an element of competition to Seattle's quarterback situation that didn't exist when Seneca Wallace was the backup, and new head coach Pete Carroll has been a bit all over the map, saying both that Hasselbeck is still the guy and the two quarterbacks will compete in camp. What that means is stay tuned, because if Whitehurst looks sharp in the preseason and Hasselbeck doesn't, nobody's going to be in the mood to wait until 2011 to see what the new guy can do.
Potential For Change: The Seahawks think they've uncovered a gem in Whitehurst, but they paid a high price to San Diego for a guy who has yet to throw a regular-season pass. I don't expect he'll beat out Hasselbeck this season, but injuries have bedeviled the Seahawks starter in recent years, and that may open the door for the ex-Clemson quarterback. Let's see what he does with his opportunity once it comes.
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