As usual, quarterbacks keep making the NFL world go round
Several quarterback issues playing out as Week 3 preseason games arrive
Whitehurst can keep heat on Jackson as Seattle searches for new QB
Grossman still trying to unset Beck in the Redskins quarterback battle
Not that it's a quarterback-driven league or anything, but here's a quick recap of what's transpired in the past few days when it comes to the NFL's passing set:
Terrelle Pryor has an NFL home, and even before he signs his first Raiders contract, a national debate about what position he should play, and when he should play it, has broken out. I mean, after he's served the five-game league suspension that he won't, will, won't, will, won't appeal.
In a certain sign of the apocalypse in Indianapolis, the QB-desperate Colts lured a gray-bearded veteran out of retirement this week, just not the one everyone was bracing for. (I guess Jim Irsay turned the wrong way at the Firechief.) Kerry Collins is a Colt, because Peyton Manning's slow rehabilitation schedule was starting to be a real pain in the neck for Indy.
Welcome to Kick-Tim-Tebow-While-He's-Down Week. If you believe some reports, the Denver lefty is running fifth on the Broncos' four-man quarterback depth chart, barely in front of 51-year-old John Elway (who is well-liked by the team's front office). The talking heads are fighting each other to bash Tebow's form, and his future at the position (No, no, Boomer, you've had your chance. Go wait over there, behind Merrill, until your turn comes up again), and I'm pretty sure any day now the Broncos are going to move Tebow's locker to a storage room near their loading dock.
Cam Newton got told no tattoos or piercings by Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, and all I can say to that is thank goodness Carolina didn't draft Pryor. I mean, tattoos are pretty much the reason Pryor was available for the supplemental draft to begin with. Any word on whether Jimmy Clausen thinks it's a bad sign that he didn't get the same spiel from Richardson?
It was announced that Michael Vick is the subject of the entire first issue of the relaunched ESPN The Magazine, but I'm afraid we'll never be able to sustain the pace of one major Vick spread per week in a national magazine. (It's just another reason I'm against an 18-game schedule.) GQ clearly won this particular race to the buzzer with last week's headline expose, and I'm guessing ESPN wasn't thrilled to see cover-guy Vick toss those three interceptions in the first half at Pittsburgh last week. Timing is everything in publishing, and sports. Maybe the World Wide Leader can wait and trot out the "Vick is revolutionizing the QB position'' angle again in 2015 -- for at least the third time.
Lost amid all of that mostly fluff, there are some very interesting quarterback issues playing out around the NFL as Week 3, the most important week of the preseason, looms. And it's not so much the case that we have a bunch of unsettled starting QB competitions dotting the league's landscape, because I think the writing's on the wall in favor of Newton in Carolina, John Beck in Washington, Chad Henne in Miami, David Garrard in Jacksonville, Alex Smith in San Francisco, Matt Hasselbeck in Tennessee and Tarvaris Jackson in Seattle. They'll all get at least a week or two into the regular season before that's subject to change.
With the Collins signing in Indianapolis highlighting the need for an experienced and capable No. 2 quarterback, the more intriguing topic to consider might be the various backup situations around the league. Some reserve quarterbacks have increased their value this month, and possibility given themselves another potential starting shot at some point in the future. Let's take a quick temperature reading of those No. 2's, and pass on a few impressions of whose stock is on the rise:
Seattle at Denver, Saturday night
Brady Quinn, Denver -- It seems clear the former Browns first-round pick is among the league's most improved passers this preseason, and has decisively beaten out Tebow for the Broncos' backup job behind starter Kyle Orton. Quinn has looked more comfortable and in control of the Denver offense, and his decision-making skills and level of poise are noticeably better. He's 18 of 30 in passing, with 250 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, and he'll get the chance to improve his 95.1 QB rating at home against the Seahawks.
Charlie Whitehurst, Seattle -- Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll named Jackson his starter even before a snap was taken in training camp, but Whitehurst has actually looked more familiar this preseason with new coordinator Darrell Bevell's West Coast offense -- despite Jackson's history with Bevell in Minnesota. "Charlie's functioning beautifully,'' Carroll said this week. "He's farther along that I thought he would be this early. He's very comfortable with what's going on and it just makes us again stronger at the QB spot.''
Whitehurst has led three Seattle scoring drives in the first two preseason games, and he's 28 of 39 for 212 yards passing, with a touchdown and a 93.1 rating. He's not getting yardage in big chunks ( 5.4 per attempt), but he looks confident in the West Coast system, and his 72 percent completion rate is a far cry better than Jackson's (14 of 26, or 58 percent). Should Jackson struggle mightily at Denver, and Whitehurst shine, look for Seattle's QB situation to remain a front-burner issue into next week.
Washington at Baltimore, Thursday night
Rex Grossman, Washington -- After Beck sparkled against the Colts last week, I'm more convinced than ever that Mike and Kyle Shanahan view him as their No. 1 and Grossman as their backup, but the ex-Bears starter has made things interesting. Grossman has completed 26 of 38 for 295 yards and a touchdown, although he did throw an ugly interception on his first drive against Indy.
Grossman is the kind of quarterback who only looks good when he has good players surrounding him, but he has a comfort level in Kyle Shanahan's offense (it's his third year playing in it) and gives Washington one of the better backup situations in the league. He'll get another chance to make Beck earn it when the Redskins play their dress-rehearsal game tonight in Baltimore.
Tyrod Taylor, Baltimore -- The rookie sixth-round pick has been a pleasant surprise for the Ravens, who many thought were foolish to not be shopping in the veteran backup market, given their Super Bowl aspirations. With Marc Bulger retired, Baltimore could still go that route, but Taylor has definitely earned a roster spot. In five quarters or so of playing time this month, he's the team leader in completions (24), attempts (39), percentage (61.5) and yards (267). He has thrown two interceptions without a touchdown pass, but his running ability has been a weapon, with seven rushes for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Miami at Tampa Bay, Saturday night
Matt Moore, Miami -- Chad Henne's strong showing in a win against Carolina last week tightened his grip on the Dolphins' starting job, but Moore has done nothing but improved his standing this month. He owns 13 starts in first four NFL seasons, and he'll be tempting for Miami to turn to if Henne struggles early in the regular season. Moore is 17 of 28 (61 percent) for 196 yards in his two preseason games, with two touchdowns, one interception and a 90.8 passer rating. His play isn't always pretty, but he has moved the Miami second-team offense when given the chance this preseason, and his showing in a comeback win over the Falcons two weeks ago (123 yards, two touchdowns) impressed his Dolphins teammates.
Josh Johnson, Tampa Bay -- The Bucs' other quarterback named Josh has made some strides for himself this summer, and his 84-yard touchdown drive last week against New England was one of the few positives in a 31-14 drubbing by the visiting Patriots. Johnson has potential, and his quarterback skills are starting to catch up to his athleticism. He has led the Bucs in rushing in both preseason games, with eight carries for 81 yards overall, but his 13 of 28 passing for 213 yards includes an NFL-high six completions of 20 yards or more.
Other backups who have had a decent August so far include:
Houston's Matt Leinart (16 of 32 for 147 yards and one touchdown), who looks more confident and in control of the Texans' offense in his second season with the team.
The Giants' David Carr (9 of 11 for 84 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears), who looked better than ever backing up Eli Manning on Monday night at the Meadowlands.
Philadelphia's Mike Kafka is ostensibly the Eagles' No. 3 quarterback at the moment, with ex-Titans starter Vince Young replacing Michael Vick in both games so far. But in reality, Young has struggled at times to learn Andy Reid's offense, and Kafka, a fourth-round pick in 2010, has played at a fairly high level. His 14 of 19, two-touchdown night against the Steelers was one of the Eagles' few bright spots last week. The thinking? Philadelphia might have to turn to him as the backup early in the season if Vick were hurt, buying Young more time to get the offense down.
And New England's Brian Hoyer, who along with rookie No. 3 QB Ryan Mallett dazzled in the Patriots opener at home against Jacksonville, then failed to match that showing in the victory at Tampa Bay last week. Hoyer has at least made some wonder if New England has another Matt Cassel-like success story buried on its quarterback depth chart.
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