News  

 

As camps loom, five teams feature intriguing QB battles


Earlier in the offseason, we took a look at some of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the league.

Since that point, several teams have chosen their respective field leaders.

Pittsburgh tabbed Byron Leftwich to be their interim starter in Ben Roethlisberger's absence, and the Oakland Raiders jettisoned JaMarcus Russell in favor of Jason Campbell. In Cleveland, Eric Mangini essentially named Jake Delhomme the starting quarterback, while the Carolina Panthers appear set on starting Matt Moore to open the season.

While those battles have seemingly already been decided, the remainder of the quarterback competitions will be decided during training camp.

Let's take a look at how some of those battles are heating up around the league:

Arizona Cardinals

Competitors: Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson
Front-runner: Leinart

After serving as a backup to Kurt Warner for the past two seasons, Matt Leinart finally gets another shot to become the franchise quarterback in Arizona. Leinart has been penciled in as the starter, but he must fend off a challenge from a former Pro Bowl selection, Derek Anderson, to retain the job.

Leinart, who has a 7-10 career record as a starter, hasn't played much since losing his job to Warner, but Leinart showed promise in his only start last season. Against the Tennessee Titans, he connected on 21 of 31 passes for 220 yards. He efficiently guided the team's offense by routinely hitting the open receiver on short and intermediate routes. While he runs the Cardinals' short passing game with good precision, Leinart's marginal arm strength potentially robs the team of the big-play element.

The Cardinals have featured one of the league's most explosive offenses over the past two seasons, and the deep ball plays a huge role in their production. Without the presence of explosive plays, the Cardinals might not be able to retain their lofty status among the league's elite offenses.

With that notion in mind, the Cardinals signed Anderson in the offseason to provide competition to Leinart. Anderson specializes in throwing the deep ball, and his willingness to air it out would keep defenses from tightening down on Cardinals' aerial attack. While Anderson's presence would add an element of explosiveness to the offense, his penchant for turnovers would bring some risk to the unit, as well. Anderson has thrown 37 interceptions in the past three seasons (34 games), and his questionable decisions are hard for an offense to overcome at times.

To overtake Leinart during the preseason, Anderson must take care of the ball while continuing to make plays down the field. If he can prove that he is trustworthy in critical situations, it would not be a surprise to see him eventually wrestle the job away from Leinart by the end of the preseason.

Predicted winner: Leinart

Buffalo Bills

Competitors: Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm
Front-runner: Edwards

The Bills' quarterback competition is completely wide open, and Chan Gailey hasn't tipped his hand about a possible favorite heading into camp. The reps have been equally divided between Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm throughout the offseason, and the rotation will continue into training camp.

In looking at the candidates, it appears that Edwards should be the front-runner heading into camp. The fourth-year pro has compiled a 14-16 record in 30 career starts while connecting on 61.3 percent of his passes. He sports a respectable 77.9 career passer rating and has led the team to four fourth-quarter comebacks during his tenure. While he has been knocked for his conservative approach and reluctance to take shots down the field, he has big-time talent that could blossom under Gailey's tutelage.

In Fitzpatrick, Gailey has a developing player who has logged 20 starts during the past two seasons. While his numbers haven't been stellar during that span (Fitzpatrick completed 58 percent of his passes for 3,327 yards with 17 touchdowns and 19 interceptions), he has shown that he can guide the Bills to wins by going 4-4 during an eight-game stretch last season. Fitzpatrick is a smart, instinctive playmaker with good anticipation and awareness, who routinely delivers the ball on time. His efficiency working through his reads and getting the ball to the right guys could put a lot of stress on a defense when he is in sync with his pass catchers.

Among the challengers who are vying for the position, Brohm is the one to watch. The third-year pro has only one career start under his belt, but his experience running a spread-like offensive system at Louisville could accelerate his transition into the Bills' new scheme. Gailey is poised to install the Pistol formation that he used in Kansas City as offensive coordinator, and his success developing Tyler Thigpen into a productive player could make Brohm an intriguing option.

Predicted winner: Edwards

Denver Broncos

Competitors: Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow
Front-runner: Orton

Josh McDaniels has made it clear that Kyle Orton is the Broncos' starting quarterback going into camp, but the veteran needs to perform well during the early stages of camp to slam the door shut on Brady Quinn's chances of getting on the field.

Orton, who posted career highs in pass yards, touchdowns and passer rating last season, directed the Broncos to surprising 6-0 start with his superb play in the pocket. Orton efficiently distributed the ball to his playmakers, and he took outstanding care of the ball during the streak (Orton tossed nine touchdowns against only one interception during the team's 6-0 start.)

However, defenses adjusted to his dink-and-dunk approach during the middle of the season, and he had difficulty attacking down the field when opponents took away the short and intermediate options. As a result, Orton often forced throws into traffic, and the bevy of turnovers (11 interceptions in team's final 10 games) that ensued contributed to the Broncos' disappointing finish.

With those thoughts fresh in his mind, McDaniels traded for Quinn and drafted Tim Tebow to add competition.

Quinn gives McDaniels a young player with experience in his system (Quinn played under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, and McDaniels' scheme has several similarities). Though Quinn struggled mightily during his tenure in Cleveland, McDaniels' spread offense plays to his strengths as an efficient distributor. If Quinn can find his rhythm throughout the preseason, he could push Orton for playing time.

Tebow is thought to be a long shot in the competition, but his exceptional intangibles make it difficult to completely discount the notion of him winning the starting job at some point. To unseat Orton as the starter, he must show that he can make accurate throws under duress, and run the offense in an efficient manner. Additionally, he must prove to McDaniels that he has the ability to call the game from the line. Given the host of challenges before Tebow, he might not be ready to make a serious run at the job until the middle of the season.

Predicted winner: Orton

Seattle Seahawks

Competitors: Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst
Front-runner: Hasselbeck

Pete Carroll has promised that competition will be a central theme throughout his tenure in Seattle, and he made good on that pledge by having Matt Hasselbeck battle to retain his starting job.

Hasselbeck, who has earned three Pro Bowl berths during his nine years as the Seahawks starter, is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons. Though injuries have contributed mightily to his struggles, he has not been effective or efficient from the pocket in recent seasons. Last season, he tossed career-worst 17 interceptions and finished ranked 23rd in the league in passer rating.

Throw in that he is approaching his 35th birthday, it is quite possible that Hasselbeck's best days are behind him.

The Seahawks took steps to guard against Hasselbeck's potential decline by trading for and signing Whitehurst during the offseason. Although he has made only two game appearances in his career (no passes thrown in either game), Whitehurst is viewed as a potential long-term solution based solely on his solid play during the preseason. As a strong-armed thrower with outstanding physical tools, he can dazzle coaches with his raw talent. But without significant game experience, it will be hard to entrust Whitehurst with the keys to the offense unless he puts on a stellar showing throughout the preseason.

Predicted winner: Hasselbeck

St. Louis Rams

Competitors: Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley
Front-runner: Feeley

Conventional wisdom would suggest that it is only a matter of time before Bradford takes over as the face of the franchise, but the Rams are trying to slowly acclimate the top pick to the pro game by having him sit on the sidelines behind Feeley.

Although Bradford entered the league advanced in his development, he is undergoing a major transition by moving into a pro-style offense after directing a spread offense at the University of Oklahoma. In St. Louis, he is being asked to operate from under center, and reading a defense while executing three-, five- and seven-step drops is dramatically different from looking at a defense while in the shotgun formation. In addition, he has to delve into a playbook and passing game that has more reads and adjustments than the system he played in as a collegian, and the transition is sure to result in some miscues.

Given the host of adjustments needed by Bradford to become comfortable as a starter, Steve Spagnuolo has opted to alleviate the pressure on his young player by naming Feeley as the team's starter going into camp.

While Feeley has only logged 15 starts during his nine years in the league, he has shown signs of being a capable starter when pressed into action. As a strong-armed thrower with average touch and accuracy, Feeley is more than capable of running the Rams' quick-rhythm passing game. Though he is prone to critical mistakes under pressure, his steady guidance and leadership skills should help the Rams' disappointing offense stay afloat until Bradford shows that he is ready to take over.

Predicted winner: Feeley

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15