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Quarterback storylines make Week 2 of preseason compelling

Howard Smith / US Presswire
Michael Vick will get an idea of how ready he is for the season when the Eagles face the Steelers on Thursday.


It's the second week of the preseason. Yawn.

Well, wait. There are games worth watching, specifically due to some quarterback situations going on around the league.

Usually it's the third week of preseason games that are worth paying attention to because starters go longer. But consider some veteran quarterbacks -- and who they're playing this week -- and you might get a better look at how this season will play out, starting with Superman playing in Pittsburgh against the NFL's best defense.

Is Michael Vick for real? He actually succeeded, for the first time in his career, as a pocket passer last season. Yes, he ran for nearly 700 yards and nine touchdowns, but it was his 100.2 passer rating that had everyone so excited. That's where Week 2, preseason style, gets cool.

The Eagles go to Pittsburgh on Thursday. The Steelers might be the most capable to contain Vick, providing Dick LeBeau doesn't go preseason vanilla on us. I think the Steelers' coverage and blitz schemes will give Vick trouble. They won't allow him to have success in the pocket, and by spying him with perhaps Lawrence Timmons, Vick might revert to his old self: Exciting player, inaccurate passer.

Here are a few more quarterbacks who merit closer inspection this week ...

Cutler (and every other Bears QB) vs. the Giants

The G-Men sacked Jay Cutler, Todd Collins, and Mike Tomczak 10 times last year, and Bears quarterbacks got hammered nine times in last week's preseason opener against the Bills. Mike Martz's offenses traditionally give up a lot of sacks, but this is getting ridiculous. If Cutler doesn't get rid of the ball, then it's going to face plant Chicago's playoff hopes.

We saw what happened when Cutler got hurt in last year's NFC title game. Caleb Hanie played better than his own parents could have hoped for; Cutler made the Peyton Manning face, and a ton of offseason drama was born.

It's time for the Olin Kreutz-less offensive line to do its job.

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Romo vs. the Chargers

Tony Romo and the starters were less than impressive last week against a very-in-transition Broncos defense. If Romo, who's coming back from a broken collarbone, can't deep-six the Denver defense, how's he going to do it against the Heat and the Giants, I mean, the Eagles and the Giants?

Dallas and San Diego run very similar offenses. The Norv Turner attack that Philip Rivers is putting up Tecmo Bowl numbers in is pretty much the same offensive scheme Jason Garrett played under during the Cowboys' dynasty of the 1990s. Whether Romo can channel his inner Rivers, especially after an injury-shortened 2010 and with a revamped offensive line, remains to be seen.

Cassel vs. the Ravens, again

Matt Cassel at home against Baltimore in last year's wild card: 9 of 18, 70 yards, zero touchdowns and three picks.

Cassel at home against Oakland in the 2010 regular-season finale: 11 of 33, 115 yards, zero touchdowns and two picks.

Cassel last week against the Bucs: Didn't throw a pass.

If I'm a Chiefs fan, I want to see if last season (27 touchdowns, seven interceptions) was a fluke. What better test than a redo with the Ravens?

Smith faces the better Bay Area team

New coach Jim Harbaugh has been telling anyone who would listen during the offseason that Alex Smith would be welcomed back, and is the frontrunner for the starting job. A couple of weeks deep into camp, did Harbaugh make a rookie mistake?

Smith has blown away no one, although Harbaugh said he's created "separation" over the last couple of days. Most of camp Smith's been considered even-steven with Colin Kaepernick, a rookie himself. So after four weeks of preseason action, if these guys are still on par, doesn't the tie go to the rook? Yes. Reason? Upside.

Beck at the barn in Indy

John Beck was named the starter for this one after Rex Grossman got the nod a week ago. We had the Redskins at the 32-hole in NFL.com's power rankings last week. Beck being tabbed as the guy (this week) moves them up to a tie for 31st. We like stability at the quarterback position at NFL.com.

Here's why you should care about Beck: He's a good guy, who just wants to work hard and succeed. He was the first player to show up at Redskins headquarters when the lockout ended. Washington is one of the league's most storied franchises, but the team has been in the toilet the last few years. If Beck can succeed against the Colts' pass rush in a loud stadium, then there's hope for the burgundy and gold.

Ponder vs. the former Vikes

Taking a departure from the veterans, we didn't get to see anything from Minnesota's first-round pick in the preseason opener. Donovan McNabb started, Joe Webb went a long way, and Christian Ponder picked up table scraps in the fourth quarter.

Coach Leslie Frazier said Ponder will play with the second-stringers this week, which means he could get in as early as the second quarter.

Oh, by the way, Tarvaris Jackson faces his former team. It's exactly the same as Joe Montana facing the 49ers for the first time in 1994. Except not at all.

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