Analysis  

 

NFL quarterback battles: Who's winning? Which teams are lost?

Print

Paxton Lynch lost the quarterback derby in Denver. Vance Joseph, John Elway and Co. did the only thing they could do to get ready for the 2017 season when they ended a QB competition that never really was. Lynch showed nothing. In Year 2, it's clear he's not ready to take the reins. The real question is: Will he ever be?

So Trevor Siemian is the Broncos' guy. They announced it and sold it. That was the best thing to do -- even though Siemian is average (at best) and Denver's prospects appear limited with him at the helm. But I digress. Bottom line is: Denver handled this Siemian-vs.-Lynch battle the right way.

How are other NFL teams organizing their respective QB rooms as we hurtle toward the regular season? Let's take a closer look at some noteworthy situations ...

Cleveland Browns: Brock Osweiler vs. DeShone Kizer

Perhaps you missed it, with Cleveland engulfed in the Kyrie Irving trade insanity, but Hue Jackson is wisely giving Kizer a chance to run with the 1s in Week 3 of the preseason. The second-round pick out of Notre Dame has impressed with his play and leadership. I'm quite intrigued to see how he performs Saturday night in Tampa Bay -- and so is the Browns' second-year head coach:

"Development is so important for a young quarterback, this is the next step he needs to take and he deserves this opportunity," Jackson wrote in a statement released by the club Wednesday morning. "We are very excited about seeing DeShone in the role of starter for this week, as he is certainly positioning himself well to earn the starting job heading into the regular season."

That last sentence must be thrilling for a Browns fan base that has been looking for something -- anything -- at the quarterback position since last millennium. The 21-year-old Kizer is a breath of fresh air. I love his natural talent, arm, ability to throw on the run, confidence and leadership. Don't get me wrong: He still has a ways to go in his development as an NFL player, but putting his raw tools in Jackson's hands is a recipe for excitement.

I love everything about how Jackson has handled this QB battle. He never seriously considered Cody Kessler or Kevin Hogan; this has been Osweiler vs. Kizer. And it's a credit to Jackson that he has given Osweiler a legit shot in the first place. After all, everyone initially figured he was nothing more than the toxic component of a Texans salary dump that netted Cleveland a 2018 second-round pick. Osweiler was horrendous in Houston last season. But Hue has given Brock a chance to showcase the ability that provoked a $72 million contract just one year ago. If Kizer acquits himself well on Saturday, though, he could be headed to an opening-day start vs. the Steelers. Especially considering that NFL Network's Tom Pelissero says Osweiler will be sidelined for the dress rehearsal.

It's not hard to figure out why Cleveland would want to see its rookie QB sooner rather than later. The Browns need to see what they have in terms of long-term answers at the position before next offseason, when Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins could hit free agency and the draft appears destined to offer a number of enticing prospects.

Hue Jackson is handling this QB room with a deft touch, and there are positive vibes around this long-downtrodden franchise. Cleveland has good young players in many different spots. I like where the Browns are headed.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles vs. Chad Henne

The Jags have ample talent on both sides of the ball. They added a bunch of skilled players in free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft. I love Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone.

The problem? Blake Bortles sucks the life out of Jacksonville.

On the heels of a highly disappointing 2016 campaign, Bortles has failed this preseason. So it's no surprise that, following the Jags' second game of the preseason last week, Marrone said the starting QB gig "is right up there for grabs, and either person can take it."

What does Henne have to do to win the job? Breathe? Tie his shoes? Not be Blake Bortles?

I'm not turning Henne into Joe Montana. He's a 32-year-old quarterback with a career record of 18-35 and a career TD-to-INT ratio of 58:63. But yeah, he's also not Blake Bortles, who represents underachievement and failure for this franchise.

Marrone and Jags receivers haven't been shy about their frustrations with the incumbent starter this summer. Might as well shake things up at the game's most important position. I really think it's gonna be Henne. Or perhaps more accurately, not Blake Bortles.

(UPDATE: The Jaguars have announced that Henne will start against the Panthers on Thursday.)

Chicago Bears: Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky

Glennon became the future ex-quarterback of the Bears the second Chicago traded up to pluck Trubisky at No. 2 overall in April. Glennon was set up to fail -- but he shouldn't be failing like this.

The fifth-year veteran has been beyond dreadful this preseason (SEE: 48.4 passer rating, 4.2 yards per attempt). Heading into Sunday's game in Tennessee, it's time for John Fox to play Trubisky with the first-team offense. See what he can do. Trubisky has displayed an enticing all-around skill set in two productive preseason outings (SEE: 111.4 passer rating, 72.7 completion percentage). It's time to give the Bears and their fans some life. Stop messing around with Mark Sanchez in the rotation at all, let alone before Trubisky.

The Bears' schedule is a beast in the first five weeks. In theory, you don't want to throw Trubisky to the wolves. In reality, you might have to scrap that plan. Use Week 3 of the preseason as a trial balloon.

Houston Texans: Tom Savage vs. Deshaun Watson

Bill O'Brien continued to stress the point on Tuesday: "Tom's the starter. Tom's playing well this camp. Tom has really had a good camp. He's only thrown three incompletions in two games." He was strong in his word choice. And being fair, Savage has earned it. He's been brilliant this preseason, completing a stunning 85 percent of his passes while averaging 8.4 yards per attempt. And it goes beyond the stat page. Savage has passed the eye test this month.

But remember a couple keys points ...

In 2015, Brian Hoyer won the job in the preseason ... and got replaced by Ryan Mallett in the fourth quarter of Week 1. So let's not pretend this depth chart isn't fluid. Also, O'Brien and the Texans made the bold trade up to get Watson in Round 1 when they already had Savage on the roster. That was a window into the franchise's true thinking.

And ponder this: With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, who would you want under center? Watson, with his exciting skill set and that big-game savvy we all saw during his Clemson career? Or Savage, who bounced around multiple colleges and has yet to supply a memorable moment on the national stage? It's Watson. He's special.

I understand that Savage has done nothing to lose the job. I also think this team's ceiling is much higher with the rookie under center. Houston has a fantastic roster. Bill O'Brien traded up for a special player to replace Savage. He remembers that, right?

Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith vs. Patrick Mahomes

Andy Reid is absolutely clear in saying Alex Smith is his guy. And I believe him. I've been one of Alex Smith's biggest fans.

But it was Reid who brilliantly traded up to grab Mahomes as his quarterback of the future. Have you seen the rookie this preseason? It's like he was built in a quarterback factory, with skills that turn heads and drop jaws. And he's a great guy and leader.

Alex Smith is the quarterback -- for now. But what happens if the reigning AFC West champions get off to a slow start in the regular season? What happens if Tyreek Hill is not being utilized as a downfield threat? What happens if the red-zone offense stalls? What happens if Smith looks like the scuffling quarterback he was in Kansas City's last real game, a frustrating home playoff loss to Pittsburgh?

You know what everyone will be thinking ...

New York Jets: Josh McCown vs. Christian Hackenberg vs. Bryce Petty

While Hue Jackson has done everything right, Todd Bowles appears to get lost in the quarterback room. He can't seem to figure out how to properly organize this group, in games and practice. But being fair to Bowles, does it really matter if he sits Josh McCown in the second preseason game or doesn't give him reps on a Tuesday?

Here's the simple truth: McCown should start. Hackenberg will play. And Bryce Petty is a fleeting thought (which says a lot about Bryce Petty).

Let's be honest: The Jets seriously lack talent on offense. This is one of the most underwhelming attacks I've ever seen. Just look at the receiving corps: Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall, Charone Peake ... Need I go on? No quarterback would be able to produce much with this motley crew.

So let's stop beating around the bush, Jets. Just name McCown the starter. Then take a look at Hackenberg once the season is lost. (You drafted him in the second round -- you must see what he can do on the big stage.) Then look ahead to a loaded QB class in the 2017 draft.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop