Four teams dealing with quarterback concerns

Heading into training camp, quarterback questions swirled in Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami and Atlanta.

Now, with the first complete weekend of preseason games about to kick off, answers are beginning to emerge.

JACKSONVILLE ...

They debated drafting Brady Quinn and signing Daunte Culpepper before turning back to Byron Leftwich.

Good thing the Jacksonville Jaguars did.

Over the past two weeks, Leftwich has been the talk of Jaguars camp, performing the way Jacksonville hoped he would when it used its 2003 first-round pick on him.

Former Alabama head coach and current Jaguars quarterbacks coach Mike Shula has worked with Leftwich on his footwork, making the quarterback more nimble than he has been. Those who have watched Leftwich this summer have noticed that Shula has had an obvious effect on him.

As has Jacksonville's new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

Jacksonville's new offense has allowed Leftwich to make some of his own calls, to rely on his football instincts, to showcase his skills.

Leftwich's newfound independence has resulted in a greater comfort level. Leftwich also is working in a run-based offense that relies even more on the vertical game.

Those who have watched Leftwich say he is thriving. They believe Leftwich is poised to have his most effective and best season as the Jagaurs quarterback.

If they are right, then Jacksonville and Leftwich are in for a big year. With its stingy defense and steady offense, Jacksonville only has been missing consistent play from its quarterback. Leftwich's performance could elevate the Jaguars into the upper echelon of the ultra-talented AFC.

And Leftwich, who has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, might be the biggest benefactor of all. With one year remaining on his contract, Leftwich knows all that he has at stake. So far his play looks as good as the Jaguars decision to name Leftwich as the team's starting quarterback.

KANSAS CITY ...

With three of their first four games on the road –- at Houston, at Chicago, Minnesota, then at San Diego –- Kansas City might decide experience is more important early on than upside.

The schedule could favor Damon Huard, who was superb last season.

If there were a time on the schedule for the Chiefs to go to their youth and Brodie Croyle, it might be Oct. 7 against Jacksonville, when Kansas City kicks off an eight-game stretch that will include six homes games. Croyle could be eased into the lineup at home, in front of the great Kansas City fans.

But for now, for the preseason, Chiefs coach Herm Edwards is giving the first start to Croyle. When the Chiefs open the preseason Saturday night in Cleveland, Croyle will be behind center. But Edwards made it clear that Huard will start Kansas City's next preseason game Aug. 16 against Miami.

Still, Croyle is going to get more snaps this preseason than Huard because the Chiefs want to prep him as much as possible –- in the hopes that he can be ready to start the season.

MIAMI ...

When Miami released its first depth chart of the season, quarterbacks Trent Green and Cleo Lemon each were listed in the first-team column, as co-No. 1's.

But there's an interesting story as to why Green was listed ahead of Lemon. Dolphins coach Cam Cameron wanted to do it numerical order. Green wears No. 10, Lemon No. 17. Had Lemon opted for No. 7, he would be listed in front of Green on the depth chart.

Even though the Dolphins are unwilling to name a starter now, the overwhelming feeling is that it is Green's job to lose. Green hasn't looked sharp this summer, but there are reasons.

Green is throwing the ball to the places he expects receivers to be and often they are not there. Green still is getting used to his receivers, and his receivers him. But ultimately, Cameron is expected to feel more comfortable with a quarterback that has won for him in the past.

Also, anyone pointing out Green's preseason struggles should remember this: Miami read way too much into the quarterback performance last summer of Daunte Culpepper, whom it thought was ready and wasn't.

Look for Green to start the opener. Short of Green struggling into the regular season, it's hard to imagine Lemon supplanting him, at least for the time being.

ATLANTA...

Losing Michael Vick was a blow, but only now are some of the Falcons realizing how signiificant it truly is.

The offense –- and the team –- clearly is not the same without him.

Those who have watched the team this summer say the offense has been subpar, and the defense not much better.

Some could be attributed to catching on to new head coach Bobby Petrino's complex offensive schemes. But the fear and concern amongst the players is that is the minus-Vick factor.

One player said he was concerned that Vick was the Falcons best player, by far, the one player that other teams feared. Now there is no one to fear.

It's up to Petrino to develop another weapon that opponents fear, but at a time when most teams have high hopes, the Falcons seem to have significant concerns.

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