With the first regular season game of the 2018 season a little more than two weeks away, some high-profile quarterback competitions will soon be wrapping up. Former NFL QB David Carr reveals his predicted winner for four such battles (teams listed in alphabetical order).
Projected Week 1 starter: Bradford.
Analysis: At the start of training camp, I wrote Rosen would likely be the Week 1 starter due, in part, to Bradford's peculiar ability to get hurt unlocking his car. However, midway through the preseason, Bradford is still healthy and Rosen has been up and down when he's in the game. Rosen is super talented with good vision and a high football IQ, but he's made some questionable throws -- some of which should have been touchdowns the other way. He's trying to force the issue by throwing the ball in situations where he should take the sack or toss it away. For a smart player, Rosen hasn't made the best decisions and launched some "this might get me fired" throws.
I have to say I'm surprised by how Rosen's played because I thought he was going to be one of the better rookie decision makers. He's made some incredible throws, too, and seems to be highly regarded by teammates, but he's not ready to take the reins. I'm not discouraged by how Rosen has played because everyone goes through growing pains. I just don't feel warm and fuzzy about putting him out there from the get-go.
That said, Bradford has been extremely accurate so far, completing 7 of 7 passes for 67 yards and a 106.5 passer rating. He's picked up the system quickly and makes the coaching staff, especially offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, feel comfortable when he's out there. At this point, Arizona has the best chance to win with Bradford at QB.
Projected Week 1 starter: Allen.
Analysis: I picked Allen to be the starter way back during OTAs. I'm sticking with that prediction based on what I've seen so far in the preseason. McCarron is day to day with the shoulder injury he suffered against the Browns. It remains to be seen how much time he'll miss, but the injury is certainly a setback. Peterman, who reminds me of Trevor Siemian, doesn't excite me much when he's on the field. Allen has earned the starting job in Sunday's "dress rehearsal" against the Bengals after displaying some big-play ability and athleticism his first two times out. His talent far outweighs Peterman's and he makes any throw from the pocket look easy. I've only seen two other quarterbacks who make a 5-yard "dink and dunk" toss and a 60-yard missile look the same -- Aaron Rodgers and Dan Marino. Allen has that same ability to make any throw look effortless and can rip the ball all over the field.
Projected Week 1 QB2: Kelly.
Analysis: Remember when Case Keenum entered the game for an injured Sam Bradford in Minnesota's Week 5 contest against the Bears last season? The entire Vikings offense immediately looked rejuvenated by Keenum's presence and energy. That's how it felt when Kelly came in for Lynch in the preseason opener. That's one quality coaches want in their backup because teams aren't often in a winning situation when backups come into the game, but the unit should absolutely believe it can drive down the field and score with the QB2. Along with his positive vibe, Kelly has outplayed Lynch all preseason. And as far as John Elway stating he might be interested in signing a veteran QB, what could such an addition give you that Kelly won't at this point? This is Kelly's position now. Of course, in a perfect world, a team's QB2 never has to touch the field.
New York Jets
Projected Week 1 starter: Darnold.
Analysis: What's crazy is McCown has a chance to be the starter or third-stringer come Week 1, but I don't think McCown will be the QB1 based on what we've seen from Bridgewater and Darnold this preseason. Bridgewater has surprised with his performance, outplaying Darnold at times. Both of these young players could be starting quarterbacks in the NFL. (Definitely didn't expect to be saying that about Bridgewater after the quarterback's traumatic knee injury in 2016.) That said, having both Darnold and Bridgewater fighting every week for the starting job would be incredibly difficult. It's not fair to either one of them. (I know you're wondering how this is different from Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield in Cleveland. The Browns have been clear from the start about the situation for this season -- Taylor is their QB1 -- and Taylor has proven he has what it takes to be a franchise QB.) That's why I'm hoping (and honestly think) the Jets will trade Bridgewater. There are certainly teams out there who need his services.
Darnold is my pick here because he's shown he can handle the pressure of being an NFL quarterback. In the preseason opener against the Falcons, there was an unblocked rusher coming right at Darnold and he delivered a pass to his third read before the defender even got to him. That's rare stuff for a rookie. Some have criticized Darnold for making too many underneath throws, but he's making the right decisions -- something he didn't always do at USC. He can throw extremely well on the run, almost better than he does in the pocket, and has control at the line of scrimmage. The Jets have their QB of the future, and the future is now.