For the millions of NFL fans across the country, the preparation for the 2013 NFL season began not with the first blown whistle or horn of training camp, but with the week long NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. This is where all 32 teams gather their brain trusts and make decisions on which players they will draft. With each pick come high hopes they’ll be a part of their respective franchises for years to come. We all know that nothing is given to anyone at the NFL level whether you are a 15 year veteran or a 1st round draft pick. This is the reason why every year in the NFL there are many outstanding position battles that take place where starting jobs are up for grabs.
So far, the 2013 NFL preseason has been no different in regards to position battles across the NFL. In particular, the quarterback competitions that have been raging across the league have captivated the nightly sports news on the major networks whether its SportsCenter on ESPN or even FOX Sports live on FOX Sports 1. As preseason enters its final week, it is only fitting that we take a closer look at the starting quarterback spots that have yet to be announced and those who have won those spots.
In Philadelphia, Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly made the decision that Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles this upcoming season. For weeks prior to Kelly’s decision, there had been uncertainty on whether Vick, Nick Foles, or even Matt Barkley would earn the starting job.
There has been so much made of the new offensive system installed by Coach Kelly involving the same fast pace offense that he ran at the collegiate level while Head Coach of the Oregon Ducks. With a healthy Vick under center this season, it will be very fascinating to see what he does as a valuable asset to Coach Kelly’s up-tempo offense. For a team like the Eagles, it will be imperative for them to get off to a good start if they hope to compete for a division title in the NFC East and knock of the defending divisional champion Washington Redskins.
If you were to travel up north on Interstate 95, you will find the home of New York Jets who have become a dysfunctional team in the past couple of seasons. This season, Head Coach Rex Ryan is on the hot seat as the Jets have performed terribly as a team the past two years — especially on offense. A big reason for their lackluster performance offensively is the play from their quarterback position. Mark Sanchez has performed very poorly and has regressed. This was especially true last season when he threw for 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions (not to mention the infamous butt fumble vs New England Patriots last Thanksgiving).
Because of Sanchez’s poor performance, the Jets drafted quarterback Geno Smith from West Virginia University in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. This was a signal that there will be a quarterback competition for the starting job in training camp. As we enter Week 4 of the preseason, there is still no clear winner for who will be the starting quarterback especially after Smith’s mediocre performance against the New York Giants where he completed 16 of 30 passes for one touchdown and three interceptions. Further complicating the choice, Sanchez was injured when he was put in the game in the 4th quarter leaving Coach Ryan flustered and frustrated during his press conference after the game on Saturday night. It will not be surprising to see Smith get the starting job to start the season, but if he continues to struggle as he has at times during the preseason, Coach Ryan will have no choice to turn back to Sanchez to start for the Jets.
In Orchard Park, New York, the Buffalo Bills quarterback battle has raged on since the beginning of training camp till a few days ago. Kevin Kolb, E.J. Manuel, and Jeff Tuel were battling for the starting quarterback job and Head Coach Doug Marrone had himself quite a decision to make. Manuel, the Bills’ first round draft pick out of Florida State University, had been playing extremely well in this preseason completing 26 of 33 passes which was good for 78.8 percent for 199 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions to go along with a 112.0 quarterback rating.
Unfortunately, injuries have left the rookie in need of a minor knee procedure which will result in him missing the remainder of the preseason. In limited play, Kevin Kolb struggled to some degree completing 15 of 25 passes (60.0 completion percentage) for 125 yards with no touchdown passes and one interception. When Coach Marrone announced that Jeff Tuel was going to be the starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 against the New England Patriots, it certainly raised a few eyebrows in begging the question: Who is Jeff Tuel? Based on his preseason numbers, Tuel completed 31 of 43 passes (72.2 completion percentage) for 299 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions with a 106.6 quarterback rating. While Manuel recovers from his surgery, it seems to be the next best option for now is to start Tuel in Week 1.
In Cleveland, Ohio, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Browns have been rocking and rolling in their beds the past decade over their play from the quarterbacks. This season with the new regime, Rob Chudzinski enters as his first year as Head Coach of the Browns along with Norv Turner, the new offensive coordinator. This will help out quarterback Brandon Weeden, who won the starting job over Jason Campbell. Weeden, entering his second year, has excited both the coaching staff and the fans over his development in preseason as they hope it will translate to success during the regular season.
So far in the preseason, Weeden has completed 30 of 50 passes (60.0 completion percentage) for 334 passing yards and three touchdown passes with no interceptions. It isn’t a huge surprise that Weeden earned the starting job over Jason Campbell. However, since his first season a year ago in 2012, Weeden has made improvements in several key facets of the games especially working his technique passing the ball and having a better understanding of the offense. Weeden’s performance this year will be very critical to the Browns’ success as they hope to compete in what will be a highly contested AFC North division.
In the Bay Area out in Oakland, California, the Raiders have a quarterback competition with Matt Flynn and Terrell Pryor both fighting for the starting job. There is still no obvious choice in regards to who will get the starting job despite Terrell Pryor outplaying Matt Flynn this past Friday night in a 34-26 loss to the Chicago Bears. Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen still does not know who will be starting due to both quarterbacks struggling at times during the preseason.
As we head into the final week of the preseason and final roster cuts have to be made. Coach Allen is going to have a tough decision regarding to who will get the starting nod in Week 1 of the regular season against the Indianapolis Colts. Eventually, it is believed that Flynn will earn the starting quarterback job. However, if the Raiders do struggle again this season and Matt Flynn does not produce, Coach Allen will most likely change starting quarterbacks mid-season and Terrell Pryor may end up starting. For a franchise in that has struggle to remain competitive in a winnable AFC West, it will be very critical for the Raiders to straighten out and resolve their quarterback situation if they hope to compete for a AFC West division crown.
As we are at the end of the NFL preseason, fans and sportswriters are left with more questions than answers leaving us to wonder whether the decisions made by the head coaches will pan out or backfire. Right now, the only thing we can know for sure is that by the start of the 2013 NFL season, we will have a clear picture of who will be the starting quarterback of all 32 teams. What remains to be seen is if quarterbacks such as Vick, Weeden, Sanchez, or even Flynn will hold on to their jobs if they struggle to start the season.
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