It’s mid July and the smell of football is steadily growing. With the preseason starting in August, time is running thin for those few teams to make their decision as to who will start the season as the starting quarterback. Five teams have made it clear so far that although there is a potential starter; the job is up for grabs.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Neither quarterback is truly in any position to be a starter, but someone has to be the man right? Two seasons ago, Blaine Gabbert was drafted to fill the void that was in Jacksonville and so far we have seen twenty one touchdowns with seventeen interceptions and sixty two sacks. He has also fumbled the ball nineteen times, losing eight of them. Henne hasn’t really done much for them either, posting eleven touchdowns and the same in interceptions during last season. He was sacked twenty eight times last year giving two quarterbacks a total of ninety sacks in one year. Gabbert is projected to start even with his shaky OTA’s and a rocky minicamp performance but one thing is clear—Jacksonville will be looking for another quarterback next year in the draft.
Buffalo Bills: Kevin Kolb signed with the Bills in late March with what was considered at the time to be a safe bet he was the new quarterback for the Bills after Fitzpatrick’s delayed release. Drafting EJ Manuel with the eighth overall pick threw all assumptions out the window. It is already everything but announced that EJ was chosen to be the leader for the future but Kolb isn’t willing to just throw in the towel yet. He knows that the even though he has seen a couple quarterback competitions already in his career, nothing about each one has been the same. “They are all definitely different, this one right now we’re all new to the system, so we’re trying to just pick it up from our own game standpoint. Just trying to pick it up mentally, trying to pick it up physically. Making sure we’re on our own P’s and Q’s and making sure our details are right.”
Comparisons between the two make this battle even more intriguing: both men have amazing arm strength, Kolb isn’t very fast while Manuel is quite mobile, each have trouble with accuracy especially down field and both men are fairly bigger guys. Kolb has had trouble with injuries which contributed to him being a free agent this offseason. Manuel will have trouble with some of the tougher defenses in the league just like he had during his college days. No matter which way this goes, Head Coach Doug Marrone says that the decision should be made by the end of the first preseason game but no later than the second game. If this is a close call by any stretch of the term, this one will probably go to EJ.
Oakland Raiders: I show respect for anyone who can make it to the NFL, no matter how it is done, but Terrelle Pyror is not going to beat out Wilson or Flynn for a starting job in Oakland. Flynn has already been given the keys even if it is for the offseason, but Tyler Wilson is a tough competitor with a lot going for him right now. He is an accurate passer with good field vision, he has nice footwork and is willing to run when the time calls for it. He is a good leader with great intangibles. He does have small hands though, which could lead to fumble issues if he is not careful. Head Coach Dennis Allen seems to be pleased so far with his draft pick: “Well, I’ve liked the way Tyler’s commanded the huddle, I like the way he’s gone through his reads. Obviously, picking up a new system, I think there’s still a little bit of rust there but throwing the ball, I think he’s done a nice job. I don’t have any question about his arm strength and his accuracy.”
A phenomenal couple of games for Matt Flynn landed him with the Seahawks last year but a disappointing offseason gave him his usual position behind the starter. He is definitely going to have to work hard to compete in Oakland, but he wouldn’t have it any other way: “I’m extremely competitive, don’t like to lose; don’t accept it. I like to think that I’m a smart, accurate player. I make quick decisions and I try to get everybody around me to play better and try to get all the playmakers around me the ball.”
With the limited experience that these two men have in the league though, it will be interesting to see how Oakland’s quarterback competition plays out this season.
NY Jets: Every year, Mark Sanchez holds a personal camp for the Jets to help build team chemistry. Newly drafted Geno Smith declined the invitation to join and immediately triggered the media’s attention. What makes this even better is that neither player will comment on the matter. Sanchez is confident that the job is his and who can blame him; twenty six turnovers in each of his last two seasons and an amazing butt fumble still has him sitting behind the wheel of the Jets offense. Granted Geno Smith didn’t have the NFL style offense in college like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but Quarterbacks Coach David Lee says that Smith isn’t really helping himself: “Geno hasn’t had that luxury, it has been a brand-new world every day, just struggling with the basic things — snap count at the line of scrimmage and his delivery in the huddle can be more consistent. Little things are really what’s killing him. His footwork is spotty, he doesn’t always find his “hot” reads, and “he’s killing my center, Nick Mangold, with the inconsistency.” Hopefully the Jets can fix their issues in time to salvage the season before it starts.
Philadelphia Eagles: Chip Kelly is looking to set a new standard in a city that will boo anyone not consistently winning; even though the Eagles have only missed the playoffs four times in Reid’s tenure and made five NFC Championship games along with a Super Bowl appearance. Michael Vick is projected to start for the team but Kelly has already dismissed any previous years that these men have had and is concentrating on this year only: “I know what their skill set is, but it’s very hard for me to evaluate the body of work because you don’t know what they were instructed to do. When you see a play call at the bottom of the computer screen, you don’t know what Marty [Mornhinweg] told him to do on that play, and when he throws it away you’re like ‘boy, that’s a bad decision’, but then he may have been told to throw it away. Unless you intimately understand what they were told to do, then how can you make an evaluation on whether that was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do? It could have been, ‘I don’t care what happens, throw the ball to the tight end’, and then you watch the film and say ‘Jeez, he really forced that one in there.’ Well he may have been told to force that one in there, so when we evaluated and we were looking at skill set: do they have the arm velocity? Do they have the ability? But our evaluation has to be from when we got our hands on them April 1st until we get here in August just because I don’t know what they were taught. I wasn’t here in the past.” Kelly has some real talent in Vick, Foles and Barkley so this could possibly be the best quarterback competition in the NFL.
It is quite possible that even with all the talent trying to earn a starting spot with their teams, the biggest problem they face isn’t each other, it’s the fact that they are all learning new offenses.
Training Camp starts real soon so the next few weeks are going to be really exciting for those that have stake in these few teams.
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