A couple of rule changes coming out of the labor negotiations that may affect on-field action on Sundays are the expansion of the game day rosters from 45 to 46 active players, and the elimination of the third string quarterback as an “emergency” player.
Those two changes could work together, since the third string emergency quarterback didn’t count as one of the 45 active players. Teams will have the option of carrying a third quarterback in a regular roster spot, without the restrictions imposed under the previous structure, or continue to carry two quarterbacks and use the extra roster spot to increase depth at another position.
This structure could open up a specialty position for quarterbacks coming out of college offenses that run the ball extensively. Having a third string quarterback who can run could open up “wildcat” formation options for more teams. The rule change enables teams to use that number three quarterback whenever they want. Under the old system, if the third string “emergency” quarterback came into the game prior to the fourth quarter, the first two quarterbacks were not allowed to re-enter the game.
This was highlighted last year in the NFC Championship game when the Bears Jay Cutler was injured, and backup Todd Collins was ineffective. Coach Lovie Smith installed third string quarterback Caleb Hanie late in the third quarter, meaning that neither of the other two quarterbacks was allowed to re-enter the game.