24 Jul Training Camp Quarterback Battles
The old adage says that having two quarterbacks is equal to having zero quarterbacks. Expanding on this quasi-paradox, a successful season isn’t likely for any team on this list. If training camp and pre-season reps are the determining factor for selecting a starting quarterback, the season is likely doomed prior to the opening kickoff.
Since there aren’t 32 NFL-worthy quarterbacks in existence, this remains a hot topic in five or six NFL cities every August. Starting with the most intriguing competition and ending with the least, these are the quarterback training camp battles of 2017:
Incumbent – Trevor Siemian
Challenger – Paxton Lynch
If Denver doesn’t break camp with Lynch as the starter, it’s time to sound the alarm about a wasted first round draft pick. The most severe indictment wouldn’t be Lynch holding a clip-board for the second consecutive year but rather the player that beat him out.
It’s not inconceivable for Trevor Siemian to improve his game in just his third-season, but the constant break-downs on the most basic job requirements were unnerving. Highlighted on his 2016 player page, Siemian struggled to process coverages and his accuracy, to all levels of the field, was as bad as any passer in the NFL.
Perhaps more disconcerting than Siemian’s performance was the severe, obvious regression when Lynch was under center. Granted, the former Memphis Tiger was drafted more as a project than as a polished player, but you’d like to see flashes from a first round pick that displays a discernable difference between he and a lowly seventh round draft pick.
Lynch has a big arm, big frame and is surprisingly fleet of foot. His struggles came in the mental aspect of playing the position. The Broncos had to pull back the reigns on an already simplified offense after inserting the rookie into the line-up. The jump in acclimation to the league from year-one to year-two is typically pretty substantial and Denver needs Lynch to put a firm grip on the job from the get go.
Broncos 2017 Projected Opening-Day Starter: Paxton Lynch
Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky
The intrigue of this battle lies more in the ‘behind the scenes’ context than what will actually transpire on the practice field. To the surprise of many, the Bears parted with some valuable resources to move up to draft the University of North Carolina product – despite starting just 13 games in college.
This came just 48 days after the Bears inked Mike Glennon to a three-year deal worth more than $43 million (although the Bears have escape clauses in that deal after the 2017 season.)
Whether it’s factual or media-driven, reports are that a wedge has been driven into the relationship between the personnel department and the coaching staff, as well as the good-graces between ownership and Glennon.
Glennon threw 10 passes in 2016 and zero in 2015 after starting five games in 2014 and 13 games in 2013. Quarterbacks taking what amounts to a two-year sabbatical rarely come around to become an impact starter in the NFL, but that is the challenge Glennon faces. His 2014 tape shows a poised-passer offering little threat of scramble-ability. Poor decisions and less than ideal arm talent helped steer that 2014 Tampa Bay team to the worst record in football.
Trubisky was lauded by many as the best quarterback in the most recent draft. 98% of Trubisky’s snaps, in those 13 starts, came from the shotgun insinuating a steep learning curve. His mechanics are inconsistent as his delivery tends to differ on a play-by-play basis. He throws with good touch and timing but he will short-arm passes – something he won’t get away with at the next level.
The strategy is not as crazy as it seems on the surface. With a lame duck coach, a roster in transition and a fan base devoid of any expectations, the Bears are diversifying its investment into the all-important position ala the 2012 Seahawks (signed Matt Flynn and drafted Russell Wilson.)
While the other 52 men on the roster are auditioning for the imminent regime change, why not do the same at quarterback and double down? Resolving that position only increases the allure of the impending job opening. Mike Glennon gets the opening-day nod and Trubisky takes over when the Bears get to six or seven losses.
Bears 2017 Projected Opening-Day Starter: Mike Glennon
Incumbent – Cody Kessler
Challenger(s) – Brock Osweiler and DeShone Kizer
Cleveland’s staff has intimated that no one quarterback is ahead or behind any of the others in this competition heading into August. Rather than taking coach’s speak as gospel, peel back the onion and arrive at a logical conclusion.
Earning the coach’s trust is an under-rated component in this arena. Brock Osweiler was forced upon Hue Jackson and DeShone Kizer demonstrated extreme issues with consistency at Notre Dame. Cody Kessler, on the other hand, played close to the vest throughout his sporadic appearances as a rookie in Cleveland.
The Browns are committed to a rebuilding process and have stayed true to that plan to this point. Trusting the position to an unstable rookie, or a jaded veteran with more money than he knows what to do with could impede not only the progress of the young players, but the evaluation process of the coaching and personnel staff.
Cody Kessler gives the Browns a modicum of stability and the best opportunity to win games.
Browns 2017 Projected Opening-Day Starter: Cody Kessler
Incumbent – Tom Savage
Challenger – Deshaun Watson
The Brock Osweiler fiasco is a microcosm of how quickly things change in the NFL. Just one-year ago, the Texans were set to open camp with a newly minted quarterback poised to take the club from a post-season participant to a true contender.
Since that time, Osweiler has been benched, sold (traded is not the correct term under the conditions of the deal) and the Texans went back into the market investing heavily in the position again.
This competition is the easiest to forecast an outcome from. Investing two-first round picks in a player that started 30 games at Clemson the previous two years, including a 1-1 record in National Title games, tips the Texans’ hand for the plan at QB.
Bill O’Brien can hype Tom Savage all he likes, but the only quarterback taken in the first-round since 2008 to record zero starts was Jake Locker. In Kansas City, the Chiefs have a competent starter that can justify keeping their massive investment on the sidelines, but buying into Tom Savage becoming the factor to put all of that on hold is fool’s gold.
Watson’s winning pedigree is most responsible for elevating his draft stock. Removing arguably the most talented surrounding cast from the equation, Watson was a limited passer that struggled with a lot of the throws he will be asked to make in Houston.
DeAndre Hopkins made a lot of money turning defensive-backs around on comeback routes. Driving the ball to the perimeter is a staple of O’Brien’s offense and Watson consistently sailed these throws at the college ranks.
The maturation process will be accelerated, but Watson has shown the ability to overcome adversity his entire life. The Texans have a roster that’s ready to win now so getting the rookie up to speed is priority number one for the back-to-back AFC South champions.
Texans 2017 Projected Opening-Day Starter: Deshaun Watson
New York Jets:
Josh McCown vs. Bryce Petty vs. Christian Hackenberg
Rubbernecking a car crash is commonplace in our society. Tragedy for a few can play as fascination for the majority and the Jets quarterback situation resembles a 12-car pile-up on the Interstate.
Todd Bowles is still in charge, much to the chagrin of Jets Nation, and he needs a lot of wins to retain his place on the throne in Florham Park. Granted, he’s choosing between a journeyman with a knack for securing the future number one draft picks, a talent-challenged scout teamer, and the whipping boy of the beat writers in New Jersey – still, the choice is an easy one.
Christian Hackenberg has been on a rapid descent since his freshman year at Penn State. Since he was selected in the second round of the 2016 draft, he and the Jets have been ridiculed. He was significantly over-drafted, made inactive on game-days and was reportedly throwing balls closer to the spectators of Jets mini-camp than the intended targets.
Bryce Petty played in a wide-open system at Baylor that required little-to-no coverage-reading or anticipation. He is the antithesis of below-average in every critical category when it comes to playing quarterback successfully in the NFL. Once his tenure with the Jets comes to an end, he will have a difficult time finding work even as a backup in the league.
Josh McCown led the Bucs to the first pick in the 2015 draft and did his part in achieving the same result for the Browns in 2017’s draft. Throughout his enduring career as a backup and spot-starter, he’s the only one of the trio that has put together decent film. Because of that, his veteran presence and the desire for Bowles to keep his job as long as possible, McCown is the easy choice.
Jets 2017 Projected Opening-Day Starter: Josh McCown
It’s not inconceivable to make the post-season after holding an open quarterback competition in training camp. The Texans achieved that feat in 2015 when Brian Hoyer beat out Ryan Mallet and took Houston to the playoffs.
If one team on this list can repeat the Texans 2015 success, it would be the Denver Broncos, led by a loaded defense. Even the winners of these camp battles will serve as nothing more than a game-manager or a developmental prospect.
August is the ultimate tease for a football fan. At least these teams give a little bit of intrigue to the otherwise lackluster pre-season.