After two weeks of preseason games, four of the five preseason quarterback battles have been decided, and the less-seasoned players continue to hold the better hand.
The Tennessee Titans are choosing Jake Locker over Matt Hasslebeck, the Seattle Seahawks will start the season with Matt Flynn over Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson.
The Miami Dolphins are starting Ryan Tannehill in place of Matt Moore.
And the Cleveland Browns are giving Brandon Weeden the start over Colt McCoy, leaving only one unresolved quarterback battle undecided -- Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton.
Brandon Weeden vs. Colt McCoy: The position battle between Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy became the first decided battle of the offseason when coach Pat Shurmur promoted Weeden to the starting role before the start of the preseason. Since Weeden turns 29 in October, the Browns had little time to gradually work Weeden into the offensive system as his age implies a trial-by-fire initiation into the NFL.
In his first matchup of the preseason, he had an underwhelming start, finishing 3-for-9 for 62 yards with one interception and a lost fumble. In his second preseason game, he improved in a 35-10 win over the Green Bay Packers, where he played the first half of the game and finished 12-for-20 for 118 yards.
By coming back strong in his second preseason game, he displayed that he is capable of bouncing back from a poor performance, a positive indicator that will immensely help the first-year player.
Behind Weeden, the backup spot is a position battle between Seneca Wallace, who backed up McCoy last season after playing his first five years with the Seahawks, and Colt McCoy, the Browns’ starting quarterback last season.
McCoy, whose job prospects appear to be in limbo because Wallace can step in and take the job, lost the starting role with little opportunity to plead his case, and, as long as Weeden can be consistent, the job is his to lose.
The Browns first need to establish an effective set of wide receivers before Weeden can ultimately thrive as a starter in the league, and the developmental stage of the Browns' receivers has to be taken into consideration before fully appraising Weeden.
Their leading wide receiver from last year, Greg Little, ended the season with 61 receptions for 709 yards and two touchdowns, and they had insufficient production from the receivers behind him.
Joshua Cribbs, who was second on the team with 41 receptions for 518 yards and six touchdowns, will be limited to the return specialist role that he has excelled at in the past few seasons. Because they drafted Trent Richardson with the third overall pick in the Draft this year, they could become more focused upon the run, but, nontheless, finding productive receivers is imperative for the team.
Tarvaris Jackson / Matt Flynn / Russell Wilson: The Seahawks nominated Matt Flynn to be starting quarterback for the start of the season most likely in deference to the money paid to him and the fact that he has been the starter for the first half of both the Seahawks’ first two preseason games.
He had a strong start in his first game of the preseason, where he finished 11-for-13 for 71 yards, and, in his second start, he went 6-for-13 for 31 yards passing. In Flynn’s first preseason game, he was playing without Seattle’s top two receivers last season, Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice, as well as rookie Ricardo Lockette and newly acquired free agent Terrell Owens.
Still, he played impressively enough to maintain his lock on the starting position. In his second game, however, he regressed. Owens made his debut with the team, but he did not catch one of the five passes thrown his way. The first two passes were Flynn’s fault; the following two passes were missed due to good defensive moves, and the final pass was Owens’ fault for missing.
Doug Baldwin, who continues to be limited due to a hamstring injury, and Sidney Rice, once again, had no receptions in the second game. Matt Flynn is not going to be the starter for Friday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs as Wilson is set to start, but Flynn is currently slated to be the starting quarterback for the first week of the regular season.
Tarvaris Jackson, the incumbent veteran at the spot, did not even play in their first two preseason matchups, so, even though coach Pete Carroll had Jackson in the starting spot at the beginning of training camp, Jackson, who threw for 3,091 yards with 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions as the starter last season, is stuck in limbo.
Nonetheless, Carroll gave first-team reps to Jackson during last Tuesday’s practice in preparation for the Broncos game, but, after sitting him two consecutive games, Jackson’s future is uncertain. He has a $4 million contract payout this season, so any team wishing to acquire him has to take that into consideration.
Russell Wilson, a third-round pick in the 2012 Draft, has been penciled in as the starter this week against the Kansas City Chiefs after two notable performances in the first two preseason games. He finished 12-for-16 for 124 yards with a touchdown pass and three runs for 59 yards in the first preseason matchup and then followed that up by completing 10 of 17 passes for 151 yards (9.1 avg.) and two touchdowns in their second contest against the Broncos.
Will he be able to usurp Matt Flynn in the Seahawks’ dress-rehearsal game this week? Well, with coach Carroll’s mercurial method of testing quarterbacks in mind, anything seems possible. On the other hand, Flynn should be given the opportunity to start in regards to the sum of money the Seahawks spent on him in the offseason.
Ryan Tannehill / Matt Moore / David Garrard: Ryan Tannehill was the next quarterback to be given a starting role by his team, and his promotion is intriguing because he has had to beat out two veterans, Matt Moore and David Garrard, to assume the role.
At the beginning of training camp, Tannehill was listed as the third-string quarterback, and Moore and Garrard were set up to vie for the starting role. Matt Moore started taking the first-team snaps, but Garrard was making a strong case early for unseating him at the position.
Garrard’s familiarity with running a West Coast style offense seemed to give him a distinct advantage with Mike Sherman, the Dolphins’ new offensive coordinator. Then, however, Garrard underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, an injury that will cause him to miss at least two to four weeks.
Moore and Chad Henne both started at the position last season, but Moore, who played in his first season with the Dolphins last year, was the featured starter. Now, Moore will be an insurance policy for Tannehill. Because Tannehill worked with new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman while in college at Texas A&M, the familiarity of the scheme employed could have given him the inside track against Moore.
Tannehill’s first start was impressive; he completed 14 of 21 passes for 167 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass. In the second game, where he went 11-of-23 for 100 yards, he played the entire first half that included six drives, with four of the drive turning into three-and-outs.
In his first game, he played against the Buccaneers’ first- and third-team defense, so, taking that and his performance in the second preseason game into account, Tannehill will be a key player to watch on Friday night when he goes up against the Atlanta Falcons, even though he will not be starting.
Jake Locker vs. Matt Hasselbeck: JakeLocker, the 8th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, has been given the starting job in Tennessee. The Titans' starting quarterback last year, Matt Hasselbeck, started the majority of last season's games, and the team went 7-9 and barely missing the playoffs.
Locker played in five of the 16 games during his rookie season, but he could not take the starting position away from Hasselbeck. Now, in two preseason games this season, the competition seems to come down to statistics, where Locker is 11-24 for 101 yards while Hasselbeck is 9-14 for 74 yards and two interceptions.
Hasselbeck started in the first quarter of their first preseason game and went 5-for-9 with two interceptions. Locker stepped in during the second quarter and went 7-for-13 for 80 yards, leading the Titans to a field goal before the end of the quarter.
In the second preseason game, Locker took a step back in his first start of the season, completing 4-of-11 passes for 21 yards and an interception during his second series. In his fourth series, he bounced back and led the team down the field for a touchdown and even had a 21-yard run on the play.
When the Titans drafted Locker and signed Hasselbeck, who is entering his 13th season in the league, in the same year it became obvious the Titans planned on having Hasselbeck as the veteran mentor for Locker.
Locker simply had to bide his time and wait for the opportunity to get the start, and now his time has come. Even though Locker looked shaky in his first start, he has been consistently better than Hasselbeck in practice, but he will need to convert that prowess to the playing field.
Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton: With the majority of the decisions made, only one of the major quarterback battles remains a contest: Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton. Kolb has had a rough start to the year this season. He threw an interception on his first throw in the Hall of Fame game against the New Orleans Saints that displayed a complete lack of awareness of the game, and he looked rusty in the two games that followed.
In their matchup against the Chiefs, Skelton got the start at he had three consecutive three-and-outs in the first quarter and an interception ending his first drive of the second quarter before Kolb came in and went 1-for-5 for 21 yards. If it were not for Alfonso Smith, the Cardinals would not have had much offensive production during Kolb’s time on the field.
In their third preseason game, the referees called Kolb for an intentional grounding penalty on his own 11-yard line during his first drive on the field, and, on the very next play, he was sacked for a safety. In all, he was sacked three times during that game, and, in the second quarter, the referees called Kolb on an illegal touch pass. After those blunder-filled series, the Cardinals chose to put Skelton in the game.
The final decision regarding the Cardinals’ starting quarterback now seems to be leaning in Skelton’s favor, and that leaning is aptly given, for, to speak candidly, Kolb is not a starting quarterback.
When he was with the Eagles, he had two consecutive games against the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs where he threw for 391 and 327 yards in the 2009 season, and the media gave Kolb more credit than he deserved.
The Eagles got trounced in the New Orleans game, and Kansas City was a subpar team at the time. During a pair of 2010 games, he showed up to play, but, beyond those four games, he was an Eagles’ draft bust. His time as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles did not even last a full game after Clay Matthews laid a bruising hit on him and Michael Vick took the reins.
Yet, for some reason, the Cardinals thought they saw something in Kolb that was worth giving up Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and a third-round pick in the 2012 Draft, along with a large sum of money.
His biggest problem is maintaining poise in the pocket as he panics at the first sight of pressure and is not adept at recognizing blitzes in the first place. Tommy Kelly, who notched the safety on Kevin Kolb said of Kolb after the game, “He is skittish. He is scared back there.” It is an apt statement.
The less-seasoned quarterbacks are stepping up and taking the majority of the starting roles at an important time, the third week of the preseason, when starting players start seeing the most significant time on the playing field. As a result, this week’s preseason games will be a trying test for the new starters. Who will rise to the top?