Some NFL teams like the New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers, and the Denver Broncos are fortunate enough to have their quarterback situations already figured out. For the teams that are not blessed with a franchise signal caller on their roster, one good preseason performance, or one bad preseason performance for that matter, can turn a quarterback depth chart completely upside down. So while us NFL fanatics are forced to wait in football purgatory for the real games to start, I have compiled a list of the top QB battles to keep an eye on during the rest of the preseason.
5) Minnesota Vikings– Matt Cassel vs Teddy Bridgewater: After almost slipping out of the first round in the 2014 NFL Draft, Bridgewater’s stock continues to fall with his less than stellar showing throughout training camp. Adding insult to injury, Bridgewater’s poor outing vs Oakland on August 8th leaves the former Louisville standout with plenty of ground to make up (6-13, 49 passing yards, two sacks). The veteran Cassel has out-dueled the rookie Bridgewater thus far, but given Cassel’s inconsistent track record, that could change rather quickly.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers– Josh McCown vs Mike Glennon: Subbing in for an injured Jay Culter last season, Josh McCown put together the best stretch of his career for the Chicago Bears. The 35-year old journeyman threw 13 touchdowns and just one interception in eight games last year, which included five starts. I’m sure the Bucs didn’t sign McCown to a 2-year, $10 million deal with the intent to have him ride the pine, but Glennon played very well last year (83.9 QB rating) with an underwhelming cast of characters in Tampa Bay. McCown’s contract, along with his previous relationship with current Bucs head coach Lovie Smith makes him the clear favorite to land the starting job. However, Glennon will not go down without a fight.
3) Oakland Raiders– Matt Schaub vs Derek Carr: Assuming the concussion suffered by Carr in Oakland’s Week 2 preseason game isn’t too severe, he could really put some heat on the veteran Schaub throughout the rest of training camp. The former Houston Pro-Bowler has looked very pedestrian thus far while Carr has given the Raider offense an obvious spark, albeit in limited duty. Carr’s superior arm talent and mobility has certainly given the 33-year old Schaub a run for his money. Although Schaub is still the presumed starter for Oakland going forward, Carr has clearly closed the gap.
2) Houston Texans– Ryan Fitzpatrick vs Case Keenum: Fitzpatrick aka “The Amish Rifle” was signed in the off-season to take over starting quarterback duties in Houston. However, his horrific Week 1 preseason performance against Arizona (6-14, 55 passing yards, two INT’s) has opened the door for Keenum. In fact, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has even started to give Keenum reps with the first unit in practice. If Fitzpatrick lays another egg in the preseason, it may be only a matter of time before Keenum regains his starting role with the Texans.
1) Cleveland Browns– Brian Hoyer vs Johnny Manziel: This is the most hyped QB battle of the NFL preseason because the race is so close, it is anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top. While both quarterbacks are receiving an equal amount of reps in practice with the first unit, Browns head coach Mike Pettine has said that he wants to make a decision on an opening day starter by Tuesday, August 19th. Therefore, whatever happens during Cleveland’s game against Washington on Monday, August 18th could very well be the deciding factor in who is named the opening day starter for the Cleveland Browns.
::Bonus Battle:: New York Jets– Geno Smith vs Mike Vick: While Vick has been masquerading as a Geno Smith cheerleader since the moment he arrived in New York, we all know Vick desperately wants to start in the NFL again. Given the fact that Smith led the AFC in interceptions last year (21), it is no guarantee that he can hold off Vick, a four-time Pro Bowler, for too long. Barring injury, Smith will likely be the starter on opening day. But beyond that, the starting quarterback job for the Jets could be up for grabs if Smith struggles in 2014.