NFL: Breaking Down Biggest Quarterback Controversies

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 6, 2012

NFL: Breaking Down Biggest Quarterback Controversies

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    When the Cleveland Browns named Brandon Weeden as the starting quarterback Monday afternoon, it was indicative of an increasing trend around the league.

    While Cleveland's situation was less a controversy or competition than an inevitable outcome, NFL quarterbacks are getting thrown into the fire sooner rather than later in today's game.

    Counting Weeden and this year's top two picks in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, eight of the past nine first-round QBs will have started as rookies. Barring injuries to that trio, of course.

    Even those outside of the first round have gotten shots right away, most notably Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Keeping all of that in mind, here is a breakdown of the biggest QB controversies in the NFL right now. Who should get the nod at the end of these respective battles?

Arizona Cardinals

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    Last night's preseason game may have sealed Kevin Kolb's fate. He obviously has ambitions of being the starter, and the team is willing to give him every chance—thanks to his huge contract.

    However, looking objectively at performance alone, John Skelton is the clear choice as the No. 1 signal-caller in Arizona.

    On Inside Training Camp, NFL Network analyst Bryan Baldinger noted the difference in arm strength between Kolb and Skelton when throwing outside the hashes, with Skelton having the significant advantage.

    Neither quarterback is particularly accurate, but Skelton's superior ability to stretch the field will make the passing game much more dangerous—especially with a top target like Larry Fitzgerald.

    The seriousness of the rib injury Kolb suffered against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday is yet to be determined.

    Whatever time he does miss will translate to more reps for Skelton, which should net the 2010 fifth-round pick the starting job.

Seattle Seahawks

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    It is a three-horse race between newly acquired Matt Flynn, the incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson and third-round rookie Russell Wilson.

    Considering Seattle doled out a three-year, $27 million contract for Flynn in free agency, he presumably has the inside track. In this case, though, nothing can really be assumed since Flynn hasn't done enough to date to avoid a level competition with the two other QBs.

    Jackson has the advantage of already knowing the offense, but has been an inconsistent quarterback throughout his entire career.

    At Wisconsin, Wilson proved he can pick up an entire playbook lightning fast, and it translated to an NCAA-record 191.8 passer efficiency rating as a senior. The only problem is, he's under six feet tall, which traditionally doesn't translate well to the NFL game.

    A report out of Seahawks training camp by NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal indicates that Jackson took the starter's reps in Sunday's scrimmage.

    It really is a tossup at this point, and it will be the most exciting battle to watch in the preseason.

    The choice should be Wilson, though. The offensive line he played behind in college last year was taller than all but two NFL units, according to Fox Sports Wisconsin's Jesse Temple.

    Wilson keeps pointing this out, but no one seems to listen.

    At least on the surface, Wilson seems to have the best combination of arm strength, accuracy and athleticism of the three QBs.

    Whether that immediately results in a starting spot remains to be seen.

Miami Dolphins

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    There's another three-headed monster of a situation in Miami, with incumbent Matt Moore, David Garrard and this year's No. 8 overall pick, Ryan Tannehill.

    According to The Palm Beach Post, that Garrard is No. 1 on the depth chart, followed by Moore and Tannehill, respectively.

    It is a new coaching staff for every guy, and a new offense for everyone except Tannehill. Why he is still a third-teamer is a little bit perplexing, even though the battle's far from decided.

    Garrard didn't even play football in 2011, but somehow has a leg up on everyone. Moore played well at the end of last season but is apparently having issues picking up the offense.

    Tannehill has his Texas A&M offensive coordinator Mike Sherman taking over the same position on the Dolphins staff. Presumably, that would give the rookie the inside track to starting in Houston in Week 1.

    Things apparently aren't what they seem, even though Tannehill is clearly the most talented of the three quarterbacks.

    In a division with the New England Patriots, a New York Jets team seeking redemption and an improved Buffalo Bills squad, the Fins are bound to struggle in 2012.

    That said, why not let Tannehill play?

    What Miami does do well is defend the run and rush the football, based on last season's numbers. Tannehill brings wonderful athleticism and speed to the table as a quarterback. Lining him up alongside Reggie Bush in the shotgun could create serious problems for a defense.

    There is still the whole preseason for this battle to play out, but Tannehill should be handed the reins immediately.

Tennessee Titans

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    This might be the most overlooked battle, but it is arguably the most intriguing.

    The veteran Matt Hasselbeck versus another eighth overall pick with a cannon arm and some speed to boot, Jake Locker.

    The second-year University of Washington product was the only one of the nine most recent first-round quarterbacks to not register a start as a rookie.

    However, with the nucleus of last year's team still intact, the Titans could very well be in win-now mode and hand the job to Hasselbeck.

    That sounds like a good idea, but it's not the right way to go. Locker showed enough as a rookie in the limited time he had to prove he could live up to the hype.

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer suggests that Locker is actually favored to start, despite a relatively successful season by Hasselbeck in 2011.

    Not only will stud running back Chris Johnson be back in gear after a new contract, there is also the addition of first-round wide receiver Kendall Wright out of Baylor. The Titans are also hopeful for the return of Kenny Britt, but his off-field and injury troubles may make that reality less realistic.

    The future should be now in Tennessee. Locker should get a shot—with a fine supporting cast around him—and Hasselbeck will prove to be a valuable mentor during what looks to be a tough schedule.

    Many times—excluding the case of JaMarcus Trenell Russell—it's about passing the "eye test" at this level. More importantly, though, it's about instincts and just flat out making plays.

    What sold me on Locker from the beginning was this play, his very first NFL touchdown.

    The 55-yard laser pass shows he passes the eye test, and he has the instincts and improvisational skills to be a successful NFL quarterback.

    I know it's only one play, but Locker's numbers as a rookie were tremendous. It will be exciting to see what better surrounding talent, a full offseason and ample time to master the offense will do for him.