The second week of the NFL pre-season is a good one to evaluate quarterbacks because a lot of the players who are supposed to start end up playing a large majority of the first half, and most of that time is spent against first-team defenses.
You’ll notice the list this week is in heavy favor of good performances by quarterbacks, mostly because the quarterback play across the board was much better this week than it was in week one.
We must make a special note about Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who fits into none of the three categories this week.
For the most part his performance was good as he finished with 182 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 18-for-26 passing.
However, that one interception came on an poorly thrown, left-handed pass in the red zone that went into quintuple coverage. You must see the highlights to believe it.
Derek Anderson (Cleveland Browns)
Anderson got the chance to start the game against the Lions after Brady Quinn started last week, and the incumbent made the most of his time.
Anderson went 8-for-13 for 130 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, but his performance went beyond his personal statistics.
Anderson led the Browns, who hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown since last November, on multiple scoring drives and had Cleveland ahead 20-0 when he went to the bench.
It did come against the Lions, so take it for what it’s worth, but the quarterback race in Cleveland just became even.
Matt Cassel (Kansas City Chiefs)
After looking shaky in his debut with the Chiefs last week Cassel came around with a good performance as he led Kansas City on two scoring drives, throwing a touchdown to Dwayne Bowe on one of them.
Cassel finished 9-for-14 for 99 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against a Minnesota defense that’s considered one of the best in the league.
At the same time, Brodie Croyle was less than stellar with just 41 yards on 5-for-10 passing. So much for those rumors about Croyle taking the starting job from Cassel.
Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)
Similar to Cassel, Cutler rebounded nicely in week two from a poor performance last week.
Against the New York Giants, considered to be one of the best defenses in the NFL and owners of some pretty good defensive backs, Cutler went 8-for-13 for 121 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
He appeared to be much more comfortable with the offense than he did last week, so perhaps all Cutler needed was a little time to iron out the kinks.
Matt Hasselbeck (Seattle Seahawks)
Hasselbeck looked incredible against the Broncos in leading Seattle to a win, but perhaps it’s also an indictment in how bad the Denver defense truly is.
Hasselbeck, who faced virtually no pressure from the Broncos, played the majority of the first half and finished 16-for-23 for 171 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Watch the highlights and you’ll see just how precise Hasselbeck was with the football as he spread the ball around to different receivers on all types of routes.
Regardless of how bad the Denver defense may be, Hasselbeck looked like he was back to his Pro Bowl form.
Tarvaris Jackson (Minnesota Vikings)
When the pre-season is all said and done, Jackson may find himself looking for a job, though he’s doing about everything he can to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Against Kansas City’s second team defense Jackson went 12-for-15 for 202 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He looked good throwing on the run and in the pocket as well as mixing it up between short and long passes.
His touchdown pass to Darius Reynaud was an impressive strike where he hung in the pocket and put the ball only where the receiver could get it.
Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts)
Not that any less is expected of Manning but with a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive line coach it was still good to see the veteran play well against the Eagles’ first team defense.
Manning finished 10-for-14 for 167 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Manning looked more comfortable in the pocket than he did last week, when he took multiple sacks.
Additionally, he threw a beautiful fade pass to Anthony Gonzalez for one his touchdowns, making it look like nothing has changed.
Luke McCown (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
As the second quarterback to play in the game for the Buccaneers McCown looked really good against the Jacksonville Jaguars as he finished 6-for-9 for 52 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
However it may be too little, too late for McCown.
Byron Leftwich started the game and went 6-for-12 for 62 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Leftwich was efficient with the football and did played well enough to still be considered the starter if the season started today.
Chad Pennington (Miami Dolphins)
There’s been talk about Chad Henne taking over the starting job at some point in the season for the Dolphins, but after the way Pennington played against the Panthers it may be much harder to unseat the incumbent.
Pennington finished 8-for-11 for 105 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against Carolina’s first team defense. Not seen by a quick glance at the stat sheet was the awesome play Pennington made out of the wildcat formation.
Ronnie Brown took the snap then pitched it to Ricky Williams, who then pitched it to Pennington, who rolled back towards the pocket and found Patrick Cobbs for a 35-yard pass over the middle. The play eventually led to a Miami field goal.
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
What makes Rodgers so great is how precise he can be with the football and he demonstrated that against the Buffalo Bills. Rodgers finished 8-for-9 for 98 yards and two touchdowns, one each to his top two targets in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.
From watching the game the progression Rodgers has made from last season is evident. He was in complete control of the offense the entire time and made great decisions with the football despite facing some heavy blitzes from the Bills.
The Packers offense is going to be a fun one to watch this season, that’s for sure.
Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys)
Romo is quickly erasing concerns that the departure of Terrell Owens will negatively affect the Dallas offense this season. Against the Titans' vaunted defense Romo went 18-for-24 for 192 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Romo led the Cowboys on two scoring drives and was working well with receiver Roy Williams and tight end Jason Witten before he was eventually benched.
It would’ve been nice to see Romo throw a touchdown but the most important thing to take from his performance is that the loss of Owens is not a loss for the Dallas offense.
Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
Perhaps it’s just a side effect from playing the St. Louis defense but Ryan and the rest of the Falcons offense looked unstoppable against the Rams.
Ryan finished 7-for-8 for 81 yards with one touchdown, which was an impressive throw between two defenders to Tony Gonzalez, and no interceptions.
Though the entire offense looked good, Ryan was particularly on point, especially with his throws as he put them only where his receivers could get them.
Ryan’s a good quarterback, but let’s wait and see what he does against a better defense.
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