NFL Predictions 2011: 10 Quarterback Battles That Could Go Down to the Wire
In what has so far been a unbelievably crazy free agency and draft before that, some teams have been almost completely reshaped on both sides of the ball.
And at the most important position on the team, the quarterback position, some teams still lack a true identity of their present and future.
This offseason, now that training camps have begun, should be one full of new faces for teams, fighting for roster spots and full-time starting positions.
Those battles at the quarterback position, however, likely will have the biggest impact on a team's success this season.
Tennessee Titans: Matt Hasselback vs. Jake Locker
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The Titans stunned many in the draft world, including other teams, when they selected Jake Locker not only in the top 10 but ahead of Blaine Gabbert as well.
One of my favorite quarterbacks last year and in my opinion not a huge reach at No. 8 overall, Jake Locker maybe was the most pro ready quarterback in last year's draft.
This offseason, the Titans made a point of it to bring in the top free agent quarterback available in Matt Hasselback, former quarterback of the Seahawks.
Hasselback is obviously on the down-slope of his career but still has some ability left in him, and with a very good running game and a few young receivers, he likely could be successful this season.
If things go bad by the middle to end of the season and the Titans are clearly out of the playoffs, they could look to Jake Locker for some development. But as of now, it looks as though Hasselback is the clear cut starter, barring an injury or an impressive training camp/preseason for Locker.
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Matt Hasselback 2. Jake Locker
Denver Broncos: Kyle Orton vs. Tim Tebow vs. Brady Quinn
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First off, there is still a chance that Kyle Orton is traded from the Denver Broncos to a team like the Redskins or Dolphins, but as of now, he's still a Bronco.
To me, it's a little funny that some people only realize how impressive Orton's been in Denver until they see how much other team's want him and the fact that he might be gone.
But 2010 first-rounder Tim Tebow is waiting in the wings, and he will have an excellent shot at competing for this starting job. He played sparingly last year and was impressive to some (not me) in his small showings. He looks as though he still has a ways to go.
And then there's Brady Quinn. In the media and from the team, his name continues to be mentioned on a team set at quarterback for the present and future.
The former Cleveland Brown first-rounder is still at No. 3 on the depth chart and is unlikely to compete with Kyle Orton. Still, with new management this year, a front office that did NOT draft Tim Tebow, it's likely Quinn has a chance to unseat Tebow as the No. 2.
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Kyle Orton 2. Tim Tebow 3. Brady Quinn
Minnesota Vikings: Donovan McNabb vs. Christian Ponder
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Similar to Jake Locker in Tennessee (and maybe more shocking), the Minnesota Vikings selected Christian Ponder, a second- or even third-round prospect on some team's boards (our board as well), with the 12th overall selection.
And with only Joe Webb on the roster to compete with him after the draft, it looked as though Ponder would be slotted as the starter for 2011-2012.
But the Vikings felt the need to bring in Donovan McNabb after a disappointing season in Washington, a rumored trade since March. McNabb, one of my favorite quarterbacks in the league because he's been so under-appreciated, comes in to Minnesota as the projected starter.
Not only do I think he'll win the job from an only mediocre Ponder, but I think we could see a new spark under McNabb to prove that the 34-year-old is not done, that Washington was just a terrible situation and that McNabb can still lead his team into the playoffs.
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Donovan McNabb 2. Christian Ponder
Carolina Panthers: Derek Anderson vs. Cam Newton
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Derek Anderson, former Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns quarterback, was signed by the Carolina Panthers to compete for a starting job.
He'll be competing with the No. 1 overall pick in Cam Newton. Anderson hasn't been successful in any season since his breakout with the Browns in 2007. Since that 3,700-yard, 29-TD season, Anderson has a 19-28 touchdown to interception ratio.
Cam Newton was widely disagreed upon among NFL evaluators but still ended up being too talented to pass up on with the first overall pick. While I think he still needs a lot of work to maximize his potential, Newton is the type of quarterback that just needs to sink or swim as a quarterback.
He has the arm to make tough throws, he has the feet to keep plays alive even if he's struggling to read the defense and he has the size to pick up yards with his feet in a pinch.
The Panthers are likely expecting an immediate return on their investment with Newton, and they seemed to have modeled their team after the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that rode a rookie quarterback to a 15-1 season.
Oakland Raiders: Jason Campbell vs. Kyle Boller
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Maybe one of the easier quarterback battles to predict.
Jason Campbell was the starter all last season, and Al Davis has made the brash statement in the past that Campbell has the talent to be the "next Jim Plunkett."
While Campbell hasn't been great over his career, keep this in mind. Next year, Hue Jackson will be his offensive coordinator for the second time.
This will be just the second time in his career (where he only had two years) where he has had two consecutive season's with the same offensive coordinator. He's had nine offensive coordinators in 10 seasons since his freshman year at Auburn.
Campbell struggled at times last year, and some within the organization wanted to give Kyle Boller a shot, but now that he finally has some consistency in his football life and his top four receivers back, it could finally be a breakout season for Jason Campbell.
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Jason Campbell 2. Kyle Boller
Buffalo Bills: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Tyler Thigpen
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This is where the quarterback battles start to get interesting and harder and harder to figure out.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is the incumbent and an under rated quarterback for this team last season. The Bills were surprising in most games they played last year under Ryan Fitzpatrick, despite having a makeshift offensive line and little consistency on defense.
Now with Tyler Thigpen, journeyman backup who has enjoyed minor success and praise in Kansas City and Miami, will finally get his shot at legitimately being a starting quarterback.
In a battle that is wide open, it's tough to say as of now, and training camp may decide it. I think Thigpen has a bit more upside and could play later in the season if Fitzpatrick struggles, but I'd guess Chan Gailey goes with last year's starter to see if he can continue to keep this team competitive.
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Ryan Fitzpatrick 2. Tyler Thigpen
Miami Dolphins: Chad Henne vs. Matt Moore
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Being a Dolphins fan, this debate hurts a little bit.
I've always liked Chad Henne's talent and potential as a quarterback since his freshman year of college at Michigan. But since he came in to the league, he's been unable to make the big throws down the field, and he's struggled in key situations (on third-and-long, in the fourth quarter) in his time starting.
With Chad Pennington out for the season and possibly his career, Henne assumed control of the team as the quarterback. However, the Dolphins signed Matt Moore from the Carolina Panthers and have been in discussions with the Broncos to trade for Kyle Orton, so they obviously aren't excited about Chad Henne.
Still, I think they should sink or swim with Henne this year, especially with the talent on that offense, and I'd say Henne wins the battle out of camp.
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Chad Henne 2. Matt Moore
Seattle Seahawks: Charlie Whitehurst vs. Tavaris Jackson
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Talk about a bad situation in Seattle. The Seahawks will be deciding between a career backup in Charlie Whitehurst and quarterback who's still raw despite four years in the league and has never been able to seize a starting job in Tavaris Jackson.
While they have been linked to Kyle Orton and Carson Palmer, as of now, it appears they're set on these two quarterbacks battling it out.
Based on the fact that Charlie Whitehurst has zero experience as a NFL quarterback, it seems clear that the favorite is Tavaris Jackson, a quarterback they gave a two-year, $8 million deal to.
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Tavaris Jackson 2. Charlie Whitehurst
Jacksonville Jaguars: David Garrard vs. Blaine Gabbert
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For years, since he took over for Byron Leftwich, David Garrard has been at worst a very stable starter and a fringe top-10 quarterback in the league at times.
He's not overly flashy and hasn't had the best receiving corps, but he's been able to keep this team in playoff contention most year's by the end of the season and has done so with smart passing and his quick feet.
Now however, the Jaguars have a new quarterback to jostle with Garrard in first-round pick Blaine Gabbert from Missouri.
My No. 1 ranked quarterback coming into the draft process, Gabbert unexpectedly fell on draft day to the middle of the first round. He'll step into Jacksonville as a rookie quarterback, but he's more pro ready than many have given him credit for.
Since training camp has just opened and it's tough to see Gabbert passing Garrard anytime soon, I'll give the edge to Garrard, but it likely won't be long before Gabbert's run as Jaguars quarterback begins, especially if Garrard struggles this season.
Washington Redskins: Rex Grossman vs. John Beck
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In a quarterback battle that has gotten the more headlines than most, moreso because of the team being in a bigger market and because neither quarterback is viewed as a starter by any team, the Washington Redskins seem to have a wide-open race at their feature position.
Rex Grossman re-signed with the Redskins to battle for the starting job with John Beck, former Miami Dolphin who hasn't thrown an NFL pass since 2007.
Neither quarterback has ever been productive or consistent in the NFL, though Grossman has had more game experience and did quarterback his team to a Super Bowl.
As of now, I'd give the edge to Grossman only because he was the starter when head coach Mike Shanahan pulled Donovan McNabb last season.
But reports are that it's very close, and by the end of the preseason the coaches decision could have changed four or five times and still could be altered in season.
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Rex Grossman 2. John Beck