NFL Preseason Week 2 Roundup: The NFL Continues to Have a Big QB Problem
Eventually the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be smacked too many times in the face by a hard truth: Blake Bortles isn't a starting-caliber NFL quarterback.
Maybe he'll be a fine backup somewhere, and someday. Or maybe that place should be Jacksonville, and the time should be now.
That would mean either starting Chad Henne, which will also lead to lost hair, or scrambling to upgrade at the position in late August. And the answer to the question that just popped into your mind is an all caps "YES." Yes, Colin Kaepernick would be an upgrade over Bortles, and it's not close.
It's not close because Bortles somehow still looks lost, and did again Thursday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was in the game for four drives, two of which ended in three-and-outs, and he averaged only five yards per pass attempt.
He's not some upstart young passer anymore with developmental potential. Bortles is still struggling with his mechanics entering his fourth season after throwing 51 interceptions over 46 career games.
His own wide receivers are reaching the end of their tolerance. So is a fanbase desperate for success, and fearing the worst, which is Bortles derailing an otherwise talented roster.
Of course, the state of NFL quarterback play can leave faces buried in palms everywhere if the wrong teams are playing. And the wrong teams were definitely playing Thursday night.
How Is Colin Kaepernick Still Unemployed?
The Baltimore Ravens are willingly, and intentionally, making their roster worse by not upgrading their backup quarterback and moving on from Ryan Mallett. As he throws baffling interceptions and wobbling, wayward duds, somehow Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed.
Let that sink in for a minute, and do it while you watch the lowlights from Mallett against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night. An NFL team has the option to improve its depth chart at the most important position as the starter heals from a back injury. And a lesser quarterback is on the roster because...well, because why?
Because Kaepernick committed the daring act of having a public opinion, I guess. But he didn't overthrow his intended receiver by a good two yards Thursday.
Mallett faced no pressure whatsoever on that play. It was one of his two interceptions during a night when he averaged only 5.1 yards per attempt. That came after the 29-year-old completed 50 percent of his 18 throws in Week 1 of the preseason and averaged an embarrassing 3.2 yards per attempt.
He shouldn't be on a roster, and having a quality backup is especially important for the Ravens right now. Back injuries can be delicate, and although the Ravens keep saying Joe Flacco will be fine for the first meaningful snap of 2017, he's going to miss the entire preseason.
The uncertainty hovering around Flacco and the possibility of re-injury are why the Ravens may need to have the league's best backup. And yet they still have the worst, all because Kaepernick took a stance that has no impact on the outcome of a football game or his ability to improve a roster.
Tyrod Taylor Was Also Difficult to Watch
At least Mallett is a backup, and no one realistically expects him to be good, or perhaps even competent. Tyrod Taylor, on the other hand, is a starting quarterback who looks like one only sporadically.
The Buffalo Bills' new coaching staff and front office spent much of the offseason deciding on Taylor's future and their direction at quarterback. Eventually, they restructured his contract, making it in effect a two-year deal worth $30.5 million.
Taylor was viewed as a temporary solution and not a quarterback the Bills felt deserved a long-term commitment yet. More broadly and importantly, he's an example of what happens when the supply for quality quarterbacks in the NFL doesn't nearly come close to meeting demand. Teams are forced to shrug, sigh and move forward with the mediocre options they have.
Taylor was impressive during his first season as a starter in 2015, averaging eight yards per attempt. Then in 2016 that average plummeted to 6.9 yards, and his preseason in 2017 is off to a far less than spectacular start.
He saw his first extended action of August against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 and needed only 18 pass attempts to throw two interceptions. The first came after a batted ball at the line of scrimmage, but Taylor placed it poorly and could have done a better job sensing the rush.
The second was much worse, as Taylor heaved an ill-advised and off-balance throw deep while being chased by three pass-rushers. Predictably, his inaccurate thrown landed in enemy hands.
Taylor has the athletic skill to dazzle with his scrambling ability. But too often, he can't be trusted to make quality decisions and throw with precision from the pocket.
Jay Cutler's First Dolphins Appearance Was Brief, with Flashes of What's to Come
We waited with great anticipation for the return of Jay Cutler, the quarterback whose resting face is indifference to everything. And the result was, well, a typical preseason outing.
Cutler's appearance was brief but had some hints of what could be coming for the new Miami Dolphins quarterback. He stayed in for two series against the Baltimore Ravens, and the highlight was a well-placed throw to wide receiver DeVante Parker up the middle. Cutler hit his new target in stride as Parker streaked downfield for a 16-yard gain.
He was locked in on Parker, and those two also connected on a 31-yard completion called back because of a holding penalty. Parker provides a wide catch radius because of his leaping ability, which is why over a short time he's already become a favorite outlet for Cutler, who threw at him four times Thursday.
Parker reminds Cutler of a certain former Chicago Bears teammate.
"Cutler calls DeVante Parker a 'really good player,'" tweeted Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. "Calls him a 'faster Alshon Jeffery.'"
Please recall that in the not so distant past, Jeffery recorded 807 receiving yards over only nine games. That was in 2015 when Cutler was his quarterback, and Adam Gase, the Miami Dolphins head coach, was the offensive coordinator in Chicago.
Ronald Darby Sure Seemed to Enjoy Playing His Former Team
Thursday night, Ronald Darby was basically the guy who walks into his old office after leaving for a better, cushy gig and then starts to terrorize former co-workers by warming up fish in the microwave.
As part of their effort to unofficially punt the season, the Buffalo Bills traded the cornerback to the Philadelphia Eagles, a team in need of reinforcements in its secondary.
Darby had struggled in 2016, along with the rest of the Bills defense. But in 2015 he thrived while recording two interceptions and 21 passes defensed.
So being a ball-hawking cover corner who swatted away passes regularly wasn't too far in the rear-view mirror. And Darby quickly reminded the Bills of that fact during his preseason debut with the Eagles.
The highlight of Darby's night was an interception he elevated high into the air to haul in and then returned 48 yards. He was nearly perfect, allowing only one reception on four targets for a total of six yards in coverage, according to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus.
The Eagles had a ho-hum mid-pack pass defense in 2016 that ranked 13th while giving up 240 yards per game. Darby has the talent to turn the unit into a strength.
Mychal Kendricks Is Playing Like It's 2013
Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks had a breakout year in 2013.
He was a second-round pick in 2012, and during his sophomore NFL season the then-23-year-old was a swarming, menacing nuisance. Kendricks finished the season with 106 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions.
In the three seasons that have followed he's still been solid, though Kendricks has been slowed by injuries too often. He hasn't reached the 100-tackle plateau again, and in 2016 Kendricks didn't record a sack.
But with his health restored, he might be ready to do some time traveling in a sense and bring the 2013 Kendricks back.
Against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, he was a human tornado. First, he showed quality ball skills and instincts by reacting fast to a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage and capitalizing for the interception. Later, Kendricks busted through on a blitz to take Taylor down, and he also snuffed out a screen by dropping tight end Charles Clay for a loss of five yards.
If this version of Kendricks sticks around for a while, the Eagles will gladly welcome the dynamic defender they used to know back. Or he might just be increasing his trade value. Either way, his arrow is pointing up.
And Doug Martin Is Playing Like It's 2015?
And speaking of time traveling, running back Doug Martin was living in the past all offseason.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have cranked the knob on their hype machine for Martin. And now it's looking like we may need to ship even more hype megaphones to Bucs team headquarters.
Martin looked like his old dominant self with quick, decisive cuts against the Jaguars and plenty of power packed into a smaller, but still strong frame. He ran for 30 yards on just five carries and scored a touchdown after bouncing to the outside and beating everyone to the corner. He also added 11 receiving yards on two catches as a way of reminding us that, yes, he can do that too.
Martin's career has been wildly inconsistent, largely due to injuries. He's played five NFL seasons, running for 1,400-plus yards in two of them, and less than 500 in the other three.
But he's only one year removed from his most recent booming season. In 2015, Martin finished second in the league with 1,402 rushing yards, and he reached that mark while averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
If that Martin does indeed come back after his three-game suspension, he'll add yet another dimension to an already loaded Buccaneers offense.