As we head into the first week of preseason games, 27 of the 32 starting quarterback positions should be set, dependent only on health. Three of those are the notable additions this offseason–Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, Robert Grifffin III in Washington, and Peyton Manning in Denver. The rest involve the incumbent (when healthy) returning to the same starting assignment.
That leaves only five situations where the starting quarterback is at least in doubt. Here’s my assessment of the likelihood of each quarterback starting in week 1.
5. Cleveland Browns. This one barely qualifies as a battle, as the Browns are likely to turn to first round pick Brandon Weeden in the opener, and appear to have moved on from Colt McCoy. Weeden could struggle in the preseason, I suppose, and lead the Browns to start with him on the bench with an eye toward working him into the lineup later. Absent a disaster, though, Weeden should be the opening day starter. (Chances of starting week 1 if healthy: Weeden 95%, McCoy 5%)
4. Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks made some noise with the drafting of Russell Wilson in the third round, and early suggestions that he could be in the competition. Right now, that appears like a long shot. The most likely scenario is that Matt Flynn, who was signed by the Seahawks in the offseason, will be the opening day starter. It would be an upset if Tarvaris Jackson started, and that probably wouldn’t go over well with the fan base after adding two others. According to 12th man rising, Flynn has been getting progressively more reps, a sign that he has the clear advantage. (Chances of starting week 1 if healthy: Flynn 80%, Wilson 10%, Jackson 10%).
3. Arizona Cardinals. We saw Kevin Kolb not take control at all last night in the Cardinals opener, and he left the game with a rib injury after throwing an interception. Last year, John Skelton was the starter for 5 of the Cardinals 8 wins, and came in after Kolb threw one pass in another. Of course, he wasn’t very good for large stretches, and the Cardinals won close games late with large swaths of poor quarterback play. A review of those games shows that the Cardinals scored slightly more in Kolb’s start, but gave up more than 5 points a game as well. The one issue where Skelton can overtake Kolb is in getting rid of the ball. Kolb took a sack over 10% of the time last year, and doesn’t seem to feel pressure well–there’s a reason he has been hurt frequently in limited action. If the younger Skelton improves this year in his release, he could overtake Kolb. (Chances of starting week 1 if healthy: Kolb 60%, Skelton 40%).
2. Miami Dolphins. David Garrard currently sits atop the depth chart of what is a “fluid situation.” Rookie Ryan Tannehill played the best in a scrimmage this last weekend. Matt Moore played well in the second half of last season, but with a new coaching staff and Tannehill’s old college coach as offensive coordinator, has no incumbent advantage. This one will be decided in the preseason, probably no earlier than the end of game 3, with all quarterbacks getting some opportunity with the first team at some point. (Chances of starting week 1 if healthy: Garrard 40%, Tannehill 35%, Moore 25%).
1. Tennessee Titans. We know that Jake Locker will get an opportunity to start in 2012, it is just a matter of when, and whether that will be in the season opener. I expect Locker to play at least half the games. He may now be the favorite, though, to start right away after looking impressive early and having good practices over the weekend. I already projected Locker’s numbers on a per game basis, but if he is the opening day starter he should shoot up fantasy boards. He will have a lower completion percentage but make more big plays, and also be a factor running the ball. I think Locker will be given every opportunity to earn the job right away, but the Titans are in good shape if they have to turn to veteran Matt Hasselbeck instead for the first month. (Chances of starting week 1 if healthy: Locker 60%, Hasselbeck 40%)
[photos via US Presswire]