The NFL offseason was defined by huge changes to the quarterback landscape as Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield were traded. In the wake of all of those seismic changes, that leaves some unresolved QB situations across the league. Here’s a look at where several active quarterback battles stand early in training camp.
QB battles in training camp
Atlanta Falcons: Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder
Marcus Mariota is the leader to be named the Atlanta Falcons’ QB1 and replacement for Matt Ryan after Atlanta made an unsuccessful run at Deshaun Watson. Mariota is mobile and has a live arm and experience, but he’s keeping the spot warm for rookie Desmond Ridder.
Mariota has a ton of familiarity with coach Arthur Smith’s offense and played for him with the Tennessee Titans. Look for him to win the starting job and be declared the guy at some point.
Ridder, a third-round draft pick from Cincinnati, is promising. He has leadership qualities and a lot of upside working in his favor. If Mariota falters or his past durability issues resurface, then Ridder could become a rookie starter and face the task of learning on the job.
“I’m very comfortable with where I’m at,” Mariota said during a press conference. “I’m trying [to] make sure everyone else is in the same place so we can go out there and play fast.”
Carolina Panthers: Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold
Mayfield was traded to the Carolina Panthers for a reason. While he fell out of favor with the Cleveland Browns for his play and personality, that doesn’t mean Mayfield can’t play. When Mayfield is healthy and has his head on straight, he has rhythm and confidence and can move the offense down the field on a regular basis.
On the other hand, Sam Darnold has failed twice now. First, he washed out with the New York Jets. Now, he’s expected to lose this competition to Mayfield.
Meanwhile, rookie Matt Corral will have to wait his turn. Mayfield and Darnold have been rotating days with the first-team offense. It will become more evident when the preseason games start who should be QB1.
That said, it’s hard to see Darnold beating out Mayfield. Healthy again, Mayfield is off to a good start with his new team. And Darnold has had issues with ball security, fumbling twice in a recent practice.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph
Big Ben left some very big cleats to fill, and this doesn’t look like a distinguished group of potential replacements.
Now that Ben Roethlisberger has retired, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in flux under center. Mitchell Trubisky, a bust with the Chicago Bears who performed well as a backup to Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills, is the projected starter ahead of rookie Kenny Pickett and career backup Mason Rudolph.
Here’s the twist, though.
Trubisky, by all accounts, is struggling mightily at training camp. He’s been highly inaccurate in red-zone drills and the daily charts from beat writers reflect his inability to build chemistry so far with his receivers.
Meanwhile, Pickett still has a lot to learn. Strangely enough, Rudolph has drawn the highest marks early in training camp. All three quarterbacks have taken a turn with the first-team offense.
This looks like a rough situation. It’s a good thing the Steelers have outstanding leadership in coach Mike Tomlin and one of the best running backs in the NFL in Najee Harris.
“We’re not going to micromanage or overmanage this quarterback competition,” Tomlin told reporters. “The depth chart will not rest on every throw. I know that you guys will want to ask me every day and every throw, but we’re going to be a little bit more steady than that.
“I think it’s important from a leadership perspective to not overmanage it, to not be too impulsive, so that’s what I’ve relayed to those guys, and our actions will continue to display that mindset.”
Seattle Seahawks: Geno Smith and Drew Lock
Following the Wilson trade to the Denver Broncos, the Seattle Seahawks are now at a crossroads at the all-important quarterback position. For now, Geno Smith is in the lead at training camp as the first-string quarterback ahead of former Broncos starter Drew Lock, who was included in the Wilson trade.
However, Smith hasn’t been a regular starter since 2014 when he played for the New York Jets. He has a strong arm and can run, but he’s never been consistent, thus, why he’s been a career backup.
Lock has a reputation for being erratic, but he’s improved his dedication and work ethic over the past two years.
Neither option seems great for the Seahawks, who are expected to lean heavily on their running game tandem of Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker III.
Smith has been working exclusively with the starters and Lock with the second-team offense. Both have had some issues in red-zone work. Smith has sailed passes even too high for 6-foot-4 wide receiver DK Metcalf to come down with despite his 40.5-inch vertical leap. Not good.
At this point, it’s geared toward Smith winning the job. But perhaps general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll should dial up the San Francisco 49ers and trade for Jimmy Garoppolo.