Drama, Drama, Drama: All Eyes Are on the QBs in These Spots
Drama has not been in short supply among NFL quarterbacks this offseason.
There have been new names, new deals, new feuds, old feuds…
Now the 2021 season is on the horizon, but not every situation at the game’s most important position has reached a conclusion that’s written in stone.
There are intriguing QB scenarios to keep an eye on for plenty of teams. Here are the ones most worth monitoring:
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Let’s start with a rookie. While fellow first-round picks Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones are set for starting roles, Trey Lance has a fight on his hands with the 49ers.
Lance played just 19 college games in the FCS and is set to begin the season behind Jimmy Garoppolo after suffering a minor finger injury late in the preseason. Garoppolo is healthy again after becoming one of a remarkable number of San Francisco players who went down due to injury last year after reaching the Super Bowl in 2019.
But Lance’s dual-threat ability gives Kyle Shanahan a new dynamic, as evidenced by his 14 rushing touchdowns for North Dakota State in 2019. Garoppolo has only two career rushing scores.
By the end of the year at the latest, though, the 21-year-old Lance will undoubtedly be ready for a bigger role, increasing pressure on Garoppolo while the team tries to remain a title contender.
Justin Fields is the second first-round selection starting the year behind an established NFL QB in Andy Dalton.
“There’s no need for us to rush Justin,” said Bears general manager Ryan Pace last week, explaining they were “very confident” in Dalton.
“I just think the more time (Fields) has to learn that and observe, the better off for him,” Pace added.
But Fields, who threw for 63 TDs and rushed for another 15 in two years at Ohio State, is undoubtedly a more realistic long-term solution than Dalton, who is on his third team in three years.
Fields, like Lance, can run, ranking fifth in the Power 5 among quarterbacks who had at least 70 carries with 7.42 yards per attempt last year, but the Bears also need improvement through the air after ranking 22nd with 228.4 net passing yards per game in 2020.
While the departed Mitchell Trubisky neither threw the ball well – delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on just 71.6% of passes – Fields (80.2 well-thrown percentage) can do both if given the opportunity.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
It is not only the teams who have spent first-round picks on passers who have had a battle under center.
The Saints considered two options to replace the great Drew Brees: Jameis Winston threw only 11 passes in New Orleans last season after leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while the versatile Taysom Hill started four games when Brees was out due to injury.
But Winston has been confirmed as the starter for the new campaign – at least for now. Whether Sean Payton is willing to stick with an entertaining yet erratic QB for a full season remains to be seen.
The 27-year-old Florida State product became the first player to throw 30 TD passes and 30 interceptions in the same NFL season in 2019 when the Bucs went 7-9.
Winston’s 10.7 air yards ranked second, yet his pickable pass percentage of 9.09 was second worst among those with 100 attempts or more.
While some teams have multiple reliable options at QB, the Eagles scarcely have one. Having moved on from Carson Wentz, Jalen Hurts is their starter.
Last time out, in his rookie year, Hurts completed just 52.0% of his passes – the worst rate of any QB with 100 or more attempts – and still could not quite keep up with the league’s elite running QBs, averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
Yet Philadelphia’s response was to trade out of the No. 6 pick in this year’s draft and then opt against taking either Fields or Jones, who remained on the board after they moved back up to 10.
Joe Flacco, now 36, is in as the back-up, while a “fired up” Gardner Minshew has arrived from the Jacksonville Jaguars is the third-stringer after throwing for 37 TDs and 11 picks in his two years.
Unless Hurts makes significant strides, it is difficult to see how the Eagles will not again be in a position to take one of the top college QBs in 2022.
Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers was at the center of the most compelling offseason speculation surrounding a quarterback this offseason.
However, the Green Bay Packers star was not the only former champion at the center of offseason speculation this year, with Russell Wilson’s agent informing ESPN of four trade destinations that would interest the Seahawks stalwart.
Seattle kept its man in the end, but Wilson will be looking for progress from last season when he complained of “getting hit too much” – “a pretty normal reaction,” according to coach Pete Carroll.
Wilson was in the MVP conversation for the first half of the year, but was soon left exposed behind a poor offensive line and was sacked 47 times to swell his career total to 394 – the most of any QB since he entered the league.
The Seahawks have reworked Duane Brown’s contract to give him more guaranteed money, though the left tackle was looking for an extension – another development that has frustrated Wilson. The team also traded for guard Gabe Jackson. That move needs to work.
Wilson last year averaged 8.70 air yards while throwing a pickable pass at the sixth-lowest ratio in the NFL (2.64%), but he has to have help if Seattle is to succeed.
Design by Matt Sisneros.