NFL: 10 Back-Up QBs Who Could Start This Year

Matt Gray@mattkgrayContributor IJune 17, 2011

NFL: 10 Back-Up QBs Who Could Start This Year

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Jimmy Clausen #2 of the Carolina Panthers walks off the field in the second quarter during their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    With the lockout dragging on, and seemingly turning into a mammoth game of Deal or No Deal between players and owners, the prospect of a multitude of big moves coming in free-agency is beginning to waiver as the window gets smaller and smaller.

    We do know however, that if, and when, the two sides come to an agreement, free-agency will play out like a Wild West duel, the quickest draw winning, with teams rushing to get deals done rapidly, so that they can focus on more pressing issues like training camp, and getting draft picks signed.

    The result of this hectic period will likely leave some teams scratching their heads without the guys they had hoped and planned for, and perhaps having to settle for some players they didn't even have on their radar.

    In some cases teams might have to let the back-ups take the reins 2011, especially if that draft pick they stuck their necks out for doesn't quite turn out how they had hoped.

    ***Keep in mind I've tried to pick players who could start for reasons other than the starter being injured as much as possible, leaving the likes of Volek, Flynn, Hanie, Sorgi etc off of the list.

    Without further ado a rundown of the potential starting QB's in your town, if things don't quite go to plan...

Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Jimmy Clausen #2 of the Carolina Panthers against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Jimmy Clausen is in a position that no QB wants to be in. What makes it worse for Clausen is that it's only his second year on the job and he's already been replaced with a shiny new No.1 overall pick in Cam Newton.

    Clausen appears to be working hard and fully welcomes the competition that the Heisman Trophy winning Auburn QB brings to town, but he has to be thinking the same thing as you and I, the only way he is going to start is if Cam Newton goes down injured, or plays worse than Clausen last year (which would be some feat in of itself!).

    Experts frequently point to the fact that you can't judge most rookie QB's in their first year (excluding the Sam Bradford's of this world) and it may be too soon to throw Clausen under the bus, but with the resounding failure that his rookie season was widely considered, it may be curtains for Jimmy.

    While Panther's fans can be hopeful for a better performance from Cam Newton who is impressing in team workouts of late, they should prepare for the potential return of Jimmy Clausen if things go south. With the unknown status of Matt Moore, Clausen could well see some action if things don't work out with Newton. Que collective groan from Panthers

Jordan Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals

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    CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 04:  Jordan Palmer #5 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on against the Cleveland Browns during their game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 4, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    While the Quarterback saga continues in Cincinnati, the main topic of discussion remains centered around who will be the teams starter in 2011, Andy Dalton or Carson Palmer? Marvin Lewis and Jay Gruden have expressed confidence in Andy Dalton as the teams starter going forward and it seems altogether decided, however they are forgetting their late QB's younger brother, Jordan Palmer.

    The Bengals back-up has only completed 15 passes in his three-year NFL career and has spent the rest of his time building phone app's such as WR Chad Ochocinco's self-titled app.

    So can Jordan steal the starting job from Andy Dalton assuming Carson doesn't return? He certainly thinks so;

    “I definitely want to be the guy, I’m preparing to be the guy. I’ve also told him (Dalton) that if he’s the guy it’s not because I’ve helped him out too much. It’s going to be because he’s more ready and better,” Palmer said during team workouts.

    This kind of fire is something Bengals fans aren't accustomed to seeing coming out of a Palmer's mouth, and only time will tell if Jordan Palmer can step-up. He has certainly been proactive in leading team workouts earlier on this year, and seems intent to continue doing so.

    With a new system in place at the hands of Jay Gruden on offense, there will most certainly be some competitive learning going on between the Bengals QB's, and Jordan's familiarity with his teammates could potentially put him ahead of Dalton however unlikely that may be.



Kerry Collins, Tennessee Titans

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 26:  Quarterback Kerry Collins #5 of the Tennessee Titans warms-up prior to the start of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 26, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty I
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The man puts it best himself;

    "It is legitimate speculation to think the longer this thing goes, the more attractive I would be to them because of my familiarity with everything,"

    This is the crux of the argument behind this article and it is something that both the state of Tennessee and the Tennessee Titans front office will know is a sensible enough line of thinking.

    Collins has had his ups and downs in Tennessee whilst dueling for the starting gig with Vince Young and has provided the Titans with some great victories along the way, and let us not forget the 10-0 start he lead the Titans to in 2008.

    Collins arguably still has the passion, as the old adage goes, that with age comes wisdom, and coupled with that Collins will have Chris Johnson in the backfield for him to hand the ball to, so he won't have to do an awful lot except be an effective game manager which we all know he can be.

    Collins has been open about a return to the club and with the lockout the way it is, it might be wiser for the Titans to start Collins in place of first round pick Jake Locker, who would have very little time to learn the Titans offense and implement it alongside new head coach Mike Munchak.

Seneca Wallace, Cleveland Browns

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    CLEVELAND - AUGUST 21:  Seneca Wallace #6 of the Cleveland Browns runs by David Vobora #58 of the St. Louis Rams at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 21, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    "Colt is a younger kid and he's from Texas and people know him," Wallace said. "He should get the opportunity to be the starter and I'm not worried about that. But I'm comfortable with this system and I'm going to prepare every day like I'm the starter. That's what I've got to do."

    Another back-up, another statement of intent to be the starter, this time from Brown's back-up Seneca Wallace.

    With Jake Delhomme turning everything he touched into terrible, Wallace actually saw some game time in 2010, albeit when Delhomme went down with injury, and although Wallace didn't do an awful lot of good himself, he did more than Jake could muster.

    Wallace then taking a tumble lead us to Colt McCoy, whose gutsy performances won the hearts of the Cleveland faithful but left the front office still somewhat unconvinced. While McCoy could well take the starting job in 2011, I wouldn't expect it to take an awful lot of losses for him to be pulled from the top spot on the depth chart in favor of Wallace.

    With Pat Shurmur bringing in a west coast system similar to the one he played in under now Browns President Mike Holmgren in Seattle, Wallace may well be a more sensible choice to lead the team in 2011, though he may have to wait and see if management think Colt McCoy can back-up his strong leadership off the field recently, with solid play on it in 2011.

John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 25:  Head coach Ken Whisenhunt of the Arizona Cardinals talks with quarterback John Skelton #19 during the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 25, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Card
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    I find it hard to believe that John Skelton should be excluded from discussions of who will be the Cardinals QB in 2011. The Cardinals traded up to take Skelton in the 2010 draft, and when a team trades up its because there's someone who they think could be extra useful for their franchise. For this reason, John Skelton is relevant.

    I know that Kevin Kolb to Arizona is the overwhelming prophecy that seems destined to be fulfilled, but one has to factor in the ongoing lockout into this equation. Kolb will have to learn the playbook, and unlike the rookie QB's out there who already have their playbook's, Kolb remains in flux, not knowing where he could be headed.

    It's this reasoning that could see the Cardinals leave the Kevin Kolb race, as they might feel that Kolb isn't worth the high price tag and that they could pick someone better up next year. Kolb coming to Arizona then, is dependent on whether the front office feels as though he is the long term solution.

    If the lockout continues in this manner John Skelton getting some extended playing time could very well be the case, he showed real promise towards the end of the season, finishing out with two touchdowns, two interceptions, 662 passing yards and a quarterback rating of 62.3 percent, and did enough for some Cardinals fans to want to give him a second run at the job.

    If I'm John Skelton right now, I'm cheering for the lockout to continue!

Brady Quinn, Denver Broncos

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    SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 22:  Quarterback Brady Quinn #9 of the Denver Broncos walks to the locker room after the football game against San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Im
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    2007 First rounder Brady Quinn is having a tough old time in the NFL of late, and finds himself in third place on the depth chart behind Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton. While many speculate that Quinn's career is on it's way down the tubes, Quinn will be doing everything he can to stop himself going the way of fellow 2007 first rounder JaMarcus Russell.

    With so many teams in need of a QB and many believing that the Bronco's will ship Kyle Orton out to the highest bidder, Quinn could find himself second to only Tim Tebow. Add to this the fact that Elway and Fox have already stated that they intend for it to be an open competition between all three prospects and Quinn starts to look like he has a shot at the job, albeit a very long one.

    If Orton does part ways with the team, then Quinn will be ready and waiting for Tebow to slip up, and with Bronco's management for lack of a better phrase 'flip-flopping' between faith in Tebow to being unsure of Tebow's ability, it would not come as a shock to see Quinn start somewhere down the line if Tebow doesn't pull out the victories.

    Whether or not Quinn plays well is a whole other story, and it likely isn't a pretty one either...

Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers

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    DETROIT - AUGUST 28: Jake Delhomme #17 of the Cleveland Browns warms up prior to the start of the preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on August 28, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Jake Delhomme currently has one year left of a two year deal in Cleveland, but after a lackluster and injury plagued first year the Browns could likely trade him. GM Tom Heckert had the following to say about the Delhomme situation;

    "Whenever the thing opens up, we'll sit down with Jake and talk to him and decide what's the best for him and for our organization,"

    This seems to imply that Delhomme could well be on his way out, if not he's going to have to take a dramatic pay-cut as he will likely be the teams third string QB.

    So where to for Jake Delhomme? At age 36 he's certainly reaching the twilight of his career and might find a place as a mentor on a team with young QB's, and where better to do that than on the only team he has had any real success, Carolina.

    Panthers center Ryan Kalil recently tweeted with regards to Delhomme;

    “Dear Marty Hurney, (slow chant) bring him back..bring him back..bring him back…BRING HIM BACK!”

    “‘We’ve got to talk about where we want to head as far as the veteran back up is concerned.’ – Ron Rivera #BringJakeBack”

    And while Kalil is known to be a bit of a joker, the general consensus is that Delhomme would be very much welcomed back by the Charlotte fans to play mentor to Cam Newton who would relish a veteran to show him the ropes on and off the field.

    With this idea comes the possibility that Delhomme could start in Carolina, if things don't work out with Newton for one reason or another, the Panthers would likely put Delhomme on the field before Clausen, with the public likely to agree with that decision. While Panthers fans would prefer to see him on the sidelines tutoring Newton, you can never count out an injury, and that might be Delhomme's most likely avenue for playing time.

John Beck, Washington Redskins

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    Couldn't resist...
    Couldn't resist...Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    The Stormin' Mormon John Beck has found himself as one of the top candidates to nab the Washington Redskins starting job this year, despite a lot of eyebrow raising from 'experts' as to whether the Redskins would really give this guy the keys to the franchise.

    Beck has continued to be the more proactive of the two QB's in contention (Rex Grossman being the other) going so far as to become the teams self appointed tape coordinator and highlights expert in player organized workouts.

    He even decided to take snaps at Guard when Maurice Hurt couldn't make player workouts, and if that doesn't show you just how much Beck enjoys and loves the game of football, I don't know what does. It is certainly reassuring for Redskins fans to see that Beck is 'champing at the bit', and enthusiastic to lead the team, and the fact that Grossman is eager for that competition is great for both player's overall game.

    Right now it could go either way, as both are alternating leading workouts it will likely come down to who inspires the most confidence in training camp assuming Grossman returns. Considering Mike Shanahan didn't make a move for a quarterback in the 2011 NFL draft, one would expect the Redskins to make a move in free agency, but as with many other teams the ticking clock will play a large role in their off season moves.

    With Grossman a free-agent we can't be certain that he will be back in the red and gold in 2011 if a good offer comes along, so don't be surprised if the pro-active John Beck gets his shot at the big stage, that's if he does enough in these next few weeks to inspire Mike Shanahan's confidence, which one can be sure he will be trying to do.

Charlie Whitehurst/ Matt Leinart, Seattle Seahawks

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    SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst #6 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass against the Atlanta Falcons at Qwest Field on December 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Clipboard Charlie, the Chargers 2006 third-round pick, is one year through his two year deal with Seattle and with the $8 million paycheck he received the Seahawks fully intended for Whitehurst to compete for the starting gig.

    Excluding Matt Hasselbeck, Whitehurst is the only QB who has been present through the changes that the Seahawks have made to their offensive staff, and as the only contracted QB it seems unlikely that Whitehurst wouldn't have been given a head start on learning the new system. Pete Carroll certainly held Whitehurst in high regard when talking to ESPN's Mike Sando;

    "Charlie had never even played before. He has now started two football games in his career in the NFL. He is just getting started, to me. He is just a young guy proving himself and is going to show us in time where he fits."

    As of right now, his status remains unclear, with Matt Hasselbeck's future in flux, and the question of whether the Seahawks will bring in someone else floating around in the media, Whitehurst seems to be in competition with an as of yet undecided QB. The Seahawks had the chance to pull the trigger on Andy Dalton in the draft and chose not to, and they could do the same in free agency if the right guy isn't out there. Carson Palmer was tipped as a likely candidate but with his forced retirement looking likely, Whitehurst starting may hinge on Hasselbeck's departure.

    Another interesting prospect would be Houston Texans back-up Matt Leinart getting a shot at the Seahawks starting job. The former Heisman winner is still too young to be written off, and a reunion with Pete Carroll and favorite weapon Mike Williams seems connect-the-dots-kinda simple. Whether he would succeed is hard to know, his desire and work ethic have been criticized frequently and he has done little to change perceptions, but he did lead Carroll to two National Titles and if anyone was going to take a chance on the guy, it would be Pete Carroll.

    The potential is there for two back-ups to duke it out for the starting job in Seattle and it will be an interesting story to follow as the lockout draws to a close...

Marc Bulger

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    BALTIMORE - AUGUST 28:  Marc Bulger #9 of the Baltimore Ravens passes against the New York Giants in a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 28, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Giants 24-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Marc Bulger is a free agent going into the 2011 season, and although he has expressed a desire to return to the Baltimore Ravens if they wish to have him back, one of the multitude of QB hungry teams out there might just rope him in to start for them in 2011.

    Although Bulger has struggled to be consistent in the NFL recently, having never returned to the elite numbers he posted in his first five years, he would arguably be a great veteran to bring on board for teams with a young Quarterback in the ranks.

    Bulger has experienced the highs and lows of being a professional Quarterback in the NFL and would have a lot of wisdom to impart on the many likely starting rookies in this years QB class.

    His age is the main factor playing against him, but if he was to go to a team like Cincinnati or Arizona there is reason to believe that he could compete for the starting job, with the decision hinging on who picks up the playbook first, Bulgers experience in the league could pay dividends for him.

    The two-time pro bowler for threw for 122 touchdowns and 93 interceptions during his seven years as starter in St.Louis, and former Ram's QB Kurt Warner had nothing but praise for Bulger in an interview on WTAR radio, insisting Bulger still has the passion to start;

    "He could play and he could win. I would be hard pressed to believe that if a starting spot came about where he felt it was a good situation where he could win that he wouldn't jump at that opportunity."

    So can Bulger be a starter once again? It seems so, but it may well be in the stop-gap capacity, and at this point in his career, he will have to decide if he is prepared to play babysitter to a young QB. With many teams in need, Bulger could well be suiting up in September.