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Most Intriguing NFL Position Battles- QB

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In a perfect would, you’d like to know who your starting quarterback is well prior to training camp. However, that’s not always the case.

The Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears are all unsure who their signal caller will be this fall.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at these five quarterback battles.

Cleveland Browns – With veteran Brian Hoyer bolting to Houston, the Cleveland Browns are in limbo at the quarterback position.

Johnny Manziel entered the 2014 campaign with immense pressure and hype, but he fell way short to say the least. Manziel appeared in five games, while starting two of them.  He completed just 51.4 percent of his passes to go along with two interceptions and no touchdowns. As training camp gets near, some may assume Manziel will be handed the starting job. After all, Cleveland did invest a first round pick on him.

However, things won’t be that easy for Manziel. In a weak quarterback free agent class, the Browns signed Josh McCown to a three-year deal.

Based on experience along, McCown has to be the early favorite, but Manziel will get every opportunity to outplay him during training camp and preseason.

New York Jets – It seems like the Jets haven’t had a franchise quarterback in decades. And to be quite frank, it feels that way because it’s reality.

Joe Namath is the only Hall of Fame quarterback in franchise history and he hasn’t played in nearly 40 years.

New head coach Todd Bowles is hopeful Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick will become the answer moving forward. Smith has started in 30 games during his first two seasons, accumulating a 57.5 completion percentage with a dreadful touchdown to interception ratio of 25:34.

Although Smith’s numbers aren’t pretty, the 24-year-old quarterback has shown flashes of what he’s capable of. It’s just a matter of putting it all together at this juncture.

To push Smith in training camp, the Jets brought up Fitzpatrick.

Last season, Fitzpatrick tossed 17 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions while completing 63.1 percent of his passes.

On the down side, Fitzpatrick is coming off a broken leg he suffered back in December. He should be ready to go by training camp, but don’t hold your breathe.

“If you ask me, yes,” he said regarding whether he’ll be cleared by the start of camp.  “If you ask one of the trainers, maybe it’s going to be a little while, but I will be good.  I am on pace right now to definitely be healthy for training camp.  It’s just a progression right now, I am not trying to do too much too early.”

This battle can go either way, but you’d think the Jets brass is quietly rooting for Geno to pull through.

Houston Texans: Deep down in Texas, we’re going to see arguably the most fierce quarterback battle this summer. Newcomer Brian Hoyer is looking to step right in and take control of the huddle, while the young gunslinger Ryan Mallett hopes to earn head coach Bill O’Brien’s trust.

Hoyer started in 13 games last season in Cleveland. The 6-foot-3, 215 pound quarterback threw 12 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Hoyer’s poor level of play forced Cleveland to bench him for Johnny Manziel.

On the other hand, Mallett received his first opportunity to start in 2014. In Mallett’s two starts, he completed only 54.7 percent of his passes to go along with two touchdowns and two picks. While those numbers are nothing to get excited about, Mallett does present unique physical traits, highlighted by his cannon for an arm.

As many will see this battle as drama, Bill O’Brien is simply embracing the moment.

“I don’t look at it like a controversy. I have to make sure that when I stand in front of the team I’m on the same page with them and that these two guys are going to compete just like every position on our team.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this battle goes.

Buffalo Bills: There’s no secret that Buffalo made a huge investment in EJ Manuel, after taking the former Florida State Seminole in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

To put it nicely, Manuel hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far. This past season, the 6-foot-5 quarterback was benched in favor of Kyle Orton. During Manuel’s four starts, he completed only 58 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and three picks.

With Kyle Orton retiring from the game, Buffalo felt the need to add another veteran quarterback. This time it was Matt Cassel.

The journeyman realizes what’s ahead of him.

“I think I’ve been in this league long enough to know that you’ve got to compete in everything that you do,” Cassel said. “You know, you have to earn every opportunity you get, so I know there’s going to be competition. I know that EJ’s here, and he’s a young, talented player. I expect that there’s going to be a competition. Again, you have to go out and earn your opportunity to play in this league.”

Considering the type of investment made on Manuel, you have to assume Buffalo will give Manuel every chance to win the starting job, but Cassel won’t go away easily.

Chicago Bears – When you first saw the Bears on this list, you probably instantly raised an eyebrow, which is understandable. At the same time, Jay Cutler has proven over and over that he’s not the guy to lead Chicago to the promise land.

Why not just get rid of Cutler, right?

Well, if only it were that easy. Cutler is set to receive $15.5 million in guaranteed money this year and an additional $10 million in 2016. With that much invested, Chicago is unlikely to find a trading partner.

Despite those huge dollar figures, the new regime headlined by John Fox won’t be shy to give Jimmy Clausen a shot.

“It’s all an open competition. Obviously you’ve got to start somewhere and my experience in football, really in anything, it’s not where you start a competition; it’s where you finish it.”

The cool thing about all of these quarterback battles is the recurring theme of old versus the new. The younger guys have more pressure due to their expectations, while the veterans are just looking for another stop to play the game they love.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.