NFL QB competitions: Where each race stands as preseason begins


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SportsPulse’s Trysta Krick checks in with Jarrett Bell at Pittsburgh Steelers training camp on how this could be the last season for the team’s dominant offense.
USA TODAY Sports

Position battles are being waged all across the country in NFL training camps, but the stakes are highest at quarterback, with four jobs up for grabs.

Some players have already taken strong first steps to securing starting gigs, while others have shown they need more work.

With every team now set to open its preseason schedule within the next few days, here’s an update of the QB battles through two weeks of training camp.

Denver Broncos

First-year coach Vance Joseph listed Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch as co-starters on the first official depth chart of the preseason, but Siemian appears to have taken an early lead in the race. Siemian has limited his mistakes in training camp and is building off of his first year leading the offense, in which he started 14 games and threw for 3,401 yards and 18 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

When the Broncos face the Chicago Bears for Thursday night’s exhibition game, Siemian will start. Joseph plans, however, for Lynch to start Aug. 19’s preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. Joseph said that “games matter,” meaning that the performance of each in their live reps should be a key factor in determining a Week 1 starter. But by most accounts, Lynch – last year’s first-round pick – has some serious ground to make up.

More: 10 players to watch in NFL preseason: Christian McCaffrey highlights talented group

More: Five intriguing early value picks in fantasy football drafts

Cleveland Browns

Brock Osweiler will start Cleveland’s preseason opener Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints, but don’t read too much into that decision. The reason coach Hue Jackson gave for the move was curious.

“Brock hasn’t really gotten any first team reps and this will give him that chance,” Jackson said Monday in a statement.

That makes it sound like the decision is more motivated by doing due diligence than Osweiler taking a commanding lead.

Incumbent starter Cody Kessler will enter the game second, and rookie second-round selection DeShone Kizer will be third. Kessler, though, has struggled in practices. Kizer, on the other hand, has flashed potential. But the Notre Dame product made some poor throws in a recent scrimmage and has been far too inaccurate to make a case for himself as the Week 1 starter. Kizer needs to have strong showings against the Saints and then the New York Giants on Aug. 21 to be a legitimate option.

As Jackson clarified in a news conference after the Osweiler announcement: “This thing is not over by any stretch.”

But this is clearly a big step for Osweiler. Kessler entered training camp as the No. 1 passer on the depth chart because of his experience with the team. If Osweiler plays well and limits mistakes in preseason games, however, the job could be his to lose.

New York Jets

Through two weeks of training camp, a few things are clear in the Jets competition. First, journeyman Josh McCown appears to be the early leader after he has played almost all of the first-team reps. And two, his only challenger is second-year passer Christian Hackenberg, who has shown improvements after last year’s tough rookie season.

Hackenberg did get practice reps with the starters on Tuesday, but all indications are that McCown will start Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans. The team’s first depth chart of the year listed Hackenberg as third behind Bryce Petty, but the practice reps tell a far different story and are a better indication of the landscape.

It likely comes down to what happens in the preseason games. Hackenberg did not dress for any regular season games last year, so how he responds to live action is still a big unknown. The Jets know what McCown brings, and the 38-year-old is not their long-term future at quarterback. If Hackenberg underwhelms in exhibition games, though, McCown may win the job by default.

Houston Texans

Incumbent Tom Savage entered camp as the No. 1 and has held onto the role even with the looming presence of first-round rookie Deshaun Watson, whom the team traded up 13 spots to draft. Coach Bill O’Brien has consistently said that Savage is the team’s starter, and he recently told USA TODAY Sports that he will not use a two-quarterback system.

Watson has impressed in practices with his mobility, accuracy, arm strength, work ethic and leadership skills. But it’s clear that for him to see the field early on in the regular season, it will take either an injury, or for Savage to start to struggle significantly.

In his first audition Wednesday against the Carolina Panthers, Watson completed 15 of 25 passes for 179 yards, while Savage connected on 9 of 11 attempts for 69 yards.

Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.

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