Rob Maaddi, FISM News
Football is back.
All 32 NFL teams have opened training camp and most teams will hold their first full-squad practice on Wednesday. Several teams will start the season with one glaring question: who will be the starting quarterback?
The lingering question surrounding Deshaun Watson’s availability for the season remains as the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback takes the practice field with the Cleveland Browns. Retired judge Sue Robinson, the league’s disciplinary officer, has not yet issued a ruling after a three-day hearing was held last month to determine whether Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by 24 massage therapists and settled civil lawsuits with 20 of them.
Veteran Jacoby Brissett, who played for the Miami Dolphins in 2021, will replace Watson as the starter for the Browns for the duration of any forthcoming suspension.
In the offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed veteran Mitch Trubisky and drafted Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett with the 20th pick in the first round. Trubisky opens camp as the starter, but the front office likely did not draft Pickett in the first round with plans to keep him on the sideline for long.
Whoever emerges as the No. 1 guy in Pittsburg has big shoes to fill. Ben Roethlisberger was Pittsburgh’s starter for the last 18 seasons, during which he won two Super Bowls.
Steelers staff had an easy time scouting Pickett, who played at the University of Pittsburgh.
“We knew so much beyond the tape because of proximity,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said about Pickett. “I watched that guy sit on that patio and watch us work for three or four years. This dude loves football, man. He’s not a clock-puncher. He’s always trying to get better. He’s very comfortable in his shoes.”
Trubisky was a first-round pick by Chicago in 2017 and spent last season backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo.
The Carolina Panthers must choose from a QB room that includes the No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, as well as Matt Corral, a rookie third-round draft pick out of Ole Miss.
Between the two veterans, Mayfield, who played his first four seasons in Cleveland, has been statistically more impressive and has won 12 more games as a starter than Darnold, who played three seasons with the Jets before starting most of last season for the Panthers.
Corral led Ole Miss to its first 10-win regular season in school history and a Sugar Bowl invitation in 2021. The duel-threat quarterback finished 7th in Heisman Trophy voting after throwing for more than 3,300 yards for the second-consecutive season.
Panthers coach Matt Rhule told reporters he’s not rushing to decide.
“To me, this is about being in the moment but not making rash judgments,” he said. “Guys are going to have good days and bad days. When we know, we know.”
The Falcons have a QB competition for the first time in several years, as veteran Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder battle for the starting job. Mariota played for Atlanta coach Arthur Smith when the two were together in Tennessee. Ridder was the Falcons’ third-round pick out of the University of Cincinnati.
In Seattle, Geno Smith and Drew Lock battle to take over for Russell Wilson. Seattle acquired Lock from Denver in the blockbuster deal that sent Wilson to the Broncos. Smith is familiar with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s system from last season.
“They’ve been really impressive,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said during minicamp. “And it’s not been any one sequence here or one day here. They have just been solid throughout. We’ve shared a ton of reps. Geno has gone with the first group throughout, but they’ve had very close to equal reps in situational opportunities throughout. They’ve done a terrific job so far. They look in control.”
San Francisco 49ers choose Lance
There will not be any quarterback controversy in San Francisco, where the 49ers made it clear second-year pro Trey Lance is the starter. That means Jimmy Garoppolo will almost certainly be traded or released before Week 1 to avoid having his $24.2 million base salary become fully guaranteed. Garoppolo is 33-14 as a starter in the regular season and 4-2 in the playoffs.
“This is Trey’s team,” Niners coach Mike Shanahan said. “That’s nothing against Jimmy. We made that decision a year ago and we’re not going to mess around with that anymore…Jimmy understands that fully. He’s a big guy and it’s nothing against him. It’s a business decision.”