William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

NFL 2012: Top 5 Quarterback Battles

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Heading into every season, there are numerous positions at which starters have not yet been determined for every team in the NFL. None of them, however, is so highly scrutinized and carries such weight as the quarterback position. 2012 will see a number of two-way (and in certain cases three-way) competitions to see who will earn the right to lead the offense. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting match-ups in the league.

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5. Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton – Arizona Cardinals

This match-up may have become more clear cut, as Kevin Kolb did everything he could to give Skelton the starting job during his first performance against New Orleans in the pre-season. Kolb, despite a $60 million contract that far outweighs that of his competition, struggled mightily in that game, going 1-of-4 for 4 yards and an interception, and suffering an injury to his shoulder in the process. Skelton, on the other hand, looked impressive in limited action, going 4-6 for 32 yards, and generally commanding the offense with much more poise and effectiveness, helping the team march down the field on a 90 yard drive against the first team defense. It’s unfortunate that Skelton isn’t the player with the higher contract, as you can be assured he would already be named the Week 1 starter and Kolb would be at best the back-up. Making matters far worse for Kolb is his injury history; he missed 7 games to injury last season, in addition to his pre-season incident this year.

4. David Garrard vs. Matt Moore vs. Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins

You have to be worried when, of three potential starting quarterbacks, the name atop the depth chart is a man who couldn’t even pass a physical last year. David Garrard is currently taking reps with the first team offense, and the feeling moving forward is that the job is his to lose. Now Garrard did play reasonably well in his last season in Jacksonville (2,734 yards, 23 TD’s, 15 INT’s), but it’s not as though he had mastered the position in the years leading to his injury. Peyton Manning was considered arguably the best quarterback in the league until he got injured; now his brother is ranked in the top 5. If Garrard was no more than a top-15 QB leading into injury (and even that’s debatable), how far should his injury history drop him? At least you can give the franchise credit for not throwing project player Ryan Tannehill to the wolves too early, but you’d have to wonder what the franchise dislikes so much about Matt Moore? He’s never been a franchise QB, but he performed well enough last season that it would seem he could develop into an efficient, game-manager type of QB, which may be the best Miami could hope for this season.

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3. Matt Flynn vs. Tarvaris Jackson vs. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks

Flynn made a name for himself last year in limited action for the Packers. During the last game of the regular season, he torched the Lions secondary, throwing for 480 yards and 6 TD’s against 1 INT. This led to a bidding war in the off-season for his services, of which Pete Carroll and the Seahawks came away with the prized package by way of a 3 year, $19.5 million contract. All was in line for Flynn to try his hand at the position that has eluded success for the Seahawks since Hassellbeck left town (or was thrown out, rather). Then Carroll, with his slightly manic kinetic energy, decided that Tarvaris Jackson earned the right to compete and a two-way battle was born. Cut to a week later, and suddenly Carroll’s infatuated with a rookie third-round selection in Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin. The fact is that all three of these quarterbacks are question marks heading into the season, and Carroll needs to beware of his penchant towards a lack of commitment to players. If he decides to play the quarterback-carousel game, it could be a messy season at the position for Seattle.

2.  Jake Locker vs. Matt Hasselbeck – Tennessee Titans

This is one of those quarterback controversies that a team likes to have: when either player seems capable of giving your team a winning edge. Matt Hasselbeck played much better than most outside of the organization thought he would last season, putting up 3,571 yards and guiding a struggling offense towards success while losing Kenny Britt to injury and Chris Johnson to ineffectiveness. Locker, however, had many of his own moments last season; enough to propel his rookie QB rating to an impressive 99.4. This fact has many Titans fans lobbying to let Locker take over the reigns and get a start to his promising career. Both QB’s have had impressive training camps, and Munchak and his staff have clearly expressed that this is an open competition, of which the better player will earn the job.

1. Mark Sanchez vs. Tim Tebow – New York Jets

If you’ve ever turned on SportsCenter in the last year, then you are certainly familiar with the quarterback situation for the New York Jets. A young, athletic backup by the name of Tim Tebow was traded for this off-season, in what one can only assume was an effort to bring a voice of maturity to an ever-dysfunctional locker room. The real effect of the move, however, will prove to be among the most divisive since Chad Pennington was given a contract extension. Mark Sanchez has faced a lot of criticism and scrutiny during his first three years, and rightly so. His stats last season were not terrible by any means, but the New York Jets are not your average team. They are intense, loud, and brash; a reflection of their head coach. Rex Ryan seems incapable of being the voice of reason and control, opting instead to let the proverbial inmates run the proverbial asylum. This might bode well for getting the most out of his defense, where such intensity often results in stellar play, but offense is a different beast. Offenses these days are predicated on a controlled, precise attack. The Tom Brady’s and Drew Brees’ of the world all share one common attribute: the ability to command the offense in a deliberate manner that controls the tempo of the game. For all of Sanchez’s physical attributes, he does not command the offense, or the rest of the team, with this sense of urgency or a similar level of control. However, he is a better quarterback than Tim Tebow; it’s just that the majority of the population either seems to not understand that, or they simply don’t care. Sanchez’s football acuity is leaps and bounds ahead of Tebow, but regardless of well he plays, the slightest misstep will have Tebow’s rabid and unheard-of fan base clamoring for a switch. Expect this to last all season long.

Follow me on Twitter @TitanSizedJason

Tags: Cardinals David Garrard Dolphins Jake Locker Jets John Skelton Kevin Kolb Mark Sanchez Matt Flynn Matt Hasselbeck Matt Moore Russell Wilson Ryan Tannehill Seahawks Tarvaris Jackson Tim Tebow Titans

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