Which Backup Quarterback is Under the Most Pressure?

Backup Quarterbacks with Key Opportunities

11/18/12 in NFL   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

It wasn’t that Jason Campbell’s Sunday night performance against the Texans was one of the weaker displays of quarterbacking in recent years – he didn’t get sacked once or turn the ball over at all – it was just a frustrating reminder of why NFL teams need good backups.  Especially when your Quarterback happens to be as fragile as a Jay Cutler. 
 
Yet Cutler wasn’t the only recent casualty amongst NFL hurlers, and after last week’s quarterback massacre, a good amount of playoff-race and even a few longevity questions require asking.
 
This weekend, those answers will begin to develop.
 
October 7, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) looks on from the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 16-14. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE1. Beginning of the Foles Era?
 
At 3-6, the Eagles are pretty much a sure thing to miss the playoffs for the second straight year, and it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if both Andy Reid and Michael Vick aren’t invited back in 2013.  In other words, it’s time for a change in Philly, and thanks to some flashes of potential, there’s hope that rookie QB Nick Foles could be the answer they’re looking for.
 
The former Arizona Wildcat put together an impressive preseason, completing 40 of his 63 passes for 533 yards with 6 Touchdowns and 2 Interceptions, good for a Quarterback Rating of 110.1.  Then last week against Dallas after Vick went down, Foles went 22 for 32 for 219 yards with 1 Touchdown, 1 pick and 1 lost fumble.
 
But this weekend he’ll have the game to himself, and what better opportunity to win over the crucial Philly fans than by winning a game on the road against division rival Washington and fellow rookie Robert Griffin III?
 
A strong performance could lead to some hope for Philadelphia’s future, but a struggle could lead to the Eagles faithful riding him out of town before he even realizes the QB spot is his to lose.
 
November 4, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich (4) warms up before the start of an NFL game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE2. Leftwich’s Return
 
Byron Leftwich’s last NFL regular season start came in week 3 of 2009 for the Buccaneers.  It was a game where Leftwich played so poorly that he was pulled for rookie Quarterback Josh Freeman and then didn’t see the field the rest of the year.
 
Now in his second stint with the Steelers, Leftwich is making his return as a starting Quarterback at a pivotal time in Pittsburgh’s season.  The Steelers’ playoff hopes look pretty promising as they’re currently tied for the top wildcard spot in the AFC with a 6-3 record and no one below the top 6 in the AFC has a record of .500 or better.  But Sunday night they’ll host bitter-rival and division leader Baltimore.  A victory without Roethlisberger wouldn’t only be a significant statement, but it would make for a tie at the top of the AFC North.  A loss drops the team to an underwhelming 6-4 with a game in Baltimore still to play.

Aug 24, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Cgicago Bears quarterback Jason Campbell (2) during the second half against the New York Giants at Metlife Stadium. The Bears won the game 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE3. Campbell Rides Again
 
As mentioned earlier, losing Cutler against Houston was devastating for the Bears.  His past experience as a starter definitely makes Campbell a more adequate backup than Caleb Hanne was last year, but it was clear the coaching staff was unwilling to take chances with him in the game, and similarly clear that Campbell couldn’t navigate through the Houston defense.
 
Well things shouldn’t be much easier this Monday in San Francisco.  Despite being 7-1 with a little comfort on top of the NFC North standings going into week 10, it’s now looking like Green Bay could potentially be right up there with the Bears at 7-3 going into week 12.  And the wildcard race in the NFC isn’t looking nearly as set-in-stone as the AFC’s, with 4 non-division leaders currently over .500.
 
Translation: Cutler better get back soon, or the team better figure out how to operate with Campbell.
 
Sept 30, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs with the ball during the second half at MetLIfe Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Jets 34-0.  Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE4. Kaepernick’s Shot?
  
This is something I couldn’t be more intrigued about.  Alex Smith hasn’t been ruled out of Sunday’s game – word is that he just needs to pass a contact test to be cleared – but is anyone else curious to see how another Quarterback might fit into Greg Roman’s offense?
 
Smith has done a great job in the Harbaugh era, but if I’m an opposing team, I’m just never really that afraid of him.  He’s a capable and smart passer, but overall a little underwhelming, and after six and a half up-and-down seasons for Smith in San Francisco, I’d like to see what more of a game-changing Quarterback could do.  Whether or not Kaepernick is that guy is still a big question, but we may know shortly.
 
After just one year in the league, we’ve already seen some big improvements from Kaepernick, albeit with a limited sample size.  In his first preseason last year, Kaepernick threw 5 picks and no Touchdowns, barely seeing the field during the course of his rookie year.  But in 2012’s preseason, Kaepernick completed 25 of his 39 passes for 297 yards and 2 Touchdowns.  He also ran for 122 yards and a Touchdown.  But best of all was the fact that he didn’t turn the ball over a single time – a staple of the Harbaugh system, and a big sign that the young Quarterback has made some serious improvements.
 
His strong preseason has helped him see the field a little more this season, but he’s yet to really get the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat for a full game.  This week would be a tough debut against a stingy Chicago defense, but a successful outing could really open some eyes and raise some serious Alex Smith questions in San Fran.
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