Lawrence: QB Crisis

Week 2 took a massive toll on the most important position in football and drastically altered the NFL landscape, Amy Lawrence says

Amy Lawrence
September 17, 2019 - 7:35 pm
Saints Drew Brees

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The second week of the NFL schedule may be remembered as the one that turned the season upside down. At the very least, the landscape around the league has been altered drastically over the last few days.

Worst case scenario belongs to the 0-and-2 Pittsburgh Steelers. With Ben Roethlisberger facing the repair and rehab of his throwing elbow, he's out the rest of the year. He complained about some soreness after the season-opener in New England, and he was shaking his arm between snaps in Sunday's first half against the Seahawks. While he vows to return from what he calls a "devastating" blow, Roethlisberger can only serve as coach and tutor for the rest of 2019. Mason Rudolph will make his second career start at San Francisco in Week 3. His teammates praised how prepared he was to hit the field with very little notice when Ben exited. But there's always a learning curve for young QBs as they adjust to the speed of the game. Plus their linemen and receivers must adjust to a different style and technique. However, James Conner's knee injury isn't expected to keep him on the shelf. A healthy ground game could be Rudolph's greatest asset as he takes over the offense.

The news isn't quite as jarring for another of the NFL's elder statesmen in New Orleans. The Saints could be without Drew Brees for six weeks or more while he recovers from surgery to fix a torn ligament in his throwing hand. But the way their schedule lines up, they only face one divisional opponent prior to November. Five of their six NFC South battles fall in the second half of the season. Brees could be back in time to help them defend their division title if they can stay afloat until then. The Saints invested in Teddy Bridgewater by making him the league's highest-paid back-up QB. They believe he could be the eventual successor to Brees. The former Pro Bowler has 20 starts to his credit, including a playoff game with the Vikings. The more he practices with the first string, the more comfortable he'll get. He says he's confident and in the best physical and mental shape of his career. But Bridgewater doesn't have the accuracy or consistency of Brees, nor can he stretch the field like Brees. The offensive line needs to bear down in front of him, and Alvin Kamara needs to dazzle to keep defenses honest.

The Jets find themselves in unique territory. When Luke Falk makes his first career start Sunday, they will be just the sixth team in the Super Bowl era (not including the 1987 strike) to start three different quarterbacks in their first three games. Not a piece of history NFL franchises are eager to share. Backup Trevor Siemian sustained major ligament damage in his left ankle on a flagged hit by Browns' defensive end Myles Garrett, and he's done for the year. Sam Darnold made an appearance at the Jets' facilities on Tuesday and told reporters he's feeling better and hasn't lost much weight while he deals with mono, though he hasn't thrown a football either. The Jets' sophomore starter also let it slip that doctors are targeting Week 5 for his possible return to the huddle. For now, the job is Falk's. He vaults from practice squad to Monday Night Football to prep for the Patriots—all within a few days. Life comes at you fast!

The Carolina Panthers are defined by uncertainty on their QB depth chart. Cam Newton was still trying to shake off the rust from last winter's shoulder surgery and a preseason foot sprain when he re-injured himself against the Buccaneers. Now his team maintains a holding pattern while he gets treatment on his foot to see if he can manage Week 3. If not, Kyle Allen will make his second career start. Coach Ron Rivera likes Allen's decision-making but wants him to speed up and go through his reads more quickly as he finds his rhythm.

The New York Giants are the first team this fall to switch quarterbacks for something other than injury or illness. After dropping their first two games, they bench Eli Manning in favor of rookie Daniel Jones, the controversy of last spring's NFL Draft. The Duke product showed plenty of promise this summer; he offers energy, a big arm, athleticism, and the ability to run. The Giants' poor play definitely cannot be pinned on Manning alone. The receiving corps is massively depleted, and the defense has allowed 63 points already. Jones represents the future, and if New York brass doesn't believe they can win now, why not jump start the future? It's a long season, so Manning's services may be required again. But he's in the final year of his contract, and at 38, he'll have to decide if he wants to extend his career elsewhere or retire as a life-long Giant.

Week 2 of the NFL season took a massive toll on the most important position in football. It's a dangerous business. There's no way to avoid the risk, even with all the new rules designed to protect quarterbacks. A handful of teams now face the ultimate football crisis with no choice but to press forward. The Jaguars can certainly empathize. The 49ers and Eagles can, too, along with the Redskins, Packers and Bengals. And that's just a short list.

As we sort through the aftermath and implications, one thing is true: the QB landscape looks entirely different than what we expected when the season kicked off a few short weeks ago.

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, cbssportsradio.com and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.

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