Six weeks are in the books, and several teams have already made a change at the quarterback position, whether due to injury or ineptitude. Some backups have flourished after stepping into the spotlight (SEE: New England's Bailey Zappe), while others have floundered (Cleveland's Jacoby Brissett).
Today, I'm taking a look at five interesting quarterback situations and discussing whether each team should stick with the current QB1 or make a switch. Let's dive in:
This one is pretty simple. We know what Jacoby Brissett is: a solid game manager who isn't going to regularly transcend the Xs and Os. And that's OK for a team that has an exceptional run game and a solid defense. What's not OK? The giveaways. Brissett had three in Sunday's loss to New England.
Brissett has logged four games with a sub-80 passer rating this season. Not ideal. But while the Browns sit at 2-4 in mid-October, I don't see this team being better off with Joshua Dobbs under center (or Kellen Mond, for that matter). Taken by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Dobbs has never started a pro game. He has played in six games over the course of his career -- all with Pittsburgh -- with the most recent appearance coming in Week 17 of 2020.
Brissett does have to be better -- and MUST protect the football -- but he's not the only reason the Browns aren't winning.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Make no mistake about it: Bailey Zappe has stepped up and performed admirably in his two starts. In fact, he's the first rookie to win each of his first two career QB starts with a 100-plus passer rating in both games since Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen in 1957. He deserves all of the attention he's getting right now. But keeping him as QB1 over Mac Jones isn't quite that easy -- even if this year's stats suggest otherwise ...
|2022||Bailey Zappe||Mac Jones|
Though Zappe has been effective, the fourth-rounder is benefitting from a coaching staff that has figured it out. The Patriots were bad from a schematic standpoint early in the season, leading to Jones' struggles, but they're finally leaning on the run game with Rhamondre Stevenson, who's had 44 carries for 237 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and two TDs over the last two weeks.
When Jones is healthy, I'd put him right back in the game without hesitation. The second-year quarterback practiced all last week but was limited with a high ankle sprain before ultimately being inactive for Sunday's game in Cleveland. Jones, who took the Patriots to the postseason as a rookie in 2021, has a much higher ceiling than Zappe and is far and away the best QB on the roster. He's very Tom Brady-like in terms of his poise in the pocket and is as good as anybody in the league from an overall processing standpoint. There is no controversy, as far as I'm concerned.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton are both 1-2 in games they've started this season. Dalton has been a sufficient fill-in, completing 63.1 percent of his passes for 585 yards with three TDs and one INT. The Dalton-led offense has found success by creatively deploying Taysom Hill and other playmakers (SEE: Rashid Shaheed), but I do think this offense is better with Winston under center. You might have to stomach some turnovers, but the big-play potential allows New Orleans to compete with the titans of the NFC.
I liked Winston in this system last season before his season-ending injury and saw some good things from him early this season, as well (not including the five picks in Weeks 2-3), before he was sidelined with back and ankle injuries. An aggressive quarterback can thrive in this offense, especially with an improved run game in recent weeks. Bottom line: The best version of the Saints' offense has Winston behind center. Also, it sure would help to have Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Jarvis Landry and Alvin Kamara on the field at the same time.
It was reported Monday morning by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Mitch Trubisky's week 4 benching was due to a rift at halftime between the QB and wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Of course, Trubisky had also not played well through three and half games, completing 59.5 percent of his pass attempts for 653 yards with two TDs and two INTs.
Rookie Kenny Pickett was the team's starter in Weeks 5 and 6; he and the entire Pittsburgh team got thumped by the Bills in Week 5, but Pickett was playing well against the Bucs before he exited in the third quarter with a concussion. However, he didn't play as well as Trubisky did in relief. The veteran completed nine of his 12 pass attempts for 144 yards, a TD and a 142.4 passer rating to help the Steelers earn just their second win of the season. It was the best the offense has looked all season, with Trubisky pushing the ball downfield, making some completions in tight windows and hitting targets on third down.
Even if Pickett is cleared to play Sunday night in Miami, I think I'd still roll with Trubisky. I know that's not the approach Mike Tomlin is taking, stating on Tuesday that Pickett will start if he gets the medical green light. I fully appreciate that it's tough when teams go back and forth between starters, but Tomlin can avoid some of the scrutiny because of how well Trubisky played in Sunday's win over the Bucs -- and because of how the original benching went down. Sometimes it takes a reality check for urgency to ignite in a player, and I'm hoping that's the case with Trubisky.
Trubisky and Pickett are pretty similar players, but the former has more experience. Play the vet now. Worst-case scenario? You eventually turn back to Pickett, giving him the reins for good.
It's next man up in Washington with Carson Wentz set to miss roughly 4-to-6 weeks after having surgery Monday on a fractured ring finger. Taylor Heinicke was Wentz's backup through the first six weeks of the season and will be the starter in Week 7 over rookie Sam Howell. That is undoubtedly the right choice for the 2-4 Commanders -- at least right now.
This is Heinicke's third season with the team, and he's familiar with the scheme and supporting cast. In 2020, Heinicke's lone start came on Super Wild Card Weekend against eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, a game in which he gave Tom Brady a run for his money. And in 15 starts (7-8) in 2021, Heinicke threw for 3,419 yards with 20 TDs and 15 INTs. This is the guy the Commanders must attempt to save their season with, and they certainly can still do that. The coaching staff would almost definitely lose the locker room if it were to start a fifth-round rookie this early in the season over a guy who was last year's QB1, especially after Ron Rivera's comments following the team's Week 5 loss. Heinicke is a guy this team can win with. As a veteran with starting experience, he throws with good anticipation and gives his playmakers chances.
I'd give Heinicke the job until it's time to consider whether or not to hand the reins back to a healthy Wentz. If it gets to a point where the season is lost, which might come after the Commanders' Week 14 bye, that's when you look at giving Howell a multi-game audition to prove he's the QB of the future. Because, early on, it looks like Washington is going to come out of this season with a major question at the game's most important position.
Wentz hasn't been the answer in 2022, throwing for 1,489 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions on 62.1 percent completions while also taking a league-high 23 sacks. The Commanders can cut their losses with Wentz in the offseason without taking on any dead money, while Heinicke is a good backup option at this point in his career. Howell is the biggest question mark, but he'll likely have a chance to show what he's got before the end of the season.
Top 15 Offensive Players
Each week in the 2022 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season's efforts. The Week 7 pecking order is below.
NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.
Allen outplayed Patrick Mahomes to finally lead the Bills to glory at Arrowhead Stadium, cementing his place atop the MVP race while establishing Buffalo as the team to beat league-wide. In the fourth quarter, Allen completed six of his nine pass attempts for 67 yards and a TD, good for a 125.7 passer rating. He's at the peak of his powers. Now here's hoping he maintains this level of play for the next four months.
While Allen thrived late in Sunday's marquee matchup, Mahomes' level decreased. In the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, the former MVP posted a 43.5 passer rating, sealing a Buffalo win with his second pick of the contest. Credit the Bills' stout defense for applying pressure and forcing Mahomes into his mistakes.
Kupp once again led the Rams in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (80) in their win over the Panthers. Los Angeles' offense has been a work in progress this season, with the O-line having six different starting combinations in 2022 and running back Cam Akers likely on his way out of town. No matter how many changes the Rams undergo to find their groove, Kupp remains the most important component.
New England's defense stymied Cleveland's offense, which entered Week 6 ranked No. 6 in scoring, in the first half on Sunday. The Browns put up six points, Chubb had just eight carries for 30 yards, and Jacoby Brissett went 9-of-17 for 91 yards and a pick. Still, with the game not totally out of hand until late in the third quarter, I was surprised to see Kevin Stefanski get away from his best playmaker (Chubb) for so much of the game, especially with Brissett playing so loose with the football. After having 85-plus yards in each of his first five games this season, Chubb finished with 56 yards on 12 carries. Twelve carries for the best running back in the league is unacceptable.
The Vikings' offense was stuck in the mud early Sunday, with the Dolphins stopping the run game and blanketing Jefferson. Once Kevin O'Connell got his star wideout more involved, the offense looked completely different. That's the impact Jefferson, who finished with 107 yards on six catches, has on Minnesota's success.
Against the Bills, Kelce had his biggest output in terms of yards since Week 1. The Pro Bowl tight end had 108 receiving yards on eight receptions, tying Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez for the second-most games (31) with 100-plus receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history. Only Rob Gronkowski has more with 32.
Barkley had another big performance against the Ravens, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 1:43 left in the game after a Lamar Jackson INT. Perhaps the most notable play of Barkley's day was his intentional slide to avoid a touchdown with 1:24 remaining, allowing the Giants to then run out the clock. That awareness is part of what makes the star RB such an asset to this team.
Hurts continues to play better each time he takes the field while finding different ways to win. In Week 5 against Arizona, he used his legs to find the end zone. In this past Sunday's prime-time victory over Dallas, he connected with playmakers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith for scores. The Eagles head into their bye week as the only undefeated team, with the rapidly improving young quarterback deserving significant credit.
Baltimore blew another double-digit lead. This time, it was due to Jackson's two giveaways on the Ravens' final two possessions against the Giants:
- Jackson threw an INT with three minutes remaining, leading to Saquon Barkley's go-ahead rush TD.
- Jackson was strip-sacked with 1:30 left, ultimately allowing New York to kneel out the clock.
Jackson's play hasn't been up to his standard over the past three weeks, and it's possible he's trying to do too much, often leading to miscues and poor decisions.
Diggs sliced up the Chiefs' secondary with 10 catches for 148 receiving yards, including a 17-yard touchdown reception. It was his sixth TD of the season, making me believe he'll best his previous career mark of 10 TDs (set in 2021) before December.
A lot went wrong for the Dolphins against the Vikings -- penalties, turnovers, a failed fake punt -- but Hill's individual effort allowed the Fins to hang around. Miami's WR1 is always open, making life easier for whoever's in at quarterback. While the Dolphins lost their third straight game, Hill had 177 yards on 12 receptions, keeping him at the top of the NFL in receiving yards and second in catches. The talented Dolphins should return to the win column soon, with Tua Tagovailoa set to return this weekend.
Coming off the bye week, the 1-4 Raiders are in good position for a turnaround -- and it starts with Sunday's home game vs. the Texans. The last time Adams played Houston, back in Week 7 of 2020, he caught 13 balls for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Robert Saleh's defense controlled the game from start to finish, holding Rodgers and the Packers' offense to 278 yards on 69 plays (just 4.0 yards per play). It was bad on all fronts, as Green Bay converted just four of 16 third downs against the Jets, failed to capitalize on its lone trip to the red zone and turned the ball over on downs twice in the second half. Rodgers, who was sacked four times, said after the 27-10 home loss that the Packers should "simplify" the offense to get the unit back on track. It's worth trying after watching the veteran QB struggle to get into rhythm and in sync with his young supporting cast. We knew Davante Adams was valuable to Matt LaFleur's offense, but maybe he was even more valuable than we all thought.
Herbert didn't have his best performance in Monday night's overtime win over division-rival Denver, as he didn't have a single TD pass for just the second game in his pro career. A dominant Broncos defense deserves some of the credit, but Herbert can be much better -- and will need to be as we get deeper into the season.
After a disastrous Week 1 performance, in which Burrow had five giveaways, he has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league, with one giveaway in Weeks 2 through 6. Most recently, Burrow led the Bengals over the Saints with 300 pass yards and three TDs, including the game-winning score on a 60-yard pass to Ja'Marr Chase. (Granted, Chase did most of the work there -- what a weapon.)
JUST MISSED: Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers (Previously No. 15); Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Bengals; A.J. Brown, WR, Eagles; Derrick Henry, RB, Titans; Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks.