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Training camp roundup: Handicapping QB competitions

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Should E.J. Manuel be the favorite to win the Bills job? (USATSI)
Should E.J. Manuel be the favorite to win the Bills job? (USATSI)

Lots of the time when a rookie quarterback's competing against just-a-guy veterans for a starting spot in the NFL, the competition ends up getting rigged. But in the primary quarterback battles around the NFL, it doesn't look like the rookies -- or even the guys who were high picks previously -- are getting too much leeway towards winning the job.

Let's spin around the starting quarterback battles and then we'll take a look at the rest of the news from Monday's training camp action.

Bills
Doug Marrone is currently giving both Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel a shot to win the job and it appears legitimate even though one is a first-round pick and the other is Kevin Kolb. Don't hold your breath for the winner -- Marrone is expecting to make a call on who starts somewhere in the range of 10 days before the season begins.

"Again, you like to sit there as a coach and say you'd like that decision to just come up in front of you," Marrone said when asked about his timeline. "Really, if you can get 10-12 days prior to that first game, that's when you're going to get pressed for time and have to make a decision on a quarterback. That's when you're probably going to start preparing 10 days out of the first game."

Manuel's the rook you would expect just to be handed the job in this case. Kolb, who signed with the Bills before the draft, seems like a long shot to win the job against a first-round pick, but he also believes he's going to get a fair shake of things. If it's me and I just invested a first-round pick in a guy like Manuel, he's getting the job and we're going to see what he can do surrounded by C.J. Spiller, T.J. Graham and Stevie Johnson. The Bills have lots of weapons, so why not see if the rook can use them? Kolb saw the first snap and slightly more snaps Monday, but I'd still give Manuel the early lead on this job just because of what kind of investment he involves.

Eagles
Your guess on who wins this job is as good as mine, though I do find this prediction, relating to Michael Vick and Nick Foles actually making the roster, quite bold:

Mosher clarified that it's a prediction and not a report, but says it's one based on discussions with "other front office personnel." It seems absolutely insane that the Eagles would string this out and then dump a quarterback if they don't win, especially in the event that Vick wins, given how fragile he is.

Jeff Darlington of NFL Network reported that Monday "was Vick's day" and that Vick took a decent lead Monday (day four of training camp) with Matt Barkley "very clearly" being the third guy for the Eagles.

Vick's gotta be the favorite for now, with his athleticism giving him an edge over Foles primarily because of the different types of offense Kelly can run with him under center.

Jets
I actually lean the other way with New York, mainly because the Jets have no weapons. Throwing Geno Smith in this smoldering fire of putridity might result in permanent scarring. Of course, so could losing a competition to Mark Sanchez, right?

Smith's condition was "embarrassing" according to NFL Network's Brian Baldinger, but Heath Evans noted that Smith looked pretty darn good.

"You see a lot of accuracy, a lot of zip on the ball obviously from Geno," Evans said on NFLN. "You see some balls sailing, or what I would say floating, for Mark Sanchez."

Sanchez is Rex Ryan's guy, but Rex is also facing a make-or-break year where not getting to .500 or better -- a very, very tough task -- might cost him his job. If he thinks Geno gives New York the best chance to win, and it sure sounds like the consensus is starting to become that Geno does just that, it's hard to imagine Ryan sticking stubbornly in Sanchez corner through 2013 too.

If Geno looks ready, I'd roll him out there, but I'd also be wary of wrecking his life by playing with bad talent instead of using Sanchez as a sacrificial lamb. Plus, with John Idzik having drafted Geno, you've got to think the new GM wants to see his guy play. He already started his own clock when he grabbed a quarterback, so there's not a ton of logic behind not starting his clock too.

Raiders
It definitely seemed like Tyler Wilson or Terrelle Pryor could be sleepers to take the starting job from would-be, de-facto starting quarterback Matt Flynn.

And that's really only because this should be a wide-open competition and we've seen Flynn lose to a rookie before. But Tyler Wilson is no Russell Wilson -- he's had "some rough moments" in training camp so far, while Flynn's been "fairly consistent and error free" thus far, according to Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune.

McDonald also notes that Pryor's "improved as a passer" which should be good news if the team struggles and wants to see what they've got there or if Flynn goes down.

It's not as if Flynn just fell apart last year; he was injured and Wilson stepped up to take the Seahawks job. It doesn't sound as if either Wilson or Pryor will do that to Flynn this year barring an injury.

Jaguars
Thanks to an ankle injury for Blaine Gabbert, it's hard to not think that Chad Henne's prepped to take the lead in this race. You would think that Gabbert would get one last chance to prove his worth, but the guys running Jacksonville didn't draft him, so he's not viewed as a heavy investment the way he was by the previous regime.

Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell have to know (as does Shad Khan) that 2013 could be a serious struggle. It's not about finding out if Gabbert can be "not terrible" so much as it's about trying to field the most competitive team in what should be a down year.

In other words, Gabbert's not getting the job just because he's a first-round pick from recent years. If Henne uses Gabbert's injury to vault himself into the lead and can develop a rapport with Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, it wouldn't be a shock if he started by any stretch.

Injury Bug
Good news on the injury front: there weren't any season-ending injuries on Monday. (Update: Turns out, yes there were. See last item below.)

  • In the big(ger-est?) injury news of the day, Blaine Gabbert went down at Jaguars training camp and now has a sprained ankle. He'll be evaluated for the next two days. You might think two days isn't enough time for Chad Henne to work his magic, but you would ... OK you would be right. This is still bad news for Blaine.
  • Bills defensive end Mario Williams is dealing with a foot injury that's keeping him from practicing at Buffalo's training camp. This contract is going very well so far don't you think?

  • Eagles linebacker Jason Phillips tore his ACL at practice Monday, according to NFL.com's Jeff Darlington, and he's done for the 2013 season.

NO TOUCHING
Typically teams start tackling during training camp, but not Chip Kelly's Eagles. Kelly told reporters that outside of the preseason, there won't be any tackling.

The logic is basically this: tons of injuries occur during pileups and tackles, and when you accumulate enough injuries during the preseason you can start getting a pretty thin depth chart.

Skincetera
Is there any NFL team more bloggable than the Redskins? Just from Monday we have Robert Griffin III rolling out to get doughnuts.

We've got a couple honeymooning in Richmond for training camp because sweating out four pounds of Johnny Rockets every day while being uncovered in the sweltering sun sounds so much better than sitting on a Carribean beach and sipping a pina colada, right?

NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

And we have ... this:

What the hell, man?

Don't Flip That Switch
Former All-Pro linebacker Sean Merriman, aka Lights Out, announced his retirment a few months ago. But he's apparently not satisified with life away from football and is using Twitter to try and get back into the game.

You know, it's not that horrible an idea really. Give the guy a small contract and worst case is he's a monstrous charitable donation. (OK worst case he's Lofa Totupu. But still.)

Doesn't appear Merriman's going to get his wish though.

The Kraken Loves the Kraken
Jerry West visited the Panthers training camp at Wofford on Monday -- apparently the Logo and Jerry Richardson are buddies -- and made quite an impression on the young Carolina team. So much so that Greg Hardy thinks he's the second-coolest guy Greg Hardy has ever met. Behind who? Greg Hardy of course.

You Could Watch This ... All Day
Adrian Peterson helmet cam during training camp? Adrian Peterson helmet cam during training camp:

Hey Rookie
Hazing is one of my favorite things ever. So thank you, Broncos, for hazing rookie Ross Rasner who is, um, somewhere under here:

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