Unanswered Questions: Recapping Friday's NFL Preseason Action

Aug. 17, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback (4) Kevin Kolb looks to pass the ball as Oakland Raiders defensive tackle (92) Richard Seymour pressures in the second half during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

A trio of quarterback battles were no closer to being resolved in Friday night's NFL preseason games.

Arizona's quarterback battle ended just under the five-minute mark in the first quarter of their game against the Raiders. Tommy Kelly blew up the right side of the Cardinals' porous offensive line, bringing down a quarterback thoroughly confused by his surroundings.

Kelly offered some insight into Kolb's play at the half:

The safety came on Kolb's second drive of the game, one play after he was flagged for intentional grounding at the 1-yard line. Defensive tackles usually suffer from hyperbole, but anyone watching the game, or the Cardinals' last two games, did not need Kelly's first-hand analysis to see that Kolb had a problem.

John Skelton had a better night, going 3-for-3 in a milquetoast offense. How much longer will the Cardinals allow the quarterback battle to continue? Head coach Ken Whisenhunt offered little beyond a few indeterminate quips on his quarterback situation. They have two more preseason games, the next at Tennessee, to make that determination.

Whichever quarterback gets the nod in Arizona will need to be a quick study in working under pressure, and probably ought to invest in a good flak jacket. The offensive line struggled to create anything resembling protection for the quarterbacks, and the work of the first and second teams was indistinguishable. Making matters worse, Levi Brown suffered a triceps injury that could be serious. His status is still unknown.

Jake Locker Struggles

In Tennessee, second-year quarterback Jake Locker was supposed to be on his way to removing all doubts about who the starting signal caller would be for the Titans. Instead, he left fans wondering if he was ready for the starting job after a 4-for-11 performance riddled with QB 101 mistakes like throwing across the body to the opposite field.

Music City Miracles, SB Nation's Titans blog, reacts to Locker's performance:

This is a bump in the road that should not be a huge surprise from a second year guy who has never started an NFL game. The big question now is how does Jake Locker bounce back from this? Does he follow it up with a bad week of practice, or is he the first person in the building this week trying to make sure it doesn't happen again?

Back To Earth For Tannehill

First a question: Why can no NFL announcer get Ryan Tannehill's name right? Vowel struggles aside, Tannehill had a much rougher outing than he did last week. Making his first start of the preseason, Tannehill went 11-for-23 with 100 yards.

What was positive about the rookie's work was that he did not wilt after being sacked three times and pressured constantly when he was playing behind the second-team offensive line. Tackle Jonathan Martin did little to help his fellow rookie.

The Phinsider still likes Tannehill's chances to win the starting job, and it's hard to disagree after watching him.

While Tannehill still looks like a rookie out there at times, and was clearly dealing with nerves to start the game, he is playing better than Moore, who still looks like he is learning the system. If Tannehill is declared the winner of the quarterback competition, he's going to make rookie mistakes at times, but once he gets into a rhythm, he clearly will be able to move the offense better than Moore right now.

Blaine Gabbert?

There is no quarterback battle in Jacksonville, just an existential struggle within Blaine Gabbert, last year's first-round pick. At this point, the criticisms of the Mizzou product are familiar: He lacks pocket presence, cannot handle pressure, etc.

Gabbert went about the business of disrupting narratives on Friday night. He was 13-for-16 with 112 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, those are more meaningless preseason numbers, but his poise under pressure cannot be so easily written off. This 16-yard touchdown pass to Justin Blackmon in the first quarter sums it up pretty well. He makes an accurate throw into a tight window. And look, he does it while being pressured.


SB Nation Jaguars blog Big Cat Country put Gabbert's night into a larger frame:

The most impressive thing in the game was the way the offense just seemed in rhythm and in synch, something we haven't seen from the Jaguars in quite some time.

Gabbert is not going to turn around overnight, but this was a positive step forward. The Jaguars take on the Ravens next week, whose first team defense will provide a stiffer test for Gabbert.

Some other notable names from Friday's games:

Rashad Jennings, RB - The Jaguars' running back looked pretty sharp working in place of Maurice Jones-Drew, who is still holding out. He ran for 62 yards on 11 carries. MJD will be back in all likelihood, but Jennings will be a nice insurance policy if he struggles at all upon his return.

Chris Johnson, RB - The Titans' running back looked very much like the old version of himself, the one that ran for more than 2,000 yards in 2009. That number may not happen again, but he had his speed working for him and was making some razor sharp cuts.

Detroit Lions Offense - We're not supposed to read anything into preseason numbers, but the Detroit Lions' offense, the starters, gave us a hint of the damage they can do this season. Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson connected for one of Megatron's super human grabs. Titus Young's 24-yard touchdown keeps alive the idea that he could be in for a big season.


Christian Ponder, QB - Minnesota's second-year quarterback put together his second-consecutive solid outing against the Bills. He was 10-for-13 with 136 yards and a touchdown to Jerome Felton. He got some help from his offensive cast of characters, including Jerome Simpson turning a 4-yard catch into a 33-yard gain.


Doug Martin, RB - Tampa Bay's rookie runner may have locked up the starting job. LeGarrette Blount suffered a minor groin injury, which looked pretty serious at the time, but Martin outplayed his counterpart. Martin and Blount were always going to be featured heavily in the Buccaneers' offense, but now Martin should be available for more than just third down duties.

Who else stood out from Friday's games? Good or bad, which other players should be on the radar with the regular season getting close?

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