Monday, July 4, 2022

2022 NFL training camp battles: Steelers headline six most intriguing QB competitions to watch

This offseason was the offseason of the quarterback. Besides Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr landing new mega deals, and Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson angling for their own, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz all swapped teams via trade. And that’s not even touching on this summer’s anticipated QB competitions!

Speaking of the latter, here are the six most intriguing QB battles to watch in training camp:

6. Marcus Mariota vs. Desmond Ridder (Falcons)


Desmond Ridder USATSI

Ever since Atlanta spent a third-round pick on Ridder, plenty have forecast the rookie taking over at some point in 2022. Mariota’s familiarity with coach Arthur Smith from their days in Tennessee still makes him the safe bet to open Week 1 under center. Still, he’s never proven to be especially durable or consistent as a passer, so don’t rule out the rookie. Regardless, no one’s drooling over this fight to be the placeholder for a roster back to square one of a rebuild.

5. Geno Smith vs. Drew Lock (Seahawks)

Barring a late play for Baker Mayfield, Seattle seems set on rolling the dice in its first year post-Wilson. A subsequent doubling down on its old-school, run-first approach might be the only plan of attack, considering Smith hasn’t been a regular starter since 2014 and Lock is trying to shake a reputation as a wild gunslinger. The latter is the more intriguing option because he’s still got unpolished upside, but would Seattle dare cut him loose? Smith knows the system but is a No. 2 for a reason.

4. Sam Darnold vs. Matt Corral (Panthers)

This one’s got some juice just because it highlights how dysfunctional the QB plans have unfolded in Carolina, where owner David Tepper’s apparent desperation for a big arm has somehow resulted in Darnold entering the summer on track to return as the guy. Maybe Darnold will finally find his footing with a better line? Corral’s confidence and athleticism are notable, but is he any more reliable? The best-case scenario is Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo arrives for some added late drama.

3. Trey Lance vs. Jimmy Garoppolo’s shadow (49ers)


Trey Lance, left, and Jimmy Garoppolo USATSI

Jimmy G is still employed by San Francisco even as he rehabs from shoulder surgery and anticipates his long-anticipated exit. All signs point, of course, to the 49ers cutting him if they can’t find a trade partner, thanks to the veteran’s hefty $26.95 million cap hit. But no matter how that split unfolds, Lance and his unproven athleticism will be vying to take over a locker room that’s seen Garoppolo — middling as he may be at times — lead the club to two NFC Championship appearances in three years.

2. Deshaun Watson vs. the NFL (Browns)

In case you weren’t aware, the QB to whom Cleveland committed a record $230 million after surrendering three first-round picks and change is facing 24 active civil lawsuits alleging he is a serial sexual predator. Watson hasn’t been criminally charged and has denied any wrongdoing, but he’s fully expected to be suspended for at least part of the 2022 season. The NFL‘s level of discipline could rewrite the Browns’ entire offensive strategy, with conservative journeyman Jacoby Brissett waiting in the wings.

1. Mitchell Trubisky vs. Kenny Pickett (Steelers)


Kenny Pickett USATSI

This one isn’t getting as much national attention as it warrants, being the only legit competition for a team built to remain in the playoff mix. Pickett is the hotter name, entering as the team’s first Day 1 QB pick since Ben Roethlisberger, not to mention with local roots and a history at Heinz Field. Trubisky, meanwhile, at least offers the mobility their offense lacked under center in 2021, and has the benefit of NFL experience. Mike Tomlin’s choice for the kickoff to another brawl for the AFC North will be noteworthy.

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