QB stability: some teams don’t care

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Call it the QB Shuffle. Or the QB Quandary.

Whatever it’s called, the NFL position that normally needs more stability than any is in a state of flux from coast to coast.

Nine teams _ Buffalo, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Tennessee, Oakland, Philadelphia, Carolina and Detroit _ already have used their backup quarterback. Some of the moves were because of injuries, but five clubs already have turned to No. 2 by choice, even if just temporarily.

So what in the name of Peyton and Eli Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees is going on?

“It is getting tougher and tougher to play the position, not only from a physical standpoint of throwing the ball, but from a mental standpoint and what you are seeing from defenses,” says Ron Jaworski, the former Eagles starter and now ESPN’s analyst for Monday night football games. No one watches more film of quarterbacks than Jaworski, which gives him particular insight into the upheaval at the position through just two weeks of the schedule.

“You always will have the elite guys, but once you start getting beyond No. 12 or 13, it’s hard to find the other 19 consistent quarterbacks in this league.”

Hard? Maybe impossible.

The quarterback changes thus far run the gamut from bad health to bad play to bad vibes.

In Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit and Cleveland, injuries had plenty to do with the switches. Even those, however, merit further examination.

The Steelers knew since April that Ben Roethlisberger would be suspended for at least four weeks. They hoped to get by with Byron.

But Byron Leftwich, an eight-year veteran, hurt his left knee in the preseason, which meant third-stringer Dennis Dixon moved behind center. Dixon was a winner in Week 1, even though the Steelers didn’t score a touchdown until overtime, and that came on a long run. He went down in Week 2 with a left knee problem, bringing in Charlie Batch and making wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, a quarterback in college way back at the beginning of the century, the second-stringer.

Now Leftwich, who was waived last weekend and re-signed Monday, is back. And backing up Batch.

“He’s been with the starters, he’s been with the second team, he’s been with the third team,” wide receiver Hines Ward sums up Batch’s career. “He understands all the wide receivers. He probably understands this offense better than anybody. We feel good, we’ve just got to protect Charlie.”

The Eagles couldn’t protect Kevin Kolb well enough and he sustained a concussion in an opening loss. Michael Vick came in and starred, then did even better in a victory over Detroit with Kolb sidelined.

So Vick stays as the starter after coach Andy Reid reversed his earlier decision not to strip Kolb of the job because of injury.

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