2022 NFL Preseason Primer: Quarterback Rotations

One of the most important facts in handicapping NFL preseason games is the backup quarterback. Most starting quarterbacks play very little, if at all during preseason. That’s understandable since the risk of injuries in a three-game preseason where wins and losses are irrelevant. In the preseason, it’s crucial to understand the quarterback rotations and how much each will play, which can be found in local newspapers and blogs. But knowledge of the quality of the backup quarterbacks is just as important.

Here is a current list of quarterback rotations for the 2022 season along with an analysis.

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Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, Case Keenum, Matt Barkley

There’s no reason to play Josh Allen, who would end up either getting hurt or hurting someone when he runs over them. Keenum is a solid backup with experience and should play a lot in preseason, while Barkley will play a lot third and fourth quarters.

Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater, Skylar Thompson

This is Tua’s job to lose, so don’t expect him to play much in preseason. Bridgewater is one of the top backups in the league and went 5-0 as the Saints’ starter in 2019, so he can fill in when needed. Thompson is a rookie seventh-rounder and candidate for the practice squad. He’ll see a lot of action in the second half of games.

New England Patriots: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Bailey Zappe

This preseason might be about Matt Patricia working out the kinks as the new play-caller with Josh McDaniels gone to the Raiders. Jones should play very little after having a solid rookie season. Hoyer is a Bill Belichick favorite who can mentor Jones and is a solid backup. Zappe was a fourth-round pick who will get a lot of time to show whether he can play.

New York Jets: Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White, Chris Streveler

Wilson should play some in preseason. He has a cannon of an arm, but his accuracy is lacking to be kind. Flacco can still sling it and should play some in preseason. White did play some last season, throwing for 953 yards with five TDs and eight INTs. Not a bad trio to have in preseason.


Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Brett Hundley, Anthony Brown

Notes: Expect Jackson to see very little time if any, considering he’s coming off an injury and is looking for a contract extension. Huntley threw for 1,081 yards with three TDs and four INTs last season. Hundley and Brown have seen very little time so expect them to get a lot of second half action.

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen, Jake Browning, Drew Plitt

Burrow is coming off an appendectomy, but there’s no reason to play him in preseason. Backup Brandon Alen will see a lot of time in preseason and he’s not bad. Browning spend two seasons on Minnesota’s practice squad so he’ll have to prove he can stick with a lot of time in preseason.

Cleveland Browns: Jacoby Brissett, Deshaun Watson, Josh Dobbs, Josh Rosen

Watson is allowed to play in preseason and practice, but he may not start because they will need Brissett to play at least the first six games of the regular season. That leaves the second half or late in the game for Dobbs and Rosen. Check Cleveland.com for more information before their first preseason game on whether Brissett and Watson play in the first game.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mitchell Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph, Chris Oladokun

This unit is a mess right now. Trubisky can’t find receivers in training camp. With that defense, they don’t need him to be great, but he can’t be horrible. He should play along with Pickett, a talented rookie from Pittsburgh. Rudolph could be the odd-man out, especially if they trade for Jimmy Garoppolo.


Houston Texans: Davis Mills, Kyle Allen, Jeff Driskel, Kevin Hogan

This is another one of those situations that’s not great for the regular season, but for preseason, it’s pretty good. Mills completed 66.8% of his passes for 2,664 yards as a rookie. But the team went just 2-9 in his 11 starts. But assuming he plays about a quarter or less in preseason, Allen, Driskel and Hogan are experienced backups who can put up numbers against inferior backups in preseason.

Indianapolis Colts: Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger, Jack Coan

Ryan is a 37-year old veteran who doesn’t move well, but might play some in preseason because he needs to get used to a new team with a new system. But they have an excellent backup in Foles, who won a Super Bowl with the Eagles. Ehlinger is a second-year backup who has yet to throw an NFL pass.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Jake Luton, Kyle Sloter

Lawrence won’t play in the opener, but Doug Pederson might want to see him play a series or two in preseason considering he threw 17 interceptions last season. Beathard is not a great quarterback by any means, but he’s had some experience with the 49ers, throwing for over 3,400 yards with 18 TDs and 13 INT. Luton is a 6-6 quarterback who has thrown for 624 yards with two TDs and six INTs in 2020.

Tennessee Titans: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, Malik Willis

This is another situation where you have a veteran quarterback in Tannehill, who doesn’t need to play in the preseason. But Malik Willis does need to play as the future starter. The 6-1 athletic quarterback from Liberty and Auburn will play a lot. Woodside was the backup the last two seasons and has seen very little action. He’s playing to remain on the team or find a job elsewhere.


Denver Broncos: Russell Wilson, Josh Johnson, Brett Rypien

Russell Wilson brings hope back to the Broncos, but there’s little reason to play him in preseason other than for him to get accustomed a new system. But with WR Tim Patrick going down with an ACL injury in camp, new coach Nathaniel Hackett should be extra careful. Johnson and Rypien will battle it out for the backup job. Neither is Wilson, but both are capable backups with experience who could be productive in preseason.

Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Shane Buechele, Dustin Crum

Mahomes is coming off a so-called down year, where he threw for 37 TDs and 4,839 yards. He shouldn’t play in preseason, which means a lot of Chad Henne, who has started just one regular-season game since 2016. Buechele is a former Texas quarterback who will battle Dustin Crum, a rookie from Kent State for the third spot.

Las Vegas Raiders: Derek Carr, Jarrett Stidham, Nick Mullens, Chase Garbers

Carr doesn’t need to play in preseason and neither does his new receiver Davante Adams. But Stidham has something to prove, coming over from New England. Mullens is more than a capable backup and third-string quarterback who will fight with Stidham for the backup job.

Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick, Brandon Peters

Herbert doesn’t need to prove anything in preseason. Daniel has been around awhile as a capable backup. Who is Easton Stick? He’s a former fifth-round pick from North Dakota State in 2019 and has not appeared in any regular season games. He certainly has something to prove in preseason.



Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier, Ben DiNucci

Prescott doesn’t need to play at all. Rush had a win last season as a backup. He’ll be fighting with Grier for the backup spot. DiNucci, not a favorite of owner Jerry Jones, will see mop-up duty. Grier did see time with the Panthers in 2019 and threw for 229 yards, but had no TDs and four picks. Can you say CFL, USFL or XFL?

New York Giants: Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor, Davis Webb

This is a very good quarterback situation-for preseason. Taylor is one of the better backup quarterbacks in football and can start if Jones gets hurt or continues to struggle. Webb will see a lot of second-half time and has very little experience.

Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew, Carson Strong, Reid Sinnett,

Here’s another pretty good quarterback room. Hurts has to keep getting better, but doesn’t need much time in preseason against most backups to show what he can do. Minshew is another very good backup, who has 22 career starts. He’ll get a decent look, but Nick Siriani probably wants to see more of Carson Strong. The undrafted rookie from Nevada will get plenty of reps to show whether he has a future or not. The talent is there and he went undrafted due to concerns over knee issues.

Washington Commanders: Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke, Sam Howell, Cole Kelly

Wentz is coming off a shaky season and with his injury history, there is no reason to play him. Heinicke is a very capable backup who threw for 3,419 yards with 20 TDs and 15 INTs as a starter. He could be overtaken by Sam Howell, the rookie from North Carolina, who has a strong arm.


Chicago Bears: Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian, Nathan Peterman

Fields needs a bit of time to improve his consistency. Siemian has starting experience so he gives them an impressive group for preseason. Peterman was a bad starter, but at least has experience as a third-stringer.

Detroit Lions: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough

This is not a good group for preseason or the regular season. Goff is the starter so there’s no reason to play him in preseason. Boyle threw for 526 yards with three TDs and six picks last season. He’s not a real threat and neither is Blough.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love, Danny Etling

Rodgers should never see any time in preseason. Love need to play at least a half in every preseason game. This will be pretty much his time to shine and if he doesn’t, the Packers will need to think about another replacement for Rodgers.

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond

Cousins threw for 4,221 yards and 33 TDs last season and now has an offensive-minded coach in Kevin O’Connell at the helm instead of Mike Zimmer. He won’t play much, if at all, in preseason. Mannion should battle Mond for the backup spot. Neither is special, but they need to find out more about Mond, who was a third-round pick in 2021.


Atlanta Falcons: Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, Feleipe Franks

Mariota takes over for Matt Ryan. He’s thrown for 13,437 yards, 77 TDs and 45 INTs with a 89.5 passer rating. He’s average-at-best for a starter and a former No. 1 pick. He might see a bit of time, but this preseason is to see if rookie Desmond Ridder is the future starter or maybe current if Mariota gets hurt or stumbles. Ridder threw for 3,334 yards with 30 TDs and eight picks last season with Cincinnati. Franks is a big, athletic quarterback with some raw talent.

Carolina Panthers: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Matt Corral, P.J. Walker

Here is one of the better preseason rotations because Mayfield and Darnold are battling for the starting spot. Corral is a rookie with some talent who will play a lot of third quarters, while Walker also has experience.

New Orleans Saints: Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Ian Book

Considering the fact that Winston is coming off an ACL injury, there’s no reason to play him in preseason. That means Andy Dalton will see some time, though he has very little to prove. Book is a young quarterback who played very little as a rookie for the Saints and will play an awful lot this preseason.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask, Ryan Griffin

Maybe Brady wants it that way, but that’s not a very good group of quarterbacks behind him. At least Gabbert has experience as does Ryan Griffin. They’ll be pushed by former Florida QB Kyle Trask, who didn’t play as a rookie. He’ll get plenty of time in preseason to show if he’s ready to push Gabbert.


Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley, Jarrett Guarantano

Murray just received an extension so there’s nothing to prove in preseason. McCoy played well last season filling in for an injured Murray. He will likely get most of the starters, though McSorley has a lot to prove after sitting behind Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley in Baltimore last season.

Los Angeles Rams: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins, Luis Perez

The Rams have a great regular-season squad, but the preseason quarterbacks are mediocre after Stafford, who shouldn’t play at all. Wolford does have some experience and some talent, but he’s not remotely close to Stafford as a quarterback.

San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nate Sudfeld, Brock Purdy

Lance is very talented, but also has a ways to go in terms of consistency and accuracy. Jimmy G. has been cleared to play, but is expected to be traded. That means a lot of Sudfeld and Purdy this preseason, though Lance needs a few reps in preseason. If they trade Garoppolo, they should be in search for a quality backup.

Seattle Seahawks: Geno Smith, Drew Lock, Jacob Eason

Here is another good preseason situation. Smith started three games last season and might have a slight edge over Lock, who was 8-13 in 21 starts in Denver. So, both should play in the preseason since this is a rare quarterback competition. Jacob Eason will clean up.

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Ben Hayes

Ben has been a sports writer for over 35 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for nearly 30 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13! Ben has had great success in handicapping college football, the NFL, college basketball, the NBA and MLB for 27+ years. His Twitter handle is @BenHayesWAW