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Friday, September 2, 2011
Around the NFC West: QB considerations

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The 2011 NFL preseason has come and gone.

Well, almost. The Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders play the final game Friday night. This game provides one final opportunity to assess the great quarterback non-competition between Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. Jackson is the starter.

Coach Pete Carroll made the announcement a week before Jackson was eligible to practice. I wouldn't expect Carroll to change his mind before the regular-season opener. He'll have plenty of time, and probably plenty of opportunities, to make changes at the position during the regular season. I'd be shocked if Jackson took every snap on offense this season, both from a durability standpoint and from a consistency-of-play standpoint.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times understands fans' consternation over Jackson without endorsing a switch to Whitehurst at this time. O'Neil: "[Carroll] didn't say Whitehurst would never have a chance to compete for the starting job, and in this year in which Seattle is exploring whether either Jackson or Whitehurst can be a viable starter, there would be worse things than having both start."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says there's no suspense in San Francisco over which quarterback will start for the 49ers. Alex Smith has been the starter all through training camp. Coach Jim Harbaugh said Smith will start the regular-season opener as well. Noted: I expected a better showing from rookie Colin Kaepernick in the preseason, but that was probably unrealistic, in retrospect, coming out of a compacted offseason. Barrows: "Kaepernick threw five interceptions during the preseason, including two more Thursday. He was 3 of 7 for 36 yards and had a 19.6 passer rating. However, he also bought extra time with his feet and ran for 20 yards, which is what attracted Harbaugh and the 49ers in the first place. The original plan was to bring Kaepernick along slowly in his rookie season, and that appears exactly what the 49ers will do."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the only quarterback questions in Arizona focus on the No. 2 job behind starter Kevin Kolb. Rich Bartel again made a strong case for consideration over John Skelton, who remains sidelined by an ankle injury. Somers: "Bartel gave the Cardinals another steady, poised performance. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. He had one glaring mistake, throwing short to Stephen Williams and the ball was intercepted. Overall, Bartel solidified his case to be No. 2, not that coach Ken Whisenhunt was ready to announce that after his game. Skelton is the victim of bad luck in the competition, missing two games because of a high ankle sprain. Skelton is just in his second year and hasn't played since Aug. 19. If the Cardinals need to go to a backup on Sept. 11, my guess is it will be Bartel, who has played more in recent games." Noted: This is a good problem to have for the Cardinals. Skelton showed enough late last season to factor into the team's plans on some level. Bartel has done the same this summer. The team now has two backup prospects it can feel pretty good about based on how those players have performed in games.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' fourth preseason game gave the team additional information about third-string quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. Thomas: "Lewis, continuing his strong preseason play, led the Rams on yet another long touchdown drive at the start of the fourth quarter to give St. Louis a 21-10 lead. Lewis used his legs to kick-start the drive with an 11-yard scramble on third-and-10 from the Rams 22. Lewis has consistently been behind Feeley on the depth chart at quarterback, but Thursday's showing may have given Rams coaches second thoughts. If nothing else, his strong play may force the Rams to keep three quarterbacks this season. In 2010, Lewis spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad." Noted: The lockout worked to Feeley's advantage this offseason. The team had brought him in previously because he fit the offense Pat Shurmur was running. The fit wasn't as natural once Shurmer left to coach the Cleveland Browns, but the lockout made it more difficult for the Rams to seek out a backup with better knowledge of new coordinator Josh McDaniels' offense. Feeley gets along well with starter Sam Bradford.