A close look at Logan Woodside and the NFL's backup QB situation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Logan Woodside has done zero.

We expect to see him continue to make his case to continue as Ryan Tannehill’s backup Friday night in Atlanta, where Tannehill is not expected to play.Tennessee Titans Quarterback Logan Woodside Practice

Pool photo: George Walker/ The Tennessean

Tennessee has been fortunate that Tannehill has been healthy since he took over as its starter during the 2019 season. Most teams are doomed if their starting QB goes down for an extended period. There aren’t 32 good starters, so a good backup is a real luxury.

Some guys who were outright bad as starters qualify as really good backups. They are in fresh situations, they have starting experience, they can play in a pinch with little practice time and if they are on a good team, people imagine they could drive that team to a 2-2 record if called on to start for a month. Some backups are inexperienced draft picks.

Others are failed signal-callers just stick around, the way Matt Cassel and Blaine Gabbert did in their time with the Titans. It was really hard to expect them to lead the offense successfully in Marcus Mariota’s (too frequent) absence, and when they did it was typically because things had been schemed up really well around them.

Woodside doesn’t have a great arm. He does have a great knowledge of the Titans' offense. He doesn’t have much experience.

apple icon 144x144 precomposedAt least, my thinking goes, he’s got an unknown ceiling.

Sure, the Titans could do better at the spot.

They had an awful lot to address this offseason, however. They had a tight cap. And the best guys who were free landed places where they have chances to start or better chances to play.

I think a lot of people presume backup situations around the league are better than they are. The good ones are typically in situations where the starter isn’t so hot or a high pick is about to displace a veteran.

I don’t think anyone on the outside should be aggressively pro-Woodside, joining a fan club. But I do think there is a sensible case for thinking he is a better route than a Matt Barkley or a good share of guys around the league.

Colt McCoy, Geno Smith or Chad Henne? Pass, pass and pass.

None of them are better to me than an unknown quantity a coaching staff is invested in and likes.

I’d rather take my chances with Woodside if someone like Arthur Smith is a believer.

Let’s look at places where the backup looks to be clear-cut better than Woodside, places where I’d call it a question and places where it is not better.

I tried to put them in a general better-to-worse order by category.

I’m using Ourlads depth charts, which I find to be the most up-to-date.

Clearly better:

San Francisco: Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance. I’d bet on Lance to start. Either way, the backup situation is good – a guy who’s led the team to a Super Bowl or the third pick in the draft with giant upside who will be starting soon.

New England: Cam Newton or Mac Jones. A one-time MVP who’s fallen a great deal is still a good option as a backup. Or if he’s starting, a first-round draft pick who had a lot of favorable reviews and was Bill Belichick’s choice.

Las Vegas: Marcus Mariota looked good but didn’t get it done in the end in the game where he had to replace Derek Carr last year. The question is always whether he can stay healthy if called on.

Chicago: Andy Dalton or Justin Fields. I’m going to presume Fields starts. Dalton is a very average starter but a capable backup who’s won a reasonable share of the time while throwing an average of 1.5 TDs per game.

New Orleans: Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston. I’d like Hill as the backup better. (But then I think I’d like him better as the starter, too.)

Cleveland: Case Keenum was the starter in 2017 for Minnesota and 2018 for Denver. He’ll get you a bit over 200 passing yards and throw a TD a game.

Miami: Jacoby Brissett’s team is 12-20 when he plays. He completes 59.6 percent of his passes. He’s thrown 31 TDs vs. 13 picks in 32 starts and 49 games. He’s got a passer rating of 84.1. He’s taken 87 sacks. You have to take him on the TD:INT.

Philadelphia: Joe Flacco is behind Jalen Hurts. He’s won a Super Bowl, got caught up in a debate about whether he was elite, and graduated into backup status.

Chargers: Chase Daniel has just five starts in 11 years. He can complete passes and manage a game.

Denver: Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock will lose the starting job and qualify as a pretty good backup in part because the starter isn’t very good.

Atlanta: A.J. McCarron has not played a lot. But he’s been capable in four starts and 17 games for Cincinnati, Oakland and Houston.

Carolina: P.J. Walker played really well in the XFL before landing with his college coach. Promising.

Washington: Taylor Heinicke showed some promise in a brief chance for Washington last year, throwing for 306 in a playoff game. He could be good or maybe he just flashed.

Jacksonville: The Jaguars are pretending like Gardner Minshew is competing with Trevor Lawrence to start, which is silly. Minshew has had some success and brings energy. He also got benched for Mike Glennon.

Pittsburgh: Mason Rudolph was so incredibly average when he started eight games in 2019. But the Steelers went 5-3. Functional, but you can’t be excited about him

Don’t know:

Buffalo: Mitch Trubisky failed on a large scale in Chicago, but he’s working with a great offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll and behind one of the league’s up-and-comers in Josh Allen.

Green Bay: Jordan Love has not shown great in what we’ve seen of him so far. But he’s a first-round pick being well-coached in a good offense.

Minnesota: Straying from Ourlads here from Jake Browning to Texas A&M third-rounder Kellen Mond. Inexperienced of course, but with some upside until we see otherwise.

Situations I don’t think are any better than the Titans’ right now:

Indianapolis: Jacob Eason was a fourth-round draft pick and hasn’t had a regular-season shot yet. But he’s yielding snaps to Sam Ehlinger in camp as the Colts look for an answer while Carson Wentz heals.

Arizona: Colt McCoy feels like the same story as Cassel and Gabbert were in Tennessee. He’s been around for 10 years. The results have never been good. His passer rating is 78.1. (Only four TEAMS had worse passer ratings last season.) I’ll try a blank slate and trust I can get better.

Kansas City: Now 36, Chad Henne has played in four games in the last five years. He has more career picks than TDs. Passer rating: 76.1.

LA Rams: Jon Wolford helped the Rams win his one start. A Sean McVay special who I don’t imagine is anything special elsewhere.

Seattle: Geno Smith is just the kind of guy I wouldn’t want to be part of recycling. Completion percentage 57.8. Twenty-nine TDs to 36 interceptions. A 72.9 passer rating.

Cincinnati: Brandon Allen has two starts in two seasons with Denver and Cincinnati. Those teams won two, lost six and got a 57.1 completion percentage and a 76.9 passer rating.

Detroit: David Blough played in five games in two years. He completed only 54.3 percent of his passes with four TDs, seven picks, 15 sacks.

Tampa Bay: Gabbert lost his arm strength a good while ago. See above as to why I prefer a Woodside situation.

NY Giants: Mike Glennon’s teams are 6-21 when he starts. He’s thrown for 183.4 yards a game.

Dallas: Garrett Gilbert: Three teams, four years, one game.

Houston: Jeff Driskel’s team won one of nine starts. He’s been sacked almost 10 percent of his dropbacks. (We’re counting Tyrod Taylor as the starter.)

Baltimore: Trace McSorely was a 2019 sixth-round pick out of Penn State who’s attempted three passes in the NFL.

NY Jets: Mike White has done less than Woodside.

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