Change At The Top Comes With Risk

Not all teams are so lucky to find their superstar quarterback on the first, or even the second attempt. Change at the top of the depth chart comes with risk. Here are some teams facing that risk in 2009.

Mark Sanchez will make his first NFL start when the Jets travel to Baltimore on Monday night, which is a fitting way for the preseason to reach its halfway point. The fifth overall pick in April, Sanchez's performance against one of the league's most difficult defenses to read will go a long way toward deciding one of several ongoing quarterback battles.

Most coaches won't admit it, but ideally they want the quarterback position settled heading into the third preseason game. That's when the first-team offense will see its most significant playing time, as the preseason finale usually features a cameo appearance by the starters and then three-plus quarters of players battling for the final roster spots.

However, several coaches remain in limbo at their most important spot.

--When asked if Shaun Hill or Alex Smith did anything against Oakland to help his decision to name a starter for Week 1, 49ers coach Mike Singletary simple said, "No."

Did neither quarterback distinguish himself? "Aboslutely," said Singletary.

Singletary wouldn't commit to naming a starter before the third preseason game against Dallas, and he's not alone in that boat.

--Derek Anderson made coach Eric Mangini's decision more difficult in Cleveland after completing 8 of 13 passes for 130 yards against Detroit. He's still considered a longshot to beat out Brady Quinn, but Mangini has refused to commit either way.

--A commitment might come a bit sooner for Lions coach Jim Schwartz. In that game against the Browns, rookie Matthew Stafford made his first career start, but looked shaky in completing just 5 of 13 passes for 34 yards and an interception. Daunte Culpepper actually threw more passes, going 10-for-16 for 86 yards.

--In Tampa Bay, Byron Leftwich appears to be the frontrunner, but Luke McCown did throw a pair of touchdowns on just nine attempts in a victory over Jacksonville. Rookie Josh Freeman remains in the mix, but is likely to open the season as the third-string quarterback, unless McCown is released.

--While the fans and media are attempting to create a controversy in Denver, Kyle Orton rewarded coach Josh McDaniel's vote of confidence following a rough preseason opener by completing 18 of 26 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown at Seattle on Saturday night. The job is most definitely his to lose, especially with Chris Simms leaving the game with a left ankle injury.

"I understand they want us to be playing perfect right off the bat, and that's just how it is in this league," Orton said of his critics. "But I just try to stay on track, do my job and get better."


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