One of the beautiful things about NFL training camp is the impenetrable optimism. Last season’s blemishes are whitewashed while this season’s potential is lauded. And without the pressure of the regular season, we get to see the human side of teams, like John Harbaugh learning German or Antonio Brown living life like he’s in a Grey Poupon commercial. All 32 teams have convinced themselves that they’ll get one of the 12 playoff spots. Basically, every team feels like Channing Tatum in this video, even if most teams will end up feeling like Jonah Hill.
Despite the profound hopefulness in the air, a few squads couldn’t escape the first weekend of training camp without confronting their own futility. Here are the quarterbacks who have punctured the bubble of optimism before the calendar even flipped to August.
The Chicago Bears traded up one spot in this year’s draft to select the UNC quarterback, and many pundits lampooned them for it. The Bears had just signed Mike Glennon to a $45 million deal in March, and drafting Trubisky signaled some confusion (to be kind) in the front office. Trubisky is raw. He didn’t start until his junior year at UNC, and after spending all of college playing from the shotgun, he’s spending his training camp learning how to take snaps from under center. It seems that that process is going slowly.
"(The exchange is) the most critical part of the play," Trubisky said after practice. "I’ve just got to take care of that and get better on my part." Trubisky has a lot to learn before he’s going to become an NFL starter, but before he can do that, he has to figure out how to not kill every play he touches like a hybrid of Mark Sanchez and King Midas.
Admittedly, training camp stats are worthless. In fact, they are less than worthless, because like Adam Sandler’s answers in Billy Madison, just hearing them makes you dumber. But part of the reason they are worthless is that they are comically slanted toward the offense, which makes five interceptions almost impressively bad.
Head coach Doug Marrone said that he didn’t speak with Bortles after Saturday’s practice because, "If I’ve got to do that now, then we’re going to be in trouble." ([Ron Howard voice] The Jaguars were already in trouble.) Instead, Marrone said he was going to "go back and look at it from a different view." While it is brave of Marrone to watch those interceptions all over again, I don’t think the camera angle was the problem. Bortles needed less than one day in full pads to remind us of what Michael Lombardi detailed in May, the only people who can’t see that Bortles isn’t their future quarterback are the people running the Jaguars.
Bortles’s job got harder on Monday when left tackle Branden Albert, whom the team acquired in a trade four months ago, abruptly retired. Albert’s departure leaves Cam Robinson, the Jags’ second-round pick out of Alabama and the 2016 Outland Trophy Winner, as the presumed starting left tackle.
Flacco injured his back last week, casting a cloud over Baltimore’s training camp before it could even start. ESPN’s Jamison Hensley said that backup Ryan Mallett looked "awful" in practice on Friday, throwing five interceptions. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs wasn’t shy about the performance. "Hey, Marty [Mornhinweg, offensive coordinator], tell Mallett to throw to the guys wearing the purple jerseys [the offense]," Suggs said.
More outings like this from Mallett may force the Ravens to acquire a proper backup quarterback for the very possible scenario that Flacco aggravates his back injury during the season. Harbaugh has floated the possibility of the team signing Colin Kaepernick, who under Jim Harbaugh’s leadership nearly defeated the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti addressed the possibility of signing Kaepernick at a fan forum on Sunday, saying the team is "very sensitive to it and we’re monitoring it," while admitting that Kaepernick’s protest is a factor in the decision. This is certainly a situation to monitor closely.
It appears that Hackenberg has given himself the Michael Jackson treatment.
If Hackenberg is Michael Jackson here, that must make the 38-year-old Josh McCown a zombie from the Thriller video. Hackenberg was 7 years old when McCown made his NFL debut, and now the two are fighting for the New York Jets starting quarterback job (Bryce Petty is also technically involved).
The Jets have denied they are tanking this season, but even having to address those questions must be depressing. Perhaps Hackenberg’s white glove will solve his accuracy issues and resurrect the Jets’ playoff hopes.