NFL quarterback questions: Concerns, injuries, standouts, more

ByNFL Nation reporters ESPN logo
Friday, November 10, 2023

We've officially hit the midway mark of the2023 NFL season, which seems like a good spot to check in on quarterback situations around the league. And we have a lot to look at: Through nine weeks,49 QBs have thrown at least 10 passes, and 46 have started at least one game.

We called on our NFL Nation reporters to answer 12 big questions around the game's most important position. They touched on growing concerns, potential returns from injury, big changes in play and even some implications for 2024 and beyond. Let's start with Arizona, where Kyler Murray could join that list of quarterbacks who have started a game this season if he's able to return in Week 10. These 12 questions are listed alphabetically by team.

Jump to a team:



How will the organization evaluate whether Murray is the guy long term?

It's important to note that the Cardinals see him as their long-term quarterback as of now and something would have to happen to change that. That said, Arizona obviously has a big decision to make if it ends up at or near the top of the draft board in the offseason.

Winning, while important, will not the be the determining factor. Arizona wants to see consistency, improvement and production -- Murray was 19th in QBR last season before his torn ACL at 53.6 -- in this new scheme. If for whatever reason none of those are accomplished, and Murray doesn't mesh well with Jonathan Gannon's coaching staff once he gets back on the field, then Arizona might reevaluate whether he's the long-term answer. But short of that, he'll be their guy. -- Josh Weinfuss, Cardinals reporter

Are the Falcons more likely to stick with Desmond Ridder or Taylor Heinicke as their 2024 starter, or go with someone new?

At this point it seems like it is trending toward someone new, especially if the Falcons don't make the playoffs in a suspect NFC South division. Ridder was showing progress -- he has completed 65.4% of his passes this season -- and seeing the field better in recent weeks, but the turnovers (particularly the fumbles) were part of his benching. And while Heinicke is the perfect bridge starter or high-level backup, to go into a potential make-or-break season with him as the starting quarterback seems unlikely right now.

How would that change? If the Falcons make the playoffs either behind a good run by Heinicke or a return to the lineup and subsequent greatly improved play from Ridder, it would at least give Atlanta something to think about heading into 2024.-- Michael Rothstein, Falcons reporter

How concerned are the Bills about Josh Allen's injured right shoulder?

As coach Sean McDermott likes to say, all injuries are a concern. And that especially applies when it is the franchise quarterback's throwing shoulder.

The Bills' offense has been up and down overall, but since Allen initially suffered the injury against the Giants in Week 6, he has completed 3 of 15 pass attempts of 20 or more air yards, and one attempt went for an interception. The team limited his work last week, as he did not participate in practice Wednesday, and he was not throwing as much as he normally would in pregame warmups before the Week 9 game against the Bengals.

When it comes to playcalling, however, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said the Bills were not too worried about Allen's shoulder being an issue in the Bengals game. "We were a little bit more vertical at times than we had been in the past because we felt good where Josh's shoulder was at, and he felt comfortable with it," Dorsey said.-- Alaina Getzenberg, Bills reporter

What has been the biggest difference in Joe Burrow's play over the past few games?

Health and mobility. Burrow has been a completely different quarterback now that his right calf is back to full strength. Coaches, players and opponents have all noted the difference in Burrow's performance, especially in recent victories.

Since Week 5, Burrow ranks fifth in QBR outside of the pocket (87.0) after being 25th in that category over the first month (14.0). That ability to extend plays has produced big gains and key conversions during Cincinnati's four-game winning streak. -- Ben Baby, Bengals reporter

What are you hearing on the likelihood that Dak Prescott gets another extension after the season?

Lately? Nothing. But Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones have continuously said that Prescott will be the Cowboys' quarterback in 2024 and beyond. He has a $59.4 million cap number in 2024, and his contract runs out after next season.

Ideally, the Cowboys would sign him to an extension in the offseason to lower that cap number and allow the team to add more playmakers to the roster, but negotiations for his current deal took a lot longer than expected, and it's possible things stretch out again. It should be noted that Prescott has no-trade and no-franchise-tag clauses in his current deal.

Regardless of when something happens, with the way Prescott has played in the past three games (eight touchdown passes, one interception), it's hard to see the Cowboys wanting to start over at the most important position. -- Todd Archer, Cowboys reporter

What three words best describe the Russell Wilson-Sean Payton match so far?

Work in progress. Wilson has had some moments this season when he has looked comfortable and been productive in the offense -- but he has looked like his 2022 self at times, too. He has two 300-yard passing days this season but also two showings with under 120 yards. In fact, he has had just five games in his entire career with fewer than 120 passing yards, and two have come in the Broncos' past three games.

Denver will have to make a decision on Wilson down the road, and potential dead money hits of $35.4 million next season and $49.6 million in 2025 (if he was to be released before June 1) are cause for pause. No matter the Broncos' draft outlook, March will be the tipping point for what's next for Wilson. While his 2024 base salary is already guaranteed, his 2025 base salary -- $37 million -- becomes fully guaranteed if he is on the roster on the fifth day of the new league year.

Payton has to find a better way to fit Wilson into what he wants to do on offense, at least until the Broncos have a prospect at the position. -- Jeff Legwold, Broncos reporter

How likely are the Raiders to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason?

How about ... very? Benching Garoppolo as part of the reset that saw coach Josh McDaniels, general manager Dave Ziegler and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi all get fired does not bode well for the QB's future in Las Vegas. He threw nine interceptions over six games but seven touchdown passes. Then again, it all depends upon how well rookie Aidan O'Connell and the Raiders play in Garoppolo's absence. Interim coach Antonio Pierce also said we probably haven't seen the last of Garoppolo this season.

A lot of factors are still at play in determining whether the Raiders need to search for a franchise QB in the 2024 draft, where ESPN's Football Power Index is projecting them to pick at No. 6.-- Paul Gutierrez, Raiders reporter

Where would you peg the chances of free agent Kirk Cousins returning to Minnesota in 2024?

There are many people in the Vikings organization who want to bring Cousins back next season, and he has said he wants to finish his career in Minnesota. Ultimately the decision will be in Cousins' hands.

He has never taken a hometown discount, and he would probably get big offers on the free agent market despite his torn right Achilles tendon. And as the Vikings plan to give receiver Justin Jefferson a quarterback-sized contract, they might not match the highest offer.

As for current starter Joshua Dobbs, no team would make future plans off one game. Given his history of movement around the league, it's a long shot that he could replace Cousins as Minnesota's starting quarterback in 2024. -- Kevin Seifert, Vikings reporter

What's the latest on Aaron Rodgers' potential to return at some point this season?

Rodgers is aiming to return in a "few fortnights," which means about six weeks. But just because he says it, that doesn't mean it will happen. Not only does Rodgers have to be medically cleared after his torn left Achilles in Week 1, the Jets would also have to make a football decision based on risk and reward. A lot will depend on the team's place in the AFC standings. The Jets are currently 4-4, and if they're out of contention late in the season, it would make no sense to bring him back. -- Rich Cimini, Jets reporter

How concerned are the Eagles about Jalen Hurts' injured left knee?

There aren't any alarm bells going off. Hurts reportedly has a bone bruise in that left knee. He has been fighting through pain the past few weeks and took a direct shot on his knee against the Cowboys, which clearly affected him. But Hurts hasn't missed any practice or playing time, and he continues to operate at a high level even with his mobility at less than 100%. The hope is the bye week will help with the healing. -- Tim McManus, Eagles reporter

How much will the Titans' offense change with Will Levis taking over for Ryan Tannehill?

The offense itself won't change much from a playcalling perspective. But look for more vertical passes due to Levis' desire to push the ball down the field. Since debuting in Week 8, he leads the NFL in air yards per pass attempt (10.1). But he admitted he needs to be more aware of underneath routes, so expect to see him adjust accordingly going forward.

Additionally, Levis' mobility and ability to make throws off his back foot will help decrease the Titans' sack totals. Tennessee has taken 29 this season, tied for the fifth most in the NFL.-- Turron Davenport, Titans reporter

Has Sam Howell shown enough to prove he can be the Commanders' quarterback of the future?

It really depends, because at this point we don't know who will be coaching the Commanders or making personnel decisions after this season. Will they rally to make the postseason, and if so, does owner Josh Harris retain coach Ron Rivera's staff? If that happens, yes, the Commanders absolutely will continue to build around Howell, especially along the offensive line.

But what if there's a new regime, a top-10 pick and a chance to draft a new quarterback? Howell, like any QB, has his flaws, but he has thrown for more yards than any other passer since Week 5 (1,510). On the season, he is second in passing yards (2,471) and seventh in touchdown passes (14). Howell has been Washington's most productive quarterback since Kirk Cousins left after the 2017 season and warrants a longer look. -- John Keim, Commanders reporter

Related Video