The penultimate week of the NFL preseason has typically been the “dress rehearsal” for NFL teams, but joint practices have changed that line of thinking in recent years. Regardless of how teams handle their business in the preseason, rookie quarterbacks — draft picks or not — have plenty of opportunity to leave a mark as their organization takes a look at the future.
Kenny Pickett made a case why he should be the No. 1 quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 of the preseason, while Desmond Ridder seems primed to start for the Atlanta Falcons at some point and Malik Willis showcased why he should be starting for the Tennessee Titans down the road.
How did each of those quarterbacks — and the other rookie signal callers — fare in Week 2? Let’s take a look.
Kenny Pickett, Steelers
Pickett made his case to be the Steelers starting quarterback after a strong follow-up to his impressive debut. He finished 6 of 7 for 76 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a 151.5 passer rating. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had Pickett run a no-huddle offense, finding Benny Snell for the score to cap off a five-play, 63-yard drive in just 42 seconds.
Pickett is 19 or 22 for 171 yards with three touchdowns and a 138.6 passer rating in two games. He’s looking like the top quarterback on the Steelers, even if Pittsburgh may go with Mitchell Trubisky to start the year.
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Malik Willis, Titans
Willis looked impressive in his second game with the Titans, even if he still needs work throwing the football. He finished 7-for-17 for 80 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions (75.6 rating) while also being sacked three times. Willis also led the Titans with 42 yards on five carries.
Accuracy issues remain a concern for Willis, but he’ll be learning behind Ryan Tannehill to start the year. Willis has completed just 48.4% of his passes in the two games he’s played, but has 10 carries for 80 yards and a score.
Howell’s second outing didn’t go as well as his debut, finishing 10 of 18 for 122 yards with no touchdowns and an interception (53.5 rating). He also has two carries for 13 yards, including a long run of 11 yards. Howell had some good throws to Dax Milne and Eli Wolf, yet threw his interception with the Commanders down three in the final minutes.
Howell has completed 55.9% of his passes with an interception and a 69.1 rating. He has five carries for 32 yards and two scores, learning as the No. 3 quarterbacks behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke.
Corral’s season is likely over after he suffered a LisFranc injury in the Panthers’ second preseason game. Slated to be the No. 3 quarterback in his rookie year, Corral went just 9 of 15 for 58 yards before exiting Friday’s game in the second half.
The Panthers may place Corral on injured reserve.
Zappe was the third quarterback to enter the game for the Patriots and played the remainder of the contest, finishing 16 of 25 for 173 yards and an interception — which was returned for a touchdown — for a 67.6 rating. The fourth-round pick is in line for the No. 3 job in New England, although he could surpass Brian Hoyer for the No. 2 roles.
Purdy completed 14 of 23 passes for 128 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, entering the game in the second quarter and playing the rest of the way. The seventh-round pick has earned his fair share of snaps this preseason, going 17 of 29 for 164 yards with a touchdown (86.0 rating).
Purdy is in line for the No. 3 jobs in San Francisco.
Crum entered the game late in the fourth quarter, completing all three of his passes for 27 yards while playing the final three possessions for Kansas City. The former Kent State quarterback was an undrafted free agent signing by the Chiefs, yet is a long shot to make the roster right now as the No. 4 quarterbacks.
Coan earned an extended look with the starters resting in Saturday’s game, finishing 7 of 11 for 83 yards and a touchdown (116.9 rating). The undrafted free agent from Wisconsin and Notre Dame is the fourth quarterback on the depth chart, behind Matt Ryan, Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger for the No. 3 jobs.
Thompson continues to impress in Miami, finishing 9 of 10 for 129 yards and a touchdown after entering the game late in the third quarter. His touchdown pass to ZaQuandre White was Miami’s lone touchdown of the game.
Thompson is the No. 3 quarterback in Miami and the seventh-round pick has been more than impressive this preseason. He’s 29 of 38 for 347 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions (121.3 rating).
Strong made his debut after being a healthy scratch last week, as the undrafted free agent threw just one pass Sunday. The third-down throw should have extended the drive for pass interference, but the penalty wasn’t called with no flag thrown.
Strong — an undrafted free agent — isn’t going to make the 53-man roster, but is a practice squad candidate.