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With starters typically sidelined or given limited run in the first set of preseason games, Week 2 can be an important stage for coaches to assess their quarterbacks.

Some teams are already adjusting their depth charts, and several competitions remain open, however they could begin to narrow soon as the regular season draws near. 

Though their performances this week might not dictate their standing for September, these eight quarterbacks will all be looking to show something in their teams’ second preseason games:

Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins

Given his eleventh-hour decision to step out of retirement and back into the NFL to replace injured Ryan Tannehill, Cutler will be subject to hyperbole no matter the outcome of his anticipated debut Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens. Establishing timing with a new set of teammates will be tricky, but onlookers will be eager to see his command of an Adam Gase offense that helped him to one of his best statistical seasons with the Chicago Bears in 2015. The concerns surrounding Cutler and the Dolphins won’t be alleviated in one night, but many will rest easier if the 34-year-old shows little rust in his return.

Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos

First-year coach Vance Joseph has been reticent to render judgment on either Lynch or Trevor Siemian so far in Denver’s quarterback competition. But this is a race against time for Lynch, Denver’s first-round pick last year. Penalties and an overall lack of rhythm kept both passers from giving Joseph much to assess last week. Taking the reins as starter Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers, Lynch has to show he can sustain drives and avoid mistakes in order to unseat Siemian.

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Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Despite an impressive first outing, in which he showed an ability to extend plays and capitalize on downfield opportunities, Watson remains firmly seated as Tom Savage’s backup. Coach Bill O’Brien praised the rookie’s poise, but also said the No. 12 overall pick was “50-50” on what he got right within Houston’s scheme. That number has to tick much higher for Watson to warrant serious consideration for the No. 1 job, and Saturday’s game against the New England Patriots could be an important proving ground in that area.

DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns

A game-winning 45-yard touchdown pass last week served as a reminder of the enticing talent Kizer offers in one of the NFL’s most jumbled quarterback competitions. Physical ability is not the impediment, however, as Browns quarterbacks coach David Lee said there is still so “doggone much” for the second-round rookie to learn as he tries to challenge Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Left tackle Joe Thomas said he believes Osweiler is being groomed as the starter, but Kizer could make a strong case to be deployed at some point in 2017 if he shows a robust comprehension of Cleveland’s attack, including on Monday when he takes on the New York Giants.

Christian Hackenberg, New York Jets

He didn’t play a single snap as a rookie, yet the Jets continue to shield the former second-round pick while easing him into action. Hackenberg’s opening performance (18-of-25 for 127 yards) demanded little beyond short throws, but offensive coordinator John Morton said he was impressed. With Josh McCown appearing to be the starter by default, Hackenberg has to show Saturday against the Detroit Lions he can handle the more demanding aspects of the job after Morton said he was “basically” a rookie.

Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears

A pick-six and 2-of-8 passing performance in the preseason opener would spark grumbles for any newly signed quarterback, let alone one who signed a three-year, $45 million contract after serving as a backup like Glennon did. But it was the combination of his struggles last Thursday against the Denver Broncos and No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky’s shining performance the same night that made some wonder if the Bears should have held an open competition this summer. Coach John Fox quelled any notion that Trubisky should be in the conversation as a starter, but Glennon is seeking to establish a smoother connection with his new teammates in his second go-around.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

With Alex Smith entrenched as the starter, Mahomes’ challenge is more centered on manifesting his development. As his fellow rookies snared attention with stellar debuts, the No. 10 overall pick out of Texas Tech had a quietly efficient first outing by throwing for 49 yards on 7-of-9 passing. Mahomes was promoted to No. 2 on the depth chart this week, and Saturday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals could be a good opportunity for him to go through his progressions rather than relying on quick throws as he mostly did in the opener. 

Ryan Mallett, Baltimore Ravens

Mallett may not have as much to gain as the other quarterbacks on this list, but the stakes could be very real for the seventh-year veteran. A 9-of-18 passing performance for 58 yards against the Washington Redskins last Thursday was Mallett’s latest instance of erratic passing this summer, though coach John Harbaugh said he played “winning football.” With a more even-keeled performance against the Dolphins on Thursday, Mallett could help re-establish himself as a backup Baltimore can trust again behind Joe Flacco, who is still recovering from a back ailment.


Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

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