|49ers still mulling quarterback options|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 20 August 2008 14:26|
While Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith declared Orton the winner in the race with Rex Grossman, San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan wasn't quite ready to say O'Sullivan is the regular-season starter.
Sure, he will take the first snaps at Soldier Field on Thursday night, but Nolan stopped short of declaring the competition with holdovers Alex Smith and Shaun Hill over.
``Some are getting more reps than others, but I've been pleased with all three of them,'' Nolan said. ``I do feel confident we have three guys who can win games. Two of them I know can because I've played with them in the past and continue to take a look at J.T.''
In Friday's games, it's Tennessee at Atlanta, Philadelphia at New England and Houston at Dallas and Green Bay at Denver.
Saturday's schedule is Cleveland at Detroit, New York Giants at New York Jets, Jacksonville at Tampa Bay, Washington at Carolina, Kansas City at Miami, New Orleans at Cincinnati, Baltimore at St. Louis, Pittsburgh at Minnesota and Arizona at Oakland.
On Sunday, it's Buffalo at Indianapolis in the first game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
On Monday, Seattle is at San Diego.
The third preseason game usually is a rehearsal for the opener, but if O'Sullivan is going to start the opener against Arizona the announcement apparently will come later. That's fine with him. He's just focusing on the upcoming game after starting the first two.
``I'm just worried about this week and I don't really let myself feel anything about it,'' said O'Sullivan, a sixth-year pro with his eighth team. ``I'm really trying to kind of worry about the preparation for this game this week. You know, it's a short week. We're kind of crunched for time so I'm just spending as much time as I can getting ready for Chicago.''
The same goes for Alex Smith.
``I'm worrying about Chicago and the reps I'm going to get, and what I need to do with them,'' he said. ``I'm not worrying about any of that other stuff right now. I'm trying to take advantage of the things I can control.''
Does he think it has been a fair competition?
``Like I said, I'm not getting into all that,'' he said. ``I've got my reps out here and (I'm) just trying to take advantage of them and trying to do what I can with them. (I'm) not sure what they're thinking or what is going on upstairs, but like I said, those are reps I'll get and I need to get ready for them. It is a short week. I'm getting ready to play Chicago.''
O'Sullivan has an advantage over the other two in that he worked with new offensive coordinator Mike Martz in Detroit last season, but familiarity with that system hasn't produced standout numbers.
He threw for 71 yards and an interception in an 18-6 loss to the Oakland Raiders, but came on strong in a 34-6 blowout of the Green Bay Packers. He led the 49ers to touchdowns on his final two series in the second quarter, including a 59-yard TD pass to rookie Josh Morgan in the final minute that sparked the rout.
O'Sullivan is 13-for-25 for 225 yards and hasn't been sacked during the preseason, but he also has two interceptions and a lost fumble. Two of the 10 drives he has directed were for touchdowns, with three ending in turnovers and five with punts.
Decent numbers, but not eye-popping.
Smith (10-for-21 with 113 yards) and Hill (12-for-25, 104 yards, one interception) have struggled a bit as they try to learn Martz's system.
``The more reps I get with it, the more looks I get with at it, the better idea I get of what Coach Martz is trying to do with certain calls and certain things that we are trying to do as an offense,'' Smith said. ``The better you can kind of understand why he's calling things, the easier it is to and execute out there and make decisions. The more and more, the better feel I get.''
For now, the race continues.
For the Bears, the quarterback competition ended Monday when Lovie Smith handed the job to Orton over Grossman.
``I feel like going through two preseason games we had a chance to let the players have one last look,'' Lovie Smith said. ``It wasn't based on just the preseason games or just training camp, not one thing - just a lot of different things.''
The Bears made it clear during the offseason they had lost faith in the inconsistent Grossman when they re-signed him for just one year and gave Orton an extension through next season. They began competing for the job during minicamp in May and workouts in June before it heated up in camp.
They split time with the first team in practice and the first two preseason games, with neither gaining a big statistical advantage.
Orton completed 63.2 percent of his preseason passes, going 12-for-19 for 99 yards, but had no completions longer than 17 yards. Grossman was 13-for-23 for 118 yards and had a 25-yard touchdown pass.
``Now you can try to establish yourself as a leader,'' said Orton, who started 15 games as a rookie in 2005 and the final three last year. ``It's not going to happen overnight, but just with work ethic and performance just try to establish yourself as a leader on this offense.''
At St. Louis, on Saturday, the game between the Rams and the Ravens will likely feature the return of St. Louis running back Steven Jackson who ended his holdout on Wednesday and Troy Smith making the start at quarterback for Baltimore. Smith may play as much as three quarters as the Ravens want to evaluate him as they try to determine who will be the QB in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7. And Jackson is scheduled for a physical Thursday morning and could make it onto the practice field later in the day.