2023: Year of the Backups (Quarterback)

One of many twists and turns of the 2023 NFL Season is the surprising amount of injuries at the quarterback position. As showcased by the most recent Thursday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders, having a backup signal caller ready to go is paramount to either turning around a season or keeping a team’s playoff chances alive. Some teams have prepared better than others in acclimating the 2nd strings for when their starters are down.

Not every backup is given a chance to showcase their skills. But those who seize that opportunity make a lasting impression. Here are a few backup quarterbacks making an impact in 2023.

2023: Year of the Backups (Quarterback)

Gardner Minshew: Indianapolis Colts

A lot of people don’t remember that Gardner Minshew was a capable quarterback with the Jacksonville Jaguars, racking up 37 passing touchdowns and only 11 interceptions in his two seasons in Duval County. But the Jaguars were forgettable while he was a starter in the 2019 & 2020 seasons. From there, he became a Philadelphia Eagle, sitting backup to Jalen Hurts for the next two seasons.

After just coming short of a Super Bowl title last season, Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen took the job as the Indianapolis Colts’ new head coach, and Minshew followed him. The Colts then drafted University of Florida product Anthony Richardson in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. But when Richardson went down with a shoulder injury in Week five, Minshew took the helm. He may not be putting up the most eye-popping numbers, but he has led the Colts to a potential playoff bid, trailing the division-leading Jaguars by only one game.

Jake Browning: Cincinnati Bengals

The last time most football fans have heard from Jake Browning, he was on a tear at the University of Washington Huskies, becoming the school’s all-time passing leader. The Huskies made a College Football playoff appearance and a Rose Bowl appearance with Browning under center. But after he moved on up to the pros, he went kind of quiet until recently. After spending time with the Minnesota Vikings, he became a Cincinnati Bengal in 2021. Week 11 of the 2023 campaign came when Joe Burrow sustained a brutal wrist injury.

Browning came out strong and proceeded to put the league on notice. He sits with a 2-1 record after starting three games, including an overtime upset over the Jacksonville Jaguars; Browning has completed over 75 percent of his passes and boasts a >110.0 passer rating this season. But there is more work to be done in Cincinnati, as they have to overtake Cleveland and Pittsburgh to secure those coveted playoff spots in the AFC.

Tommy DeVito: New York Giants

It seemed that everything that could have gone wrong went wrong for the New York Giants this season. Not only did they lose eight of their nine games of the current outing, but they also lost quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor to season-ending injuries. Not a lot of confidence is usually placed in a third-string quarterback, let alone one on a team doing this badly. But Tommy DeVito has turned more than a few heads.

Since DeVito became the G-Men’s new starter, the Giants have gone 3-1 in their last four games, with those three wins coming consecutively. He has done well to show his potential in the big leagues, throwing for almost 900 yards, eight passing touchdowns versus three interceptions, and has completed almost 66 percent of his passes. Going from 2-7 to 5-8 may not seem like much of an improvement at this point of the season. But DeVito has proven he has to take to lead an NFL team.

Check in next week as we spotlight more current backups in the NFL who are making 2023 their own.

Main Image: © Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

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