Nall still deserves chance in Buffalo’s QB derby

By Connor Byrne  |   Wednesday, August 16, 2006  |  Comments( 6 )

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When the Buffalo Bills signed free agent quarterback Craig Nall to a three-year deal back in March, they had every intention of giving him a chance to start in 2006. At the time he reached a deal with Buffalo, it was hoping he'd become the next unexpected yet great story at the position.

The 27-year-old backed up Wisconsin demigod Brett Favre for the first four seasons of his career in Green Bay. As those with knowledge of Favre's No. 2's over the years can attest to, one of the best in the game, Matt Hasselbeck, sat behind the future Hall of Famer for two seasons before becoming a Pro Bowler in Seattle.

At the inception of Bills training camp in late July, the team was continuing to give Nall every chance possible to start. Along with third-year man J.P. Losman and 33-year-old Kelly Holcomb, he was expected to split snaps and compete for the No. 1 signal caller's job.

Unfortunately for the former fifth-round pick, he suffered a hamstring injury on July 29 that kept him out for two-plus weeks of action. Since that injury, the former Northwestern State QB became somewhat of an afterthought, watching Losman and Holcomb--his combatants--take all the snaps and grab the headlines.

Finally, Nall is on the road back to relevancy. He's worked out with the Bills in their last two days of training camp practices, and is still fighting for a starting role. Given the way the duo ahead of him performed in Buffalo's first preseason game last Saturday, the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder should be considered very much alive in what was once (and still could be) a three-way race.

On Tuesday, head coach Dick Jauron named Losman the frontrunner to ultimately take the job, but his level of inconsistency is too great to truly predict whether or not he'll win it. Holcomb, meanwhile, is the type of ultra-conservative, low-risk QB who can lead a team to a record anywhere between 7-9 and 9-7 in a full season - no more, no less. His floor and ceiling are both in the same mediocre vicinities.

Much like Losman (to a certain extent), Nall is basically an unknown in this competition. He was once a standout in NFL Europe, but so many other never-was's in the regular NFL were, too. For every Jake Delhomme and Kurt Warner, there's about 50 Dave Ragones. The chances of Nall being a Ragone are greater than a Delhomme, but why not give him a chance?

The strong-armed Nall is trying desperately to work his way back into the thick of the Bills' quarterback battle, and this Friday's stage could be his chance to climb up the ladder.

Losman has been named the starter against the Cincinnati Bengals, and Holcomb is the backup going in. However, if neither of them show much and Nall, likely in the game's late stages, does, it's conceivable he could be granted an opportunity to start Buffalo's third exhibition contest, an Aug. 26 showdown with the Cleveland Browns.

As far as members of the Buffalo Bills go, Nall may have the most to lose in the team's upcoming game. A solid performance will bring him right back into the race; a poor performance, however, will likely end his chances altogether.

--Connor J. Byrne can be reached at cbyrne@realfootball365.com

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