Injuries are a part of football and they’re often the most difficult obstacle for teams to overcome. At quarterback, having a starting-caliber backup can make all the difference, which teams like the Cardinals and Panthers have shown in recent years. The Cowboys have learned this as well, only in the worst way possible. After breaking down the five worst backup quarterback situations, let's take a look at the best in the NFL. (Just missed: Browns, Patriots, 49ers)
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Philadelphia Eagles: Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz
The most interesting team on this list could very well have three different starting quarterbacks this season. Sam Bradford is the starter as of now, but Daniel and Wentz are coming for his job and could unseat him if he struggles or gets injured – neither of which would be much of a surprise. Daniel has experience in Doug Pederson’s system from Kansas City, which assures the coaching staff that he’ll be just fine if Bradford goes down. Wentz showed overwhelming potential in his preseason debut, and the Eagles will be hard pressed not to insert him into the lineup if Bradford gets off to a slow start. He has the most talent of the bunch, which is strange for a third-stringer but not for a No. 2 overall pick. Given that all three could be starting quarterbacks – and are being paid as such – the Eagles have a solid (and expensive) core of signal callers.
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Cincinnati Bengals: AJ McCarron, Keith Wenning
McCarron was viewed as a game manager at Alabama, but he’s turned out to be a decent quarterback in the NFL. Last season, he started three games in place of Andy Dalton, going 2-1 with six touchdown passes and just two interceptions. McCarron proved he has a big enough arm and the smarts to succeed in the NFL, which makes him a great backup. His 7.2 yards per attempt obviously leave plenty to be desired, but second-string quarterbacks aren’t supposed to come in and sling it around the field. Their objective is to allow others to make plays around them. He struggled in his lone postseason start – 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception – but the Bengals could certainly do worse at backup, as many teams could.
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Chicago Bears: Brian Hoyer, David Fales
For some reason, Hoyer hasn’t gotten nearly the credit he deserves in the NFL. He’s gone 15-11 in games he’s started, including 10-6 with the Browns. Last season with the Texans, Hoyer had 19 touchdown passes and just seven picks in nine starts, which are terrific numbers. Still, he flew under the radar despite having a 91.4 passer rating. Hoyer has only gotten better as his career has gone on, and there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t win a handful of games if Jay Cutler were to go down. The Bears know what they’re going to get with Hoyer, and that’s why they added him this offseason. Fales is a young guy who’s still developing, but he has a big arm and could turn into something down the road.
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Carolina Panthers: Derek Anderson, Joe Webb
Anderson has been around for a while, which is one of the best qualities for a backup quarterback. He’s started 45 games in his career, making one Pro Bowl when he had 29 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions in 2007. Most recently, he filled in for Cam Newton two years ago, going 2-0 with five TD passes and zero interceptions. Anderson gives the Panthers plenty of confidence, which is needed with a quarterback as physical and athletic as Newton. Joe Webb is merely an emergency option as he’s played both quarterback (two starts) and wide receiver in his career. The Panthers would be in good shape if the reigning MVP were to go down.
USA TODAY SportsJeremy Brevard
Arizona Cardinals: Drew Stanton, Matt Barkley
The Cardinals not only have the best dancing quarterback in the NFL, but they also have the best backup corps in football. Drew Stanton is widely known for his fantastic dance moves and celebratory antics on the sidelines but he’s also a solid quarterback. He went 5-3 in 2013 after taking over for the injured Carson Palmer, throwing seven touchdown passes and five interceptions. Though his numbers weren’t eye-popping, he got the job done in those eight starts. As if he wasn’t enough insurance for the oft-injured Palmer, the Cardinals also have Matt Barkley at No. 3. Entering his fourth season, Barkley has played just four games, and though he doesn’t have a touchdown pass, he has showed potential in the past. The Cardinals hope he never has to see the field, but he’s not the worst third-string quarterback in the league.