2022 NFL preseason Week 2 rookie QB roundup: Kenny Pickett makes case to start; Willis, Reeder remains influential

The final week of the NFL preseason has typically been a “dress rehearsal” for NFL teams, but combine practices have changed that line of thinking in recent years. With how teams handle their business in the preseason, rookie quarterbacks — draft picks or not — have plenty of opportunities to make an impression as their organization looks to the future.

Kenny Pickett made the case for why he should be the No. 1 quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first week of the preseason, while Desmond Ryder looks set to start for the Atlanta Falcons at some point and Malik Willis demonstrated why he should start. Tennessee Titans down the road.

How did each of those quarterbacks — and the other rookie signal callers — fare in Week 2? Let’s have a look.

Kenny Pickett, Steelers

Pickett made his case to become the Steelers starting quarterback after a strong follow-up to his impressive debut. He completed 6 of 7 for 76 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a 151.5 passer rating. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin found Benny Snell for a score before Pickett completed a five-play, 63-yard drive with just 42 seconds left.

Pickett is 19 or 22 for 171 yards with three touchdowns and a 138.6 passer rating in two games. With him looking like the top quarterback on the Steelers, Pittsburgh could go with Mitchell Trubisky to start the year.

Malik Willis, Titans

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Willis looked impressive in his second game with the Titans, even if he needs work throwing the football. He finished 7-for-17 for 80 yards, one touchdown and three sacks with no interceptions (75.6 rating). Willis also led the Titans with 42 yards on five carries.

Accuracy issues continue to be a concern for Willis, but he will be behind Ryan Tannehill to start the year. Willis has completed just 48.4% of his passes in the two games he’s played, but has 10 carries for 80 yards and a score.

Desmond Ryder, Falcons

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In the preseason opener, Reeder showed his ability under pressure by throwing a game-winning touchdown with less than two minutes to play against the Lions. In Week 2 against the Jets, his efficiency was on full display, as he completed 10 of his 13 passes for 143 yards in just three offensive series. (Atlanta tacked on a pair of field goals on those drives but could have scored more if not for so many penalties.) Ryder finished with a 112.0 passer rating after managing just 89.8 in his NFL debut.

Veteran Marcus Mariota, himself a fixture in New York, will start the season under center, but Ridder looks like he’ll be ready to take over at some point if he continues to progress.

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Howell’s second outing didn’t go as well as his debut, finishing 10 of 18 for 122 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions (53.5 rating). He also had two carries for 13 yards, including a long run of 11 yards. Howell gave up some nice throws to Dax Milne and Eli Wolf, but still threw his interception with the Commanders on three downs in the final minute.

Howell has completed 55.9% of his passes with an interception and a 69.1 rating. He has five carries for 32 yards and two scores, ranking as the No. 3 quarterback behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke.

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Corral’s season is likely over after Lisfranc suffered an injury in the Panthers’ second preseason game. Set to be the No. 3 quarterback in his rookie year, Corral went just 9 of 15 for 58 yards before exiting Friday’s game in the second half.

The Panthers may place Corral on injured reserve.

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Zappe was the third quarterback to enter the game for the Patriots and played the remainder of the contest, going 16 of 25 for 173 yards and an interception – which was returned for a touchdown – for a 67.6 rating. The fourth-round pick is in line for the No. 3 job in New England, though he could surpass Brian Hoyer for the No. 2 role.

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Purdy completed 14 of 23 passes for 128 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, entering the game in the second quarter and playing the rest of the way. The seventh-round pick has earned his fair share of snaps this preseason, going 17 of 29 for 164 yards with a touchdown (86.0 rating).

Purdy is in line for the No. 3 job in San Francisco.

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Krum entered the game late in the fourth quarter, completing all three of his passes for 27 yards over the final three possessions for Kansas City. The former Kent State quarterback was an undrafted free agent signed by the Chiefs, but is now a long shot to make the roster as the No. 4 quarterback.

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Coan earned an extended look in Saturday’s game with starters resting, completing 11 of 7 for 83 yards and a touchdown (116.9 rating). The undrafted free agent from Wisconsin and Notre Dame is the fourth quarterback on the depth chart, behind Matt Ryan, Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger.

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Thompson continues to impress in Miami, finishing 9 of 10 for 129 yards and a touchdown after entering the game in the third quarter. His touchdown pass to ZaQuandre White was Miami’s lone touchdown of the game.

Thompson is the No. 3 quarterback in Miami and the seventh-round pick has been more than impressive this preseason. He is 29 of 38 for 347 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions (121.3 rating).

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Strong made his debut after being a healthy scratch last week, as the undrafted free agent threw just one pass on Sunday. A third-down throw should have extended the drive for pass interference, but no flag was thrown for the penalty.

Strong – an undrafted free agent – is not going to make the 53-man roster, but is a practice squad candidate.

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