Cardale Jones vs. Kellen Clemens: Who is the Chargers backup QB?

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 15: Cardale Jones /

Will Kellen Clemens be Philip Rivers’ backup for the fourth straight year?

Los Angeles Chargers fans have become accustomed to seeing Philip Rivers be the quarterback of the team for nearly 14 years. There’s never been much conversation with the backup position, seemingly because we never seem to need to put much thought into it.

Rivers, along with 2004 draft classmate Eli Manning, has not missed a start in over a decade. He even fought through the pain of playing through the torn ACL he suffered in the 2007 divisional round against the Indianapolis Colts to play against the New England Patriots in the Championship round.

He hasn’t given us a reason to believe that he will ever get an injury that will cause him to miss a significant period of time. It is worth noting though that Rivers is 35, turning 36 this December. In the new NFL, where players like Tom Brady and a few other players seem to be making it in their 40’s, it stands to reckon that Rivers could play out the three remaining years he has on his contract, and potentially longer. But there has to be a plan B when you consider how old Rivers is.

And that is ultimately what the NFL preseason is for.

The primary battle has been between Cardale Jones, who the Chargers acquired in the offseason from the Bills for a seventh-round pick, and  Kellen Clemens. Mike Bercovici is also on the roster and played decently last preseason to earn himself a spot on the 90-man roster this year, but he will not be the backup at this point.

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Jones has quite a bit of potential. He of course is remembered for his  Ohio State years where he won a national championship and was undefeated as a starter, but what interests me more is Anthony Lynn. Lynn worked with Jones in Buffalo, where he served as a backup to Bills starter Tyrod Taylor. I’m curious to see if coach Lynn wants to develop Jones to be the starter in a post-Rivers era.

Now, let’s get to the first preseason game vs. Seattle. Rivers threw a beautiful dart to Gates on one of the most efficient, precise Chargers drives I have seen in a while. Rivers and the offensive line looked great. Then, Clemens came in on the following drive. He threw 4-for-10  for 100 yards with one touchdown and two bad interceptions off of tipped passes. His touchdown pass came when speedy Travis Benjamin beat his man and sprinted down the field for a beautiful 74-yard rainbow pass.

Still, Clemens’ performance was iffy at best. While I’ve heard a lot about how he contributes in the locker room and off the field, his play on the field leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Next up was Cardale. I honestly wasn’t too impressed with him either. He showed some potential and promise, and didn’t commit costly turnovers like Clemens, but other than a few nice passes and runs, he certainly didn’t light the world on fire.

The rest of the preseason will be interesting for the quarterback battle, as well as some of the other positions. But I’m thinking right now that Jones will probably be the better of the two for the rest of the preseason. I want him to get more time than Clemens, since we seemingly know what we have with him. I think Jones has a lot of potential working with Lynn, but he needs to get more time in both training camp and some of these preseason games to let us really know what we have with him.

Ultimately, this conversation may not end up being too important since we have a great quarterback who hasn’t missed a game since 2006. But, it’s worth talking about who gets the second quarterback spot for the future of the position, and in the worst case scenario that Rivers may ever need to miss an extended period of time. I’m incredibly curious how Lynn plays the QB’s next week against the New Orleans Saints.