Commentary

Tomlin must find a quarterback balance

Originally Published: July 29, 2010
By Adam Schefter | ESPN.com

In these sweltering summer temperatures, it might have been preferable for ESPN to schedule a bus tour of the CFL, not the NFL.

But though the heat will be on Mort and me during our bus tour of each of the NFL's 32 teams, it will be even hotter for the players battling for roster spots and starting jobs. We will be there to observe.

So many compelling storylines await, not unlike the truck stops on our path. Here are some of the biggest issues that will be explored at camp and explained on air and online:

1. Cincinnati's Must-See TV: If New York is this country's financial capital, Cincinnati is its new reality TV capital. Bengals wide receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco have exchanged roses, joined forces and turned the Queen City into the Drama Queens City. They are, in the words of ESPN's Bill Simmons, the VH1 Bengals. And this is going to be great. If he doesn't already, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer should get an endorsement deal with Tylenol. Owens squares off against three of his former teams this summer -- the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game, the Eagles and the Bills. And the ESPN bus tour scheduler, Stephanie Druley, needs to be saluted. Prior to Owens landing with the Bengals, she scheduled Cincinnati as my first training camp stop for this Friday. Popcorn's ready -- and it should be all season.

2. Pittsburgh's pitch counts: The Steelers' Mike Tomlin is faced with a question that few coaches have encountered. On the one hand, he must prepare Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon to start the first four to six games of the season. On the other, Ben Roethlisberger must be prepared as well, even though he will not be playing until later this season. How Tomlin handles his quarterback rotation will be one of the most intriguing summer subplots. He can't give too much work to Leftwich and Dixon and not enough to Roethlisberger. He can't give too much to Roethlisberger and not enough to Leftwich or Dixon. There's a fine line. Tomlin must find a way to walk it.

3. Pennsylvania's other QB: Pittsburgh has its quarterback issues, and so does Philadelphia. Finally the Eagles get to turn to Kevin Kolb, the man who was destined to become the Eagles' starting quarterback from the moment they drafted him in the second round in 2007. Philadelphia knew it couldn't keep both Donovan McNabb and Kolb long-term and it made its decision. All that rests on that is Philadelphia's football fortunes for the foreseeable future. How Kolb performs this summer will provide a glimpse of what the Eagles will see during the season and in years to come.

4. Star Wars: This offseason, the New York Jets transformed themselves into the New York Yankees of the NFL. They signed five-time Pro Bowl running back and former NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. They traded for former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes. They landed the franchise's No. 1 nemesis, defensive end Jason Taylor. They acquired Tomlinson's former San Diego teammate Antonio Cromartie. And if that weren't juicy enough, three of the Jets' best players -- cornerback Darrelle Revis, center Nick Mangold and linebacker David Harris -- all want new deals. It's Christmas for New York's tabloids.

5. More change in Washington: Football is about head coaches and quarterbacks. Any team that has two good ones has the chance to compete. Washington now has Mike Shanahan as its coach and McNabb as its quarterback. The franchise might be in its best shape since Joe Gibbs was its coach and Mark Rypien its quarterback. Shanahan has a hunger born from being fired and spending a season out of football. McNabb -- like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning -- is headed into the last year of his contract. Shanahan and McNabb are highly motivated. It should make football's toughest division that much tougher.

Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.