Backup QB breakdown

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

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Atlanta Falcons: If Matt Ryan is unavailable, the team's situation is not as desperate as it might seem.Yes, losing Ryan, one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, for any period of time would hurt. But the Falcons could weather a Ryan injury in the short term. Chris Redman is a very capable backup with a fair amount of experience. With a very good offense around him, Redman could step in nicely. He doesn’t have Ryan’s arm or big-play ability, but Redman is the type of quarterback who can manage a game well. It doesn’t hurt that Atlanta’s a run-first team and Michael Turner can make any quarterback look good. D.J. Shockley and John Parker Wilson are battling for the No. 3 job. If either has to play, the Falcons would be in big trouble.

Carolina Panthers: If Jake Delhomme is unavailable, fairweather fans will realize again how good he is. Josh McCown has some experience and some of the same moxie as Delhomme.Same for No. 3 quarterback Matt Moore. But neither has Delhomme’s track record or proven respect in the locker room. McCown and Moore both have some upside, but the Panthers would take a big hit if Delhomme goes down. Forget Delhomme’s disastrous outing in the playoffs last season. He led the Panthers to a 12-4 record before that. When Delhomme went out with an elbow injury in 2007, the Panthers went 7-9 and missed the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints: If Drew Brees is unavailable, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi will go into one huge panic.That would be justified because Brees is one of the league’s best quarterbacks and nobody on the roster is nearly as good. But the Saints have one of the league’s better backup quarterback situations -- at least in the short term. Veteran Mark Brunell is even more experienced than Brees and the Saints have tons of offensive talent. If Brunell had to play a few games, the Saints wouldn’t have a huge drop off. But Brunell is old and brittle and might have problems handling a long season if Brees went out for more than a few games. Third quarterback Joey Harrington still has some talent, but he’s a reclamation project. Harrington’s in a good situation because coach Sean Payton is a great offensive coach. But Harrington probably needs more time in the system before he’s ready to make much of a contribution.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If Byron Leftwich is unavailable, the Bucs could be better off. Let’s face it: Leftwich is a short-term solution and won the starting job only because the coaching staff viewed him as the safe choice.Leftwich has some experience and a big arm. But he’s not mobile and his technique is awkward. You can make an argument that backup Luke McCown outplayed Leftwich in the preseason. McCown got a lot of work with the first team, so it wouldn’t be hard for him to step back in. But Leftwich and McCown aren’t going to excite many people, including the coaching staff. The Bucs know rookie Josh Freeman is their future, but they want to bring him along slowly. If anything happens to Leftwich in the first half of the season, the Bucs will turn to McCown because the early schedule is brutal and Freeman needs time to develop. But, if there’s an injury in the second half of the season, you’ll probably see Freeman. It might not even take an injury for that to happen.