Since re-joining the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, Virginia Cavaliers great and 2002 ACC Player of the Year Matt Schaub has managed to make a good living for himself as the backup quarterback to Matt Ryan. However, if Thursday Night’s Pro Football Hall of Fame game is any indication, Schaub may have to spend his 16th NFL preseason fending off another Virginia quarterback.
That would be Kurt Benkert, the third member of the Falcons’ quarterbacks room. With Matt Ryan not playing in Thursday night’s match against the Denver Broncos in Canton, Ohio, both Schaub and Benkert were given the chance to take center stage. And when Benkert took over on the Falcons’ fourth series of offense, he would prove to be sharp, decisive, and a spark to get Atlanta’s night going. After completing six of his first nine passes, the highlight of Benkert’s night would come late in the second quarter, when he led the Falcons on a 61-yard drive that ended in a touchdown pass to running back Brian Hill.
All tied at 7. #PFHOF19
— NFL (@NFL) August 2, 2019
Entering his second NFL season, Benkert is attempting to win the Falcons’ backup job after spending all of last season on the practice squad, and his 19-of-34 for 185 yards and one touchdown performance is a great first step. Speaking after the game, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn recognized Benkert’s performance as one of the things he was most excited about.
“I thought Kurt did a good job in the two-minute drill at the end of the half,” said Quinn. “That felt good and excellent.”
Benkert caught the eye of some outsiders as well, including Super Bowl XXXV-winning head coach and current NFL Network analyst Brian Billick. Speaking on NFL Network, Billick noted Benkert’s performance as a reflection of how he has improved since going undrafted last year.
“Coming out of college, some of the observations were, ‘Well, there were some ill-advised throws. He seemed to force the ball,'” said Billick. “He seemed very much in control of it, didn’t force the ball. He looked like much more of a veteran than he is.”
However, Benkert’s standout performance was spoiled early in the fourth quarter, when he was forced to leave the game with a toe injury. The severity of Benkert’s toe injury is not yet known as of Friday afternoon, and should be a concern for the Falcons given how Benkert completely blew away his veteran counterpart: Schaub had a dismal night, only completing four of 14 passes for 10 yards and one interception.
Assuming Benkert’s injury is not serious, the next chapter in the Virginia vs. Virginia backup quarterback competition will come next Thursday night when the Falcons travel to Hard Rock Stadium to face the Miami Dolphins.