Dobbs gets another chance to start in the NFL, at least for a little while

Cleveland Browns quarterback Joshua Dobbs looks to pass during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Washington Commanders on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — After six long seasons bouncing around the NFL, Joshua Dobbs has a golden opportunity to emerge as the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.

For a little while, anyway.

The 28-year-old Dobbs was acquired by the Cardinals last week in a deal with the Cleveland Browns as the franchise continues its search for a quarterback who can man the position until starter Kyler Murray returns from a knee injury suffered last season. Dobbs arrives in the desert less than two weeks before the Cardinals open their season at Washington in Week 1.

It's certainly not an ideal scenario, but if anyone can do it, teammates say it's Dobbs.

“He's smart, obviously,” tight end Zach Ertz said, grinning. “That's well-noted. He's an astronaut or whatever.”

That's not exactly true, but it's fair to say Dobbs is more intelligent than the average NFL player. The 28-year-old has a degree in aerospace engineering from Tennessee and has done internships with NASA through the NFL Players Association.

“It's the ultimate problem-solver position," Dobbs said of how intelligence can help a quarterback. “Each time, you get 40 seconds and the defense is throwing different curveballs at you from pressures to fronts to coverages. You have a (offensive) play and you're getting your team into the best play possible, whether it's the play called or getting to a different play. And then, execute.”

Dobbs is competing with rookie Clayton Tune for the starting role. Tune — a fifth-round pick out of Houston — has had some good moments during the team's three preseason games but is very early in his development.

First-year coach Jonathan Gannon said he probably wouldn't announce a starter going into Week 1, viewing it as a competitive advantage against the Commanders. But he knows what the winner of the competition must do.

“Command and production — their ability to run the huddle and make plays,” Gannon said. “They need to operate in a way we have to operate to give us a chance to win.”

Dobbs figures to have a leg up in the competition because he's familiar with Arizona's new offensive coordinator Drew Petzing, who was Dobbs' quarterbacks coach during his time in Cleveland.

“It gives you a running start in that there's a lot of similarities and crossover," Dobbs said. “But there are a ton of differences as well.”

Dobbs has played for several teams in his six seasons, including the Steelers, Titans, Jaguars, Browns, Lions and now the Cardinals. He was drafted by the Steelers in 2017 and was part of their playoff teams in 2017 and 2020, backing up star Ben Roethlisberger.

The Titans thought enough of Dobbs' potential that they signed him off Cleveland's practice squad last December when they were trying to make a playoff push and desperate for a quarterback following Ryan Tannehill's ankle injury.

Dobbs played fairly well in that two-game cameo with the Titans — especially considering the pressure-packed situation — completing 59% of his passes for 411 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Those are the only two games he's started in his NFL career.

“I've seen a ton of football, I've watched a lot of guys, especially ‘Big Ben,’ do it at a high level,” Dobbs said. “But to get out there in a game, it's you in that position, it was a tremendous experience and opportunity. I played well, but I learned a lot. I learned how I can play better.”

No matter who wins the job between Dobbs and Tune, it's almost certainly going to be a short-term gig. Murray was put on the PUP list on Tuesday, meaning he'll miss at least the first four games of the season as he recovers from a torn ACL in his right knee.

“Kyler — when he's healthy to play, mentally and physically — he'll play,” Gannon said.

But starting opportunities are rare in the NFL, even if they're short-term roles. If Dobbs wins the competition, he won't take it for granted.

“It's been a journey,” Dobbs said. “I've learned a lot about myself, I've learned a ton of football and I've learned the ultimate level of patience.”


AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.