For journeyman players and NFL rookies, the final week of preseason is the last live-action audition. For veteran starters, it’s the last chance to get hurt in a meaningless game. Because of this, NFL teams generally won’t play their established starters this week, and they will almost certainly not risk injury for their franchise quarterbacks. But in recent seasons, NFL teams have taken this preseason risk management one step further: Quarterbacks hardly play any preseason games anymore, let alone the last one.
The preseason pass attempts of the game’s top quarterbacks are down precipitously. Only one starting quarterback is currently listed among the top 10 in preseason pass attempts: Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (69 attempts) — perhaps not by coincidence, he’s also the only one with an HBO camera crew documenting his summer.
Of course, taking fewer snaps on the field doesn’t guarantee that a quarterback will avoid injury — the Dallas Cowboys lost Tony Romo for more than half of last year’s regular season even though he saw only six passes’ worth of preseason action. But coaches seem to be placing special emphasis on keeping star quarterbacks out of harm’s way as much as possible in trivial summer games.
To measure this, we looked at the 10 passers who threw the most yards over the past 10 seasons — nine of whom are still active and starting on NFL teams.
From 2007 to 2012, these quarterbacks — as a group — generally…