Report Card Grades for First-Round Quarterbacks in Weekend Preseason Debuts
The NFL's first round of preseason games are in the books, and already, the top rookie quarterbacks have made their NFL debuts. The big-name, first-round guys all showed well in their first taste of pro football. So here is a look at who did what, and how I graded their performances.
I know everyone is going nuts over Luck's performance on Sunday in his first preseason action, but people need to take a step back and take a deep breath. Yes, Luck had nice numbers and made some great throws in his debut. But 63 of his 188 yards came on what was essentially a two-yard shovel pass that Donald Brown broke for a long touchdown.
Overall, Luck completed 10-of-16 passes for 188 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He played all but one series in the first half and was working against the St. Louis Rams—a team that ranked 22nd in the NFL in total defense last season.
Luck showed poise, made some really nice throws and made good decisions with the football, but he was doing it in the preseason against a terrible team. He did exactly what he should have done on Sunday.
I'll give Luck a solid grade, but the bar of expectations has been set so high I can't give him an A. He needs to keep improving and doing more of what we saw on Sunday.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Griffin's debut wasn't as celebrated as Luck's but he performed solidly. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 70 yards and one touchdown. And he also ran one time for no gain. His touchdown pass came on a play where he progressed through all of his reads before hitting receiver Pierre Garcon for a 20-yard score.
Griffin looked composed against the Buffalo Bills' monster defensive front, and he played within his ability, not forcing anything or trying to do to much. While he is clearly running a scaled-down version of head coach Mike Shanahan's offense, he was able to excel and remain patient in the pocket.
His performance thus far in training camp has been a bit uneven, but in his first game action, Griffin looked solid in limited snaps.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
I first need to preface this by saying that I didn't expect much from Tannehill in his first NFL action. His lack of experience under center led me to believe he would have serious difficulty adjusting to the speed of the NFL game, even against a third-team defense.
I'm not going to declare the Texas A&M product ready for action at the NFL level, but he really did a nice job against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday. He completed 14-of-21 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown, also running one time for five yards.
Tannehill showed composure, made all the right reads and found the open guy when he needed to. It was a solid performance that was—quite frankly—totally unexpected.
The Dolphins are likely going to sit Tannehill on the bench this year, but on Friday, he showed that he could probably be a solid backup option as a rookie. Again, that was unexpected. I'm giving him a higher grade than Luck and Griffin based on expectation level. I was more impressed that he succeeded than the other two.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Now here is a guy I expected much more from who was downright awful. Weeden looked comfortable at times, but also wasn't poised in some situations. Weeden finished the night by completing 3 of 9 passes for 62 yards and an interception. He also fumbled the ball away on Cleveland's first drive.
Weeden threw a really nice deep ball to Travis Benjamin for 34 yards on the Browns' first drive, but also heaved one towards Greg Little that was intercepted on his final drive of the evening.
The 28-year-old Weeden has a long way to go, especially since he has been anointed the starter already. His debut against the Detroit Lions on Friday night wasn't great, but he's got time to figure it out before the regular season kicks off.
Still, his opening performance didn't grade out well.
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