Ryan Tannehill vs Brandon Weeden: Which Rookie QB Looked Worse in Debut?
While everyone loves to talk about Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, two other first-round rookie quarterbacks got to start in Week 1, and both looked tragically over-matched.
Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins drew a tough matchup against the Houston Texans—a team that just about everyone has winning the AFC South. More importantly, Tannehill had to face off against the Wade Phillips-schemed Texans defense, which has a ton of talented individuals Tannehill would get acquainted with in Week 1.
Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns didn't fare much better with their first opponent. The Philadelphia Eagles bolstered their defense over the offseason, adding numerous defensive linemen and linebackers to help out their tremendous cornerbacks.
How did each QB fare?
Statistically, neither quarterback fared well at all. Tannehill's day was truly horrendous, but (perhaps) is overshadowed by the historical ineptitude that Weeden displayed. While it's always easy to invoke the name "Peyton Manning" when talking about bad rookie performances, even Manning's first game wasn't this bad.
Yes, these two young men are rookies, and yes, they have plenty of time left to improve as NFL passers, but in Week 1, they weren't Manning, even rookie Manning.
To see which quarterback looked worse, let's go to the tape.
Ryan Tannehill Vs. The Houston Texans
Tannehill came out looking good against the Texans, firing a nice 10-yard pass to Davone Bess and a Brett Favre-esque flip to Reggie Bush for another four yards. Then, on his third pass, things started to turn a little sour.
The number of things wrong with this pass is astounding. First, it is a ridiculous overthrow, sailing over Bush's head. Secondly, even if he had completed it, Bush would've immediately gotten nailed by the defender.
The nicest thing you could say is that maybe Tannehill realized the play was busted and he just wanted to whip it out of bounds. In that case, it would be a uncalled intentional grounding because that pass was nowhere near the receiver.
More likely, he just rushed through his mechanics and threw without setting his feet.
Speaking of mechanics:
This pass was actually a completion, but it was another "Favre-like" completion that was more guts than skill. Tannehill was falling away from his throw, and if he continues that, he will be picked off more times than not.
Honestly, I thought "Favre" a lot more than I had initially thought I would while watching Tannehill. His improvisational abilities are special, but if they come at the expense of his mechanics, it will hamper his development. Important, also, to note that the lack of viable help around Tannehill may lead to his need to improvise.
He also had problems with his eyes. He stared down Johnathan Joseph on this interception. Note: Staring down Joseph will always result in an interception.
Tannehill just refused to go through his progressions on the above play, and accuracy doesn't matter when an NFL-caliber defensive back takes away even the smallest of windows.
Batted passes were also a problem with Tannehill, which is disconcerting because he's almost 6'4". Both his second and third interception (of the half) were batted down. It's tempting to write them off as tremendous defensive plays, but it's also important to watch Tannehill's delivery.
Tannehill is clearly delivering the ball out of a lower slot on some plays—not quite a side-armed throw, but closer to one than advisable. Compare that to a classic over-the-top delivery like Drew Brees or Russell Wilson uses, and it's no wonder that those two shorter quarterbacks play as tall (if not taller) than Tannehill.
Brandon Weeden Vs. The Philadelphia Eagles
First off, Weeden's issues started before the opening kickoff as he was trapped under the giant American flag in pre-game. Even I'm not jaded enough to try and "scout" the mishap, but it's somewhat ironic that things only went down from there.
Now, maybe being draped in the red white and blue is nothing new for Weeden, but his horrid performance on Sunday is certainly a fresh experience. No matter how bad a quarterback is this season, they can likely take comfort in knowing that Weeden's Week 1 performance was worse.
Ironically, the first pass was a beauty.
Weeden went right after Nnamdi Asomugha, who was playing in off coverage. The short slant was a perfectly-placed and well-timed strike. A few more of those, and Weeden would have been sitting pretty.
Later, Weeden would hit an almost-identical pass between two defenders on the other side of the field. If one is looking for a silver lining in Sunday's debacle, it would be those two passes.
Things go south from there, however.
The above play won't show up in the stat sheet because Trent Cole was penalized, negating the play. However, as Weeden set up to throw downfield, his release was elongated. Essentially, he let Cole get to him because he either couldn't get the ball down the field far enough with his normal release (bad) or he simply didn't trust his arm (worse.)
Again, Cole was flagged, so no harm/no foul on this particular play, but plays like that can snowball in a hurry in the NFL. Weeden needs to focus on getting the ball out as quickly as possible and not "rearing back" to make longer throws.
Longer throws were a concern for Weeden, even when he was able to get rid of the ball.
Here, Weeden's receiver was one-one-one with Dominique Rogers-Cromartie on the outside. Weeden doesn't have the arm strength to put it in front of the receiver, and DRC had him well-blanketed anyway.
The only throw possible would be a ball to the outside shoulder where only his receiver could get it. Instead, Weeden throws to the inside shoulder where the much bigger Rogers-Cromartie could be seen licking his chops.
Of course, the best throw would have been to, literally, any other receiver on the field at that moment. Instead, Weeden had made his decision before assessing the play and he was burned.
In Week 1, Tannehill was bad, but Weeden turned in one of the worst quarterback performances we may see all year.
Both Weeden and Tannehill have plenty of leash to work out the kinks in their respective games. However, Weeden is pushing 30 and will have less time to prove he is a franchise passer. Cleveland and Miami need to see more out of their rookies. Hopefully, they'll never see anything like these ever again.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."
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