NFL Week 1 the Rookie Room: Breaking Down the Rookie QBs
The NFL has become a passing league, there's no getting around it. With the emphasis on passing becoming so great (ESPN Stats and Info tweeted 71.5 percent of yards gained in Week 1 came through the air, the highest percentage for an opening week in NFL history), more and more teams are looking for that franchise quarterback,
Welcome to the Rookie Room. The Rookie Room will be a weekly piece on the the play and progression of this year's rookie quarterbacks -- not handing out arbitrary grades.
An NFL record five rookie quarterbacks started games Week 1, the Rookie Room will start with those five but will welcome in others during the season, such as Nick Foles after Michael Vick's inevitable injury.
Stat Key: After reviewing film, every quarterback will have a stat line looking deeper than 18/22 with 2 TD's. "Overthrows" are counted as throws missed long while not under pressure to an open receiver. "Underthrows" will be short throws while not under pressure to an open receiver. "Back foot passes" will be considered throws off the back foot when the quarterback has time to set his feet. "Dangerous throws" will be passes forced into a clearly covered or double covered receiver who is not Calvin Johnson. "Extended Plays" are considered plays when the intent was to pass and through scrambling the quarterback was able to run or pass for a positive gain.
Robert Griffin III at New Orleans Saints
19/26, 320 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 0 Overthrows, 1 Underthrow, 1 Back foot pass, 1 Dangerous Throw, 2 Extended Plays.
Robert Griffin III had one of the best debuts for a rookie QB in NFL history.
His success was helped by a smartly crafted game plan and an effective running game. Griffin's first six passes were completed to receivers behind the line of scrimmage. The quick completions let Griffin find confidence and get into a rhythm that helped when he threw his first pass beyond the line of scrimmage, which resulted in a 88-yard catch and run touchdown to Pierre Garcon.
Griffin was also helped out by the run game more than any other rookie quarterback. Alfred Morris' production (there's your starting Washington running back, fantasy football players!) from 28 carries was able to keep some of the pressure off Griffin.
Griffin went through the game making smart plays and not forcing many balls into tight coverage. He did underthrow a ball late in the game that should have been picked off -- you know, if defensive players could catch. Add in the fact Griffin was told to keep passing and scoring so the long snapper wouldn't have to snap for a punt, his performance puts him at the head of this rookie class after the first week.
Next week: at St. Louis Rams
Andrew Luck at Chicago Bears
23/45, 309 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 4 Overthrows, 2 Underthrows, 3 Back foot passes, 1 Dangerous throw, 2 Extended Plays.
Andrew Luck faced the hardest challenge of the rookies playing the Chicago Bears defense. Luck had a lot of nice throws that showed why he was the first pick in the draft, but when he made a mistake it was costly.
His three interceptions came on his two underthrows and his dangerous throw, when he tried to force a ball to Reggie Wayne through too small of a hole in the end zone late in the third quarter. Luck also had no run support throughout the game. The scoring drive ending with Donald Brown's 18-yard touchdown run was the only drive Brown was remotely a threat with the ball in his hands. Brown also had inexcusable drops in the passing game that could have extended drives.
Just from watching one game, it was easy to tell Luck is going to be a great quarterback in this league. He's is going to love throwing to Reggie Wayne -- who had a handful of nice catches on Sunday -- and seems to already have confidence in knowing wherever he puts the ball, Wayne can go get it.
Luck also looked incredibly comfortable in the two minute drill at the end of the second half. He led the team up the field with 39 seconds left for what should have been three points, but Adam Vinatieri missed a 37-yard field goal.
Next week: vs Minnesota Vikings
Russell Wilson at Arizona Cardinals
18/34, 153 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 4 Overthrows, 0 Underthrows, 4 Back foot passes, 1 Dangerous throw, 6 Extended Plays.
Russell Wilson found out this isn't the preseason anymore. If Wilson can learn to trust himself, his teammates and his progressions, we could see the impressive quarterback we saw in those preseason games that led to columns like this.
Wilson's extended plays number is inflated because too often he abandoned his progressions and looked to scramble. Wilson needs to trust himself and stay in the pocket longer letting his receivers' routes develop before he runs. There was a glimpse of this on his one touchdown pass -- where he looked confident in the pocket, waited patiently for a receiver to get open, and found Sidney Rice in the end zone once that happened -- but that confidence was rare throughout the rest of the game.
Wilson also needs to show a bit more concentration. He had two delay of game penalties and his one dangerous throw never should have been released. On a swing pass to Marshawn Lynch, Lynch was heavily covered, but Wilson still threw him a backwards pass, which was fumbled as soon as Lynch touched the ball. If there was any time for Wilson to tuck the ball and run, it was that play.
When Wilson did step up and throw in the pocket, he threw some nice balls. Seattle not scoring a touchdown on the final drive was not on Wilson, as he put a majority of the passes where the receivers should have caught them for touchdowns -- talking to you Braylon Edwards.
Next week: vs Dallas Cowboys
Ryan Tannehill at Houston Texans
20/36, 219 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 3 Overthrows, 0 Underthrows, 2 Back foot passes, 1 Dangerous throw, 0 Extended Plays.
Fumbling a snap and falling down on a drop back is something a quarterback does when he's scared. Ryan Tannehill looked scared. Tannehill seemed to have no confidence in the pocket and it showed.
Tannehill's progressions were minimal to nonexistent and the Houston defense took notice. His two interceptions from batted balls at the line of scrimmage were caused by staring down his main receiver. Tannehill did not move his head on either throw and the Houston defensive line took advantage by just putting their hands up.
The same thing occurred on Tannehill's first interception, allowing Jonathan Joseph to jump the route. Veteran corners will do that -- cut to Darrelle Revis excitedly nodding his head.
Tannehill also better write Reggie Bush a nice thank you note at the end of the season. If the first game was any indication of the rest of the season, Bush will be receiving plenty of check down passes to bail Tannehill out of trouble.
Not all was terrible though, Tannehill through a great deep ball to Brian Hartline for a 34-yard gain late in the fourth quarter. He also should have had a touchdown pass to Davone Bess, had Bess ran into the end zone instead of deciding to cut his route off at the 1-yard line.
I stand by my assertion Tannehill isn't ready to be an NFL quarterback, but it looks like there's no turning back in Miami now.
Next week: vs Oakland Raiders
Brandon Weeden vs Philadelphia Eagles
12/35,118 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT, 7 Overthrows, 1 Underthrow, 3 Back foot passes, 2 Dangerous throws, 1 Extended Play.
One day someone is going to explain to me why a 28-year-old rookie is the better option to move a franchise forward at the quarterback position than a 26-year-old in his third year and it will make sense, but that's not the point. The bigger point is I cringed typing that stat line.
Weeden was the only rookie QB to open at home, but that didn't help. Weeden looked lost and overwhelmed on the majority of his passes.
The 39 yards on 19 carries from Trent Richardson for run support didn't help either. The lack of run game brought up issues on play action. The first problem was none of the Eagles defenders were biting on the fake because they didn't care about Richardson's 2.1 yards per carry average or his long run of 9 yards. The bigger issue though, was Weeden's feet after the play action fake. Weeden consistently threw from his back foot on play action passes and rarely stepped up in the pocket, even with plenty of time to do so.
With his feet not set, Weeden threw some terrible passes. His seven overthrows, by far the most of the five rookie starters, weren't even close to his receivers. Another tweet from ESPN Stats and Info stated Weeden was the only starting QB Week 1 to not have a completion of 15-plus yards downfield.
Weeden is going to have to make better decisions to keep his job. His first interception was not his fault as it bounced off the hands of receiver Greg Little. The other three, however, were awful decisions. Both of Weeden's interceptions to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had no chance of getting through to receiver Travis Benjamin. The interception to Kurt Coleman with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter, down by one point, came closer to looking like a punt than a pass attempt.
The one extended play by Weeden also comes with an asterisk, as it was a 25-yard run to expiring time in the first half instead of throwing the ball down field -- the one time an interception wouldn't matter.
Somehow the Browns still could have had a tie game if the head coach was smart enough to go for two points to go up be seven instead of six after D'Qwell Jackson pick-six in the fourth quarter.
Welcome to Cleveland.
Next week: at Cincinnati Bengals
For more NFL coverage, follow Dan on Twitter @DanPizzuta
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