NFL Rookie Report: Breaking Down Week 4 of Rookie Quarterbacks

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NFL Rookie Report: Breaking Down Week 4 of Rookie Quarterbacks
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The road wasn't very friendly for rookie quarterbacks in the NFL, as all four QBs played away from home this week. Although they combined for 1,234 passing yards, only one touchdown was thrown, leading to a 1-3 record.

Week 4 did show glimpses of hope for the likes of Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill, as well as the karma gods' revenge against the Seahawks.

As always, the Rookie Report will be a weekly piece on the the play and progression of this year's rookie quarterbacks—not handing out arbitrary grades.

Stat Key: After reviewing film, every quarterback will have a stat line looking deeper than 18/22 with 2 TDs: 

  • "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.

 

Brandon Weeden at Baltimore Ravens, Loss 23-16

25/52, 320 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 5 Overthrows, 4 Underthrows, 2 Back foot passes, 3 Dangerous Throws, 1 Extended Play

Weeden did his best Michael Corleone impression against the Ravens.

Just when you start to think to yourself, "Wow, Weeden actually looks pretty good," he goes and reminds you of the Brandon Weeden of the first three weeks.

Larry French/Getty Images

Weeden was having a stellar third quarter, looking like a composed veteran, then with 15 seconds left in the quarter he lobs in a pass to Travis Benjamin that gets intercepted for a touchdown by Cary Williams.

The interception stats say Weeden only threw one, but it easily could have been four, as all three of his "Dangerous Throws" should have been picked off.

I'm still convinced Weeden gets excited to throw into double coverage.

There were bright spots in the game, though.

Weeden confidently stood in the pocket and stepped into his passes, dramatically decreasing his back foot passes from Week 3. The Browns constructed a game plan that let Weeden hit quick slants and screens (#smartpasses) to get him in a rhythm.

Weeden also had some great throws that just weren't caught by his receivers, including what should have been a beautiful touchdown to Greg Little with five minutes left in the game.

Still, even with all the good, Weeden overthrew the end zone by a mile on fourth down at the end of the game, giving his receivers no chance to make a play... or a ref to make a terrible call.

Just when you thought you were out...

Next Week: at New York Giants

 

Ryan Tannehill at Arizona Cardinals, Loss 24-21/OT

26/41, 431 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 3 Overthrows, 2 Underthrows, 0 Back foot passes, 3 Dangerous Throws, 1 Extended Play

Oh, Ryan Tannehill, what are we supposed to make of this performance?

Sure you broke a Miami Dolphins rookie passing record and came only one yard shy of Cam Newton's NFL rookie passing record set last year, but only one touchdown pass?

To Tannehill's credit, all of these yards came in a close game and not garbage time of a blowout, like many of Newton's yards last season. Still, there were plenty of mistakes.

The only touchdown Tannehill threw was a wide open 80-yard pass to Brian Hartline with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Wide open might not even do justice to how open Hartline was.

The Cardinals forgot about him in coverage and there was no one within 15 yards of him. This is a throw Tannehill needs to make. If that play doesn't go for a touchdown, we have serious questions about Tannehill's quarterbacking ability.

Even though he only threw one interception in the third quarter, there could have been three others just in that quarter alone. The pass that actually got intercepted was the best throw of the four, but Brian Hartline fell down on his route.

The positive to take out of this game is Tannehill's trust and chemistry with Hartline. Tannehill targeted Hartline 19 times, connecting on 12 of them. On a day when Reggie Bush wasn't fully Reggie Bush because of a knee injury, the Dolphins had to throw the ball.

Tannehill's game wasn't quite as good at the simple stat line would indicate.

431 passing yards is an impressive feat, but Tannehill's 431 yards against the Cardinals weren't a very effective 431 passing yards. With a couple better decisions, we would be talking about more than 431 yards and a win.

Next week: at Cincinnati Bengals

 

Robert Griffin III at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Win 24-22

26/35, 323 yards, 0 TD, 1 Rushing TD, 0 INT, 2 Overthrows, 1 Underthrow, 2 Back foot passes, 2 Dangerous Throws, 2 Extended Plays

Once again, Griffin and the Redskins struck with quick passes and a powerful run game.

Griffin ran seven times for 43 yards and a touchdown, and it has become evident Griffin will have no problem tucking the ball and running when nothing is open downfield. There's nothing wrong with that, but Griffin is going to have to learn two things in order to not let the running become detrimental to his game: Ball security and sliding.

Griffin's fumble on the goal line could have cost the Redskins a touchdown, but luckily Pierre Garcon was able to recover in the end zone.

This makes four fumbles in the last two games for Griffin.

The Redskins have only lost one of those, but with the randomness of fumble recoveries those could change to turnovers instantly.

Griffin is also going to have to start sliding more.

He's taking too many big hits at the end of runs, and the last thing the Redskins want is for Griffin to need Michael Vick body armor while playing quarterback.

Throwing the ball, Griffin got to stretch the field a little more than last week, but the offense still seems to be centered around the short passes and screens, as even the longer plays seem to result from catch and runs by the wide receivers.

It's time to open up the passing playbook a little more.

There's no need to protect Griffin from throwing bad passes or interceptions when the team seems fine with his lack of ball security on the ground.

Next week: vs Atlanta Falcons

Larry French/Getty Images

 

Russell Wilson at St. Louis Rams, loss 19-13

17/25, 160 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 3 Overthrows, 3 Underthrows, 1 Back foot pass, 1 Dangerous Throw, 6 Extended Plays

That stat line on Wilson has the opposite effect as Ryan Tannehill's line. Wilson did not play as bad as the 160 yards and three interceptions indicate.

Two of Wilson's interceptions were good throws that should have been completed passes.

In the second quarter, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin in the chest, but a big hit seemed to put the ball right in Trumaine Johnson's hands. The game-clinching interception with a minute left in the fourth was a result of Anthony McCoy falling down on his route as the ball was being thrown.

Again, Wilson's "extended plays" number is inflated because too often he is searching to scramble outside the pocket.

Two of his scrambles directly led to sacks instead of avoiding them. With under a minute left in the first half, Wilson just ran backwards 12 yards with no hope to throw, and Eugene Sims was able to chase him down. With four minutes left in the fourth on a 3rd-and-9, Wilson changed direction on a scramble right into the arms of Robert Quinn.

Wilson has been an accurate passer when staying in the pocket, but too often he's gotten in his own way when he scrambles too soon.

Along with that, Pete Carroll and the coaching staff need to show more confidence in Wilson to make a play with his arm. With about 14 minutes left in the fourth, on a 4th-and-2 on St. Louis' 10-yard line, the Seahawks called for a Wilson run, not even giving him a chance to throw for the first down, then scramble if nothing is open.

Wilson can throw the ball when it's needed, Seattle just needs to trust him—and Wilson needs to trust himself.

Next week: at Carolina Panthers

 

For more NFL fun, follow Dan on Twitter @DanPizzuta

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