NFL Rookie Report: Breaking Down Week 5 of Rookie Quarterbacks

Dan Pizzuta@@DanPizzutaContributor IIIOctober 10, 2012

Through five weeks in the regular season, most of the rookie quarterbacks seem to be getting comfortable with their surroundings. Others, unfortunately, have to play in Cleveland.

Week 5 in the NFL brought us an unbelievable comeback, a very believable blowout and the first six-man Rookie Report of the season.

As always, the Rookie Report is 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-of-22 with two 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.


Andrew Luck vs Green Bay Packers, Win 30-27

31-of-55, 362 yards, 2 TD, 1 Rushing TD, 1 INT, 6 Overthrows, 3 Underthrows, 1 Back foot pass, 3 Dangerous Throws, 3 Extended Plays

For three weeks, I've spent this space gushing about how good Andrew Luck is and how much better he looks than all the other rookie quarterbacks. (It's only been three weeks because the Colts were on a bye last week; otherwise, it would be four.)

It may surprise you, then, that I was McKayla'd with Luck's game against the Packers. This wasn't Luck's best performance of the season, as many believe it to be.

As a result of trailing big for the entire first half, Luck was leaned on to throw the ball a lot. The problem in the first half was Luck was getting no pass protection, as he was sacked four times in the first half. Luck knew he had to get rid of the ball quickly, so he started forcing passes, something Luck has rarely done this season.

The second-half comeback was aided in a big part to better play from the offensive line. Luck had more time to throw, but was still forcing a lot of passes. Luck only had one interception, but it easily could have been around five or six. All three of his "dangerous throws" should have been intercepted.

Watching the replay of the game, it kind of reminded me of a Tebow-esque game from last season (except balls were being thrown nicely). Chances were being taken that shouldn't have worked, but they did. Since Tebow isn't significantly playing, maybe that magic had to go somewhere.

Luck and the Colts pulled this win out of nowhere, but I don't expect wins like this to happen often. I fully expect to be back to gushing about how sound Luck's play is in a normal game next week.

Next week: at New York Jets


Ryan Tannehill at Cincinnati Bengals, Win 17-13

17-of-26, 223 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 4 Overthrows, 0 Underthrows, 1 Back foot pass, 0 Dangerous Throws, 1 Extended Play

The Miami Dolphins are the second-best team in the AFC East. I'll repeat that just in case your head is still spinning. The Miami Dolphins are the second-best team in the AFC East.

Ryan Tannehill is a big reason why.

I was really impressed with Tannehill this week. Much more so than the 431-yard game against the Cardinals. This game was Tannehill's coming-out party as a competent NFL starter.

Tannehill's decisions against the Bengals were by far the smartest he's made all season. For the first time all season, Tannehill didn't panic or try to force anything that wasn't there.

Zero dangerous throws is the key stat. Tannehill was patient and took what the Cincinnati defense was giving him. If that meant checking it down, he checked it down.

Miami's coaching staff liked what they saw in Tannehill's decision-making during the game. If Tannehill continues to play like this, the Dolphins now can trust him to have the ball in his hands when a play needs to be made.

This already started to show as the Dolphins let Tannehiil throw early in the fourth quarter on 1st-and-10 from their own 4-yard line, a situation when most teams run the ball, even with great quarterbacks.

This is the first game I watched and was really impressed with what Tannehill did, and it came much earlier than I was expecting.

Next week: vs St. Louis Rams


Russell Wilson at Carolina Panthers, Win 16-12

19-of-25, 221 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 Overthrow, 1 Underthrow, 3 Back foot passes, 0 Dangerous Throws, 1 Extended Play

Russell Wilson is the only rookie QB in the NFL with a winning record. Unfortunately, because of a now-stacked division, that's only good enough to put the Seahawks in fourth place.

Wilson has not played as badly as perceived, and that includes this game against the Panthers. When a team is going to run 35 times a game, the quarterback isn't going to be asked to do a lot.

Because of the run dependency in Seattle's offense, many of the Seahawks' pass plays rely on play action. Wilson exceeds at play action passes, as a majority of them involve him rolling out of the pocket to throw.

Wilson, though, has become dependent on passing outside the pocket, even when there isn't a break down in pass protection. I will keep saying this, Wilson needs to stay in the pocket when he can. Wilson is actually very effective when he stays in the pocket, so I really don't know why he's always so scramble happy.

Wilson can be accurate too on all lengths of passes. Early in the first quarter, Wilson stepped up in the pocket and threw a beautiful on target deep pass to Golden Tate, only to have it negated by a holding penalty.

It's not time to bench Russell Wilson. Not even close.

Let's also stop this rumor now: Matt Flynn is not getting paid a lot of money. Flynn only has a $2 million salary and a $4 million cap hit for this season. That's $4.2 million less than all 17 receptions of Sidney Rice is getting paid this year.

Give Wilson time; he'll be fine.

Next week: vs New England Patriots


Brandon Weeden at New York Giants, Loss 41-27

22-of-35, 291 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 3 Overthrows, 1 Underthrow, 1 Back foot pass, 2 Dangerous Throws, 1 Extended Play

I got to watch Brandon Weeden's game against the Giants in person this week. After getting to see him play live, I have come to the only logical conclusion I can about his play.

Weeden flips a coin, like Two-Face, in the huddle. When landing on one side, he decides to play smart football and wait for an open receiver or check down. This leads to things like Weeden throwing an incredible deep pass, hitting a wide-open Josh Gordon perfectly in stride for a touchdown—by far the best pass Weeden has thrown all season.

When the coin lands on the other side, Weeden decides he will throw the ball to the receiver he wants regardless of how covered he may be. This leads to passes like the interception thrown right at Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn in the end zone and comically overthrown balls like the interception to Steve Brown.

For the past two weeks, Weeden has started strong then fell apart as the game went on. There were throws during the game that had me really impressed by Weeden's ability. There were other throws that left people in my section laughing and wondering where he was throwing.

Congratulations, Brandon Weeden. You now have a new nickname: Two-Face.

Next week: vs Cincinnati Bengals


Robert Griffin III/Kirk Cousins vs Atlanta Falcons, Loss 24-17

Griffin: 10-of-15, 91 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 0 Overthrows, 0 Underthrows, 1 Back foot pass, 0 Dangerous Throws, 1 Extended Play

Cousins: 5-of-9, 111 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 Overthrow, 0 Underthrows, 1 back foot pass, 1 Dangerous Throw, 0 Extended Plays

In last week's Rookie Report, I briefly mentioned Griffin needs to start sliding. I'm going to stand by that statement. The hit that knocked Griffin out of the game wasn't even the hardest hit he's taken this year.

The thing about concussions is it's not about hard hard you get hit, it just has to be the right hit at the right time—or the wrong hit at the wrong time.

This isn't the way anyone would want Griffin to consider sliding more, but hopefully, he will now.

Before the hit, though, Griffin was once again heavily reliant on short throws, as he only had 91 yards for his 10 completions.

The short passes by Griffin actually paid off early when Kirk Cousins came in. The Falcons were defending the short pass, which allowed Santana Moss to run by every defender on the way to a touchdown.

During the comeback attempt, Cousins committed some rookie mistakes. On the first interception, Cousins stared down Fred Davis from the moment he got the snap until the time he released the ball. Dunta Robinson was able to leave his receiver and jump all over the route.

Cousins' second pick was panic-induced. Cousins felt the pocket collapsing from a heavy pass rush, and he threw the ball up into a cluster of Falcons and prayed. Whoever he hoped would answer was too busy watching the Colts game.

Next week: vs Minnesota Vikings


For more NFL fun, follow Dan on Twitter @DanPizzuta


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