NFL Rookie Report: Breaking Down Week 10 of Rookie Quarterbacks

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NFL Rookie Report: Breaking Down Week 10 of Rookie Quarterbacks
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Week 10 of the NFL saw some interesting rookie quarterback performances and a new addition to the Report.

It's been a couple weeks (thanks, Sandy!) since the last Rookie Report breakdown, but rest easy as it has returned.

When we last left our heroes, Brandon Weeden was coming off his first win, Andrew Luck was getting blown out by the Jets and I predicted a playoff berth for Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins.

Some things have changed.

As always, the Report is a weekly (yes, we will go back to being 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 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 at Jacksonville Jaguars, Win 27-10

18/26, 227 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 2 Rushing TD, 2 Overthrows, 0 Underthrows, 1 Back foot pass, 1 Dangerous Throw, 3 Extended Plays

Andrew Luck has the Indianapolis Colts at 6-3 and currently set up for a 4-seed vs. 5-seed wild card matchup against the Denver Broncos—a dream playoff game.

Luck has overcome unknown skill players—outside of Reggie Wayne—and a below average offensive line to make the Colts one of the surprise teams this season.

His smart decision making has been a big part of that, but there have been some occasional last-call-at-a-bar-like lapses in judgement at some points.

He made two of those decisions against the Jaguars and they both involved throwing the ball up while preparing to get hit, ending in an interception and an interception negated by a penalty. In both cases, a defender had a clear shot on Luck and instead of tucking the ball in or throwing the ball out of bounds, he heaved the ball towards a receiver and hoped the ball would get caught.

Luck does still make great plays far more often than he makes those questionable decisions. A great example is the roll-out play to the right, executed inside the ten-yard line. Luck ran this play in for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins and again successfully scored a touchdown against Jacksonville.

That play perfectly shows how dangerous Luck can be, as defensive players have no choice but to get caught in between covering the receivers in the end zone and containing Luck from running it in for a score on the outside. I'd run that play inside the ten every time.

Next week: at New England Patriots

Ryan Tannehill vs. Tennessee Titans, Loss 37-3

23/39, 217 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT. 3 Overthrows, 1 Underthrow, 1 Back foot pass, 2 Dangerous Throws, 0 Extended Plays

This game was a mix between early season, bad decision making-Ryan Tannehill and #smartpasses-Ryan Tannehill.

In the games this season during which the Miami Dolphins offense has been successful, the running game has been effective. Against the Titans, Miami ran 15 times for 54 yards—that puts too much pressure on Tannehill as a quarterback.

Tannehill's best games have included using quick passes and strong runs to eventually open up a big play downfield. With the lack of run game, Tannehill was left to force passes in an attempt to create positive offense. Three interceptions should show you how well that strategy worked.

Some of this can be put on a lack of a true receiving threat, as owner Stephen Ross has said finding a number one receiver will be team's biggest offseason priority—if only someone like Brandon Marshall were available—but the receivers won't matter if Tannehill continues to make bad passes.

On Tannehill's first interception, two defenders had a better play on the ball than the intended target. On the third pick, linebacker Zach Brown had one job—to watch the eyes of the quarterback—Tannehill never saw him and threw the ball right into Brown's chest.

With a 4-5 record and the Patriots still left on the schedule twice, Miami's playoff hopes seem dim. Now they must hope Tannehill continues to play like he did against the Jets and Bengals and not regress back to how he was at the start of the season.

Next week: at Buffalo Bills, Thursday Night

Russell Wilson vs. New York Jets, Win 28-7

12/19, 188 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 Overthrow, 0 Underthrows, 0 Back foot passes, 0 Dangerous Throws, 2 Extended Plays

The Seattle Seahawks don't always rely on Russell Wilson to make big plays, but when they do he comes through.

Wilson may not have the best arm in terms of pure arm strength, but so far this season he has shown the most accurate deep ball of all the rookie quarterbacks.

Wilson's two touchdowns—a 38-yard pass to Golden Tate and a 31-yard pass to Sidney Rice—were both beautiful passes placed only where the receiver could catch them.

Wilson's running ability is both a great strength and his biggest weakness. Though Wilson is much more patient in the pocket than he was earlier in the season, he can still hold on to the ball too long while he tries to make a play with his feet.

On two plays in a row against the Jets—including New York's only touchdown on a fumble recovery by Muhammad Wilkerson—Wilson got hit after having plenty of time to throw the ball away.

Mistakes like that might be passable against teams like the Jets, but could be exploited against defenses like the Chicago Bears (Week 13) and San Francisco 49ers (Week 16).

Next Week: Bye

Kevin Casey/Getty Images

Nick Foles vs. Dallas Cowboys, Loss 38-23

22/32, 219 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 7 Overthrows, 1 Underthrow, 2 Back foot passes, 2 Dangerous Throws, 1 Extended Play

Welcome to the Rookie Report, Nick Foles. Pull up a chair and take off your coat, you might be here a while.

Foles replaced Michael Vick under center for the Eagles after Vick was knocked out of the game with a concussion. It's a miracle Vick has lasted this long playing behind what is left of the Philadelphia offensive line.

When Foles came in, head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg continued with their pass happy game plan— the ideal way ease a rookie quarterback into the game, except the opposite.

LeSean McCoy, one of the best running backs in the NFL, was given the ball for seven meaningful carries from the time Foles came into the game in the second quarter—not including two runs to run out the first half—until the end of the game, while Foles threw 32 times.

Throwing that many times would lead one to believe it was because the coaching staff liked what they saw when Foles went back to pass, but I don't see how that's possible.

Foles made several terrible decisions on screens and swing passes when the receivers were clearly covered—including what should have been a pick-six by Anthony Spencer.

Foles also threw a couple passes leading his receivers into hits by the defense, making it likely Vick could have some company in the neurologist's office by the end of the season.

His lone touchdown pass was a gift with blown coverage, but his interception was not completely his fault. The ball did hit DeSean Jackson in the hands, but was thrown far enough behind him to make the catch much more difficult than it should have been.

Maybe Foles improves a little with a full week of practice with the first team offense, but he not only has to outplay opposing defenses, he'll have to outplay his offensive line.

Next Week: at Washington Redskins

 

For more NFL fun, follow Dan on Twitter @DanPizzuta

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