Week 14 Report Card for Jake Locker and Every Rookie Passer
Six rookie quarterbacks played on Sunday, and all of them took the majority of the snaps as well.
That is staggering. One of every five teams in the NFL started a rookie quarterback on Sunday. That doesn't happen often. What was called a weak quarterback class is turning out to not be very weak at all, and three of the guys drafted in 2011 look like they may be long-term starters.
So who shined in Week 14 among the rookies? Read on for my grades of all six.
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Of course, not every quarterback that was drafted last year saw any playing time; there were, after all, 12 of them taken in 2011.
Among the rookie quarterbacks who didn't see any time this week, the most notable are the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and the Patriots' Ryan Mallett. They were the sixth and seventh quarterbacks taken in the draft, respectively, but they're both unlikely to see playing time soon.
Mallett sits behind Tom Brady, who is Tom Brady (that should be self explanatory).
Kaepernick is behind former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, who has been quietly having a good season himself.
Neither of them, nor fifth-rounders Ricky Stanzi (drafted before T.J. Yates) and Nathan Enderle, sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor, nor Greg McElroy, drafted in the last round, saw any playing time, so I can't give any of them a grade.
T.J. Yates, Houston Texans
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T.J. Yates was surprisingly good against the Bengals stingy defense.
He had to pass the ball 44 times (that's a lot) and managed to complete 26 of those passes for a completion percentage of over 59 percent. Not too shabby, considering the fact that his best receiver was out and he was only drafted in the fifth round.
He threw two touchdowns and one interception and, most importantly, led his team to a come-from-behind victory.
He also rushed five times for 36 yards as well. Not bad.
However, don't get too excited. Seven of his completed passes were dump-offs to running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, and seven more were to tight end Owen Daniels, whom he targeted 10 times.
He also had a fumble for the day, but overall, Yates was impressive. He's got a lot of work to do before he can be considered a starter, but he's obviously got a lot of talent.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
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Yates's opponent, Andy Dalton, has been impressing all year, and his game against the Texans was a rare exception.
Dalton was less accurate than usual, completing only 57 percent of his passes against the best defense of the country for a mere 189 yards.
He did not throw an interception, but only scored one touchdown and was unable to keep his team on top, despite an early lead against the Texans.
He rushed only once for a 2-yard gain on a broken play as well.
Dalton was unimpressive on Sunday, but again, he's playing one of the best defenses in the league, so what can you really expect from him?
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
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Speaking of quarterbacks against good defenses...
Ponder, unlike Dalton, doesn't have an impressive body of work over the rest of the season to fall back on. He's been terrible since he started and that's with the defenses keying on Adrian Peterson the whole time.
Unfortunately for Ponder, this Sunday was no exception. He completed less than half his passes for only 115 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and fumbled the ball twice, losing it once.
Keep in mind that's all with the Suh-less defense.
He also took five sacks and was hit eight times by the Lions defense, which took its toll. Ponder left the game and Joe Webb had to take over.
For the record, Webb got two touchdowns without throwing an interception.
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Blaine Gabbert did a Tom Brady impression with more than just his hair on Sunday, completing 58 percent of his passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns...
However, he also threw two interceptions, had a yards per attempt of just 6.6 yards, rushed four times for -3 yards and fumbled the ball twice.
Still, improvement is improvement. Gabbert's completion percentage for the season is barely over 50 percent and he isn't leading the team to many wins.
I'm not 100 percent sold that he's a bust just yet. The Jaguars have terrible receivers, and everyone knew Gabbert was going to be a little raw. For the week, he did better than his average.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
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Locker didn't complete many passes (13-of-29), but he had more than one dropped pass and was averaging nearly 10 yards per attempt. He threw one touchdown, rushed for another and did not throw an interception.
He rushed for a total of 36 yards, good enough to lead the team. By the way, did I mention that he only played for under three quarters? He only went in because Hasselbeck was injured.
One drive down the field took under 60 seconds to complete, and that is a feat to be proud of when there may have been extenuating circumstances that interfered with the Titans.
There is also the fact that Tennessee's top receiver, Kenny Britt, has been injured all season and the Titans' second go-to guy, Nate Washington, was injured last week and again against the Saints.
All of that considered, Locker did very well, and it took time running out to end what may have been a game-winning third touchdown drive.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
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I don't think the Panthers are kicking themselves for having the first overall pick when Andrew Luck decided to stay at school anymore. Cam Newton has been a beast this season.
He was a little off against the Falcons, and the team fell apart in the second half, but in the first half, Newton had led the Panthers to a commanding 23-7 lead.
Cam Newton completed 19-of-39 passes for 276 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Not terrible, but certainly not great.
He also rushed for 36 additional yards on seven attempts. That looks better when you see that four of those rushes resulted in first downs.
I blame the loss on the Panthers defense more than on Newton, but that's just me. Newton and Dalton are still the best rookies in the class; they just had off weeks this week.