After Further Review: Rookie Report Card
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: September 10, 2012
Five rookie quarterbacks made starts yesterday, the most since 1950. One of them led his team to victory, while the others struggled and were often exposed to deficiencies in their own offenses. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from September 9th.
Alright, RGIII. I apologize for prematurely making you the sole member of my “better luck next year” list. An impressive first outing makes me tempted to retract any negative sentiment, but I’ll abstain from a full 180… for now. It’s impossible to know anything definitively after Week 1, but where did the Saints go? A team that didn’t lose a single home game last season looked slow, often confused, and lacking its signature ferocity. Even a defense given a huge morale boost this Friday missed tackles left and right and offered no real obstacles for Robert Griffin III’s debut. And Griffin took full advantage, completing the longest pass of the day (88-yard touchdown throw to former Colt Pierre Garçon) among the 19 of 26 he completed for 320 yards. Toss in 42 yards rushing (three more than Cleveland rookie/savior Trent Richardson) and that makes for one heck of a day. In fact, with a 139.9, Griffin posted the top quarterback rating overall, not just among rookies. Solid start to what could be a terrific season for Griffin and the Redskins.
I don’t want to call Andrew Luck himself bad, but his first start wasn’t tremendous. In taking on one of the tougher defenses in the league (even with a less-than-100% Brian Urlacher), Luck had his hands full with Chicago. Quarterback Jay Cutler started slow (pick six in the first quarter), but quickly took command of the offense and steadily built a lead. Because they were playing from behind the whole game, the Colts were forced to place the entire game in Luck’s right arm. While he could very well yet prove to be the best quarterback of the 2012 draft, yesterday was too tall an order for the rookie out of Stanford. He ultimately threw for 309 yards on 23 of 45 passing, but Luck also threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. The offensive line struggled in protection throughout the game, never allowing Donald Brown to establish a run game and leaving Luck exposed to three sacks. It was an uncomfortable outing for Luck, to say the least, but don’t toll the death knell just yet. His chemistry with veteran Reggie Wayne and fellow Stanford rookie Coby Fleener is promising and should develop this season.
Russell Wilson may have been the biggest surprise when named Seattle’s Week 1 starter, but he played competently in an increasingly hostile road environment. The lone third rounder to make the start at quarterback threw a beautiful 10 yard touchdown pass to receiver Sidney Rice in the third quarter. And, with seven plays inside the Arizona 20 yard line (plus a bonus timeout!) to win the game in the waning minutes, Wilson targeted four different receivers. And three of those passes were at least moderately catchable. Overall, Wilson’s line was 18 of 34 for 154 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he did face immense pressure from the Arizona defensive front throughout the game; he was sacked three times. What I find particularly interesting about his first game is how his drastically our reaction might change, had he successfully connected on one of those attempted game winners. I’m still not sold on Wilson as a season-long starter, but he’s got a receiving corps, running support in Marshawn Lynch and a potentially punishing defense as his supporting cast. He’ll improve.
It was never going to be easy for Miami’s Ryan Tannehill in his first start. Houston is considered among the top AFC contenders this season; a huge reason for that is its defense. Its linebacker corps alone could instill fear into the heart of a seasoned quarterback; throw in defensive ends like JJ Watt or defensive backs like Johnathan Joseph and it’s any offense’s nightmare. And the Miami Dolphins proved yesterday that they’re not just any offense. They’re a very poor offense. Tannehill could be a tremendous gift at quarterback, even with an embarrassing line of 20-36 for 219 yards and three interceptions. He’s got a strong arm and played well at Texas A & M. And again, it’s just Week 1, but if Miami doesn’t start doing more to support him offensively (Reggie Bush can’t do it alone, Daniel Thomas can’t seem to stay healthy and yes, I’m ignoring the receivers altogether), I’m afraid Tannehill may approach Joey Harrington territory. Harrington had a wonderful college career in Oregon before languishing under Matt Millen’s reign of terror as Detroit’s CEO. He never had enough offensive talent around him, be it linemen or skill positions, to thrive for the Lions and was burned out by the time he arrived in (you guessed it) Miami his fifth year. Miami’s GM Jeff Ireland is reportedly on the hot seat. I hate to overreact after the first week, but a change in management could be a significant step in the right direction of helping Tannehill find success in Miami.
Michael Vick tried his hardest, but even he couldn’t claim the title of worst quarterback in the Philadelphia-Cleveland opener. That dubious distinction goes to Brandon Weeden, the 28 year-old who posted the worst quarterback rating of the week so far, with a paltry 5.1. He completed 12 of 35 passes (16 completions, if you count the four that were caught by his opponents) for 118 yards. For those of you keeping score at home, four players ended up with more RECEIVING yards than 118 in their season openers. Much was made of Weeden, especially compared to his predecessor-turned-backup Colt McCoy. His arm strength, his maturity, his health. In theory, running back Trent Richardson will find rushing success to help open up the passing game. But will Weeden be able to capitalize? We know he can perform given the appropriate tools, proven at Oklahoma State with the outstanding Justin Blackmon, and perhaps second year receiver Greg Little and rookie Josh Gordon will eventually aid in Weeden’s development. Weeden could certainly be the quarterback of Cleveland’s future but Sunday, in the face of Philadelphia’s front seven, he looked in over his head.
Kim O'Hara is the Assocate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @arahomik
Check out more After Further Review...
Female official on the brink? Gleason's powerful MMQB; early ADP ...Read More06-17-2013 | Comments (0)
After a brutal 5-11 campaign, new head coach Bruce Arians is hoping to rebuild in a competitive NFC West. ...Read More06-17-2013 | Comments (0)
Plus: The new Gregg Williams, Cam Newton's bad movie taste and Pete Carroll is a 9/11 truther. ...Read More06-14-2013 | Comments (0)