NFL Debut – Rookie Quarterbacks

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    by Sports director
  • Post Date
    Fri Sep 17 2021

Author: Dan Latto

In the first week of NFL football, we got to see all five first-round rookie quarterbacks play for their respective teams. Some we saw more of than others, but either way, it's a good time to take a look at each rookie QB in their debut and give an outlook for their final 16 games of the season.

Zach Wilson

As a New York Jets fan, I am morally obligated to start with their rookie QB, Zach Wilson. In what was a typical first game for the Jets, Wilson had a brutal first half but cleaned things up a bit in the second half when things were fairly out of reach. Wilson would end the first half with a really tough 81 yards and an interception. However, he had four dropped passes in that first half, including a deep pass to fellow rookie Elijah Moore, who could not bring in the long ball. He eventually settled down in the second half and would finish with two touchdowns and 258 yards in the game, but most of his numbers came due to a relaxed Carolina Panthers defense who was protecting the end zone.

So, what are the takeaways of my savior Zach Wilson? Someone needs to block for the man. The Jets have struggled year after year with their offensive line and had turned to the draft in the last two seasons to try to build a young core to protect their franchise QB. However, phenom Mekhi Becton went down during the game and has been ruled out for the next 4-6 weeks with a dislocated knee. Not that it mattered a whole lot Sunday when Wilson was sacked for a total of six times while getting hit another nine times after just releasing the ball. While Wilson showed glimpses of being a great quarterback, the Jets clearly have the same issue offensively they have had for the last couple of years, and unless they address that immediately, Zach Wilson will most likely have a long rookie campaign with his Jets.

Trey Lance

Continuing on to the second rookie Trey Lance of the San Fransisco 49ers. There is not a whole lot to be said about his debut. While he did have his first NFL touchdown in the game, it was the only pass he threw. After fumbling the first snap of the season, starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo quickly turned around his game and would go on to have a dominant performance against the Detroit Lions. Unless there is another Jimmy G injury, which we obviously hope does not happen, it looks like Trey Lance is going to be spending his first season in the league on the sideline learning from Garoppolo.

Trevor Lawrence

Now, onto the stud of the draft, the hero of Jacksonville, Trevor Lawrence. While I did give him a lovely introduction, he was not the hero of Jacksonville this past Sunday. Though he finished with 331 yards and three touchdowns, he also had three interceptions with a completion rate of 54.9%. The supposedly much improved Jacksonville Jaguars did not look any better than they did last year, with a mix of penalties and dropped passes. Lawrence himself had some bright spots, but overall had some brutal overthrows to receivers and untimely interceptions that would eventually set his team back to get blown out in the season opener by the Houston Texans, who had very low expectations coming into the season. It will be interesting to see how this Jaguars team bounces back as head coach Urban Meyer has not lost two regular-season games in the same season in almost a decade and Lawrence had his first opening game regular season loss in his football career. This is a team with a lot of question marks and a lot of moving pieces, and while Lawrence clearly has the talent to be one of the best in the league, I do not expect to see too many indicators of that in this first season. Keep an eye out for a very slow start to the Trevor Lawrence era in Jacksonville this year.

Mac Jones

I really want to talk about the quarterback who impressed me most in week one. Mac Jones of the New England Patriots. While the Patriots did go on to lose their first game to their division foe, the Miami Dolphins, Mac Jones really impressed me. Mac Jones went 29/39 with 281 yards and a touchdown. He looked very in control of his offense in the huddle and was making a lot of strong throws to his receivers, while doing a good job of finding the weak spots in the Dolphins' defense. This loss, while it is on his official resume, does not belong to Mac Jones. Patriots had two fumbles; one being in the last four minutes of the game while Mac Jones was leading them to a potential game winning drive. Penalties also killed the Patriots, setting back their offense and giving the Dolphins life on more than one occasion. Ignoring the surprising sloppiness of the Patriots which you know Bill Belichick will have worked out by next week, Mac Jones himself had by far the best rookie performance of week one. His professional mannerism in the pocket while under pressure reminded me of a quarterback who has been in the NFL for years. If the Patriots can clean up the dumb mistakes, Mac Jones will be in for a big rookie season with the newly added weapons brought in during the offseason and a strong Belichick system already in place. He is my pick for the rookie of the year.

Justin Fields

Last but certainly not least, we have the most unique rookie story in the NFL. Justin Fields made his debut for the Chicago Bears on Sunday where he only played a couple of snaps. However, Bears coach Matt Nagy gave Fields red zone opportunities, one in which he ran the ball into the redzone on a designed run. Even in the few throws Fields made, he looked very comfortable and confident running the offense. What made him look even better was the slow and disappointing performance of Andy Dalton. Dalton had a weak first performance for the Bears, throwing for only 206 yards, and did not get into the end zone once. Not only that, the offense was slow and unexplosive, with Dalton not having a single completion go over 20 yards the entire game.

What does this mean for Fields and Dalton for the rest of the season? I wish I had a good answer for you. If you don't know, Matt Nagy was the quarterback coach for the Kansas City Chiefs when Patrick Mahomes was first brought on. Mahomes would spend his first season on the bench learning from Alex Smith and Nagy and we all know how that has proven to be for Mahomes' career. So, even with the struggles of Dalton, Nagy is predisposed to keeping Fields on the bench and having him learn for a season under a veteran Andy Dalton. I don't see that happening. Unless Dalton and the Bears kick start that offense as soon as possible, I expect to be seeing Justin Fields under center by week six at the latest. Once he gets there, I think people are going to find out very quickly how good Fields can be.

While there is a lot of football left this season, I feel we have gotten a pretty good look at the newest wave of quarterbacks in the NFL. It will definitely be exciting to see how things play out for these respective QB's, and each one of them is worth your time if you can get the chance to check them out.