Author Dan Latto
After another week of seeing this new class of rookie quarterbacks, let’s take a look at who has stepped up to the challenge of playing in the pros.
The previously proclaimed savior of Jacksonville has had a real rough go of it in his first four games in the league. Trevor Lawrence and his Jacksonville Jaguars fell to 0-4 after a deflating loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. On the positive side, Lawrence had his first game without an interception, which was a big step in the right direction for him and the Jaguars’ offense. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, not turning over the ball would not be enough to win the game. They would end up blowing a 14-0 first-half lead, only scoring once in the second half, allowing Joe Burrow and his Bengals to come back and eventually hit a last-second field goal to put them over the top and complete a great comeback win, defeating the Jaguars 24-21 on Thursday Night Football.
Now to focus on our rookie QB Lawrence, I will say, he definitely looks more comfortable than when we last checked in on him in week one. Like I said in week one though, I think it is going to take some time for this Jaguars team to figure things out for their new face of the franchise. Lawrence had a decent game going 17/24 with 204 yards, adding another 36 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He looked very good in the first half actually, making smart quick throws and controlling the tempo of the game.
The turning point in the game came after Lawrence made an incredible throw on the run towards the end of the first half. The Jaguars would work the ball all the way to the one-yard line, but the Bengals defense stepped up and stuffed Lawrence on a fake pitch play on fourth and goal. After that, the game was all Bengals with Lawrence and his offense struggling to move the ball at all in the second half. Lawrence was forced to play without starting receiver D.J. Chark and starting guard A.J. Cann, both of whom were placed on injured reserves. Their offensive line clearly has a lot of work to do before Lawrence can really start showing his true colors.
Hopefully, everyone who follows the Jaguars this year realizes the problem is not with Lawrence or the offensive line or any of the player personnel. It is head coach Urban Meyer. Now I won’t get into all of the issues stemming from the Urban Meyer coaching hire, but the Jaguars have some major questions to answer regarding Meyer and his future with this team. With a QB like Lawrence, it is not wise to leave a distraction like Meyer with a young and inexperienced team. If Jaguars are to turn things around this season, which I do not expect to see, I feel like they need to go in a different direction with their coaching. I didn’t think it was a good hire when they got Meyer, and every week Meyer seems to be giving me even more evidence as to why that’s the case. Lawrence has a bright future, but he will not be reaching his high expectations this season under his current coach.
The New York Jets savior Zach Wilson finally had himself a good game against a tough Tennessee Titans team this past Sunday. After a truly abysmal start to the season, where the Jets offense scored 20 points in their first three games, they had a fantastic bounce-back game in which they won 27-24 in overtime. Finally, Zach Wilson came to play, where he went 21/34 with 297 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an interception, however, it was due to the fact that receiver Corey Davis slipped on an anticipation route, which led to a very easy interception for the Titans. Besides that mistake, Wilson and his offense looked miles better than they had.
A huge part of the turnaround was getting wide receiver, Jamison Crowder, back from injury. Wilson, though, was connecting on all fronts. He made some huge deep passes look routine, including an exceptionally placed ball to Corey Davis that traveled 60 yards in the air for a beautiful touchdown. The big play of the game came in overtime when the QB needs to step up the most. On a third and two at their own 44, Wilson made a gutsy throw to Keelan Cole on a corner route where he dropped in a perfect pass for a gain of 27. Wilson would also miss a potentially game-winning throw on an easy out route in the Titan’s redzone, but he led his team to what would become the game-winning score as the Jets defense stepped up.
It is really rewarding to see a player like Wilson, who clearly has great arm talent and footwork, start playing to his potential. Every week he has improved more and more which is all you can ask for from a rookie quarterback. He is starting to trust his offensive line and receivers more, and you can see it in the chemistry of their offense. Wilson and the Jets will look to continue their success against a struggling Atlanta Falcons team over in London on Sunday in a tough matchup for a rookie.
Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears had their first step in the right direction, after a good win against a very bad Detroit Lions team. Fields and his offense finally showed signs of life, improving from their absolutely terrible offensive performance of 47 yards against the Cleveland Browns the week before in Fields’ first start as an NFL QB.
In his second start, the Bears offense accumulated 373 yards, a huge improvement, and Fields went from being sacked nine times to just once. He would finish the game with 209 yards on 11 of 17 completions, with one interception that came off a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage. The running game of the Bears really opened up the offense for Fields, with David Montgomery leading the way with 106 yards and two touchdowns. Fields, though, made some unbelievable throws and seemed to have found a favorite target in Darnell Mooney, who had five receptions for 125 yards. He had everything going for him, completing some impressive deep passes along with making all the easy throws that he needed. He was moving well in the pocket and utilized the offense effectively, with six different players getting a rushing attempt in an assortment of different formations.
This newfound success for Fields and the Bears offense can 100% be attributed to Matt Nagy, who finally relinquished his offensive play calling to Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor. So when I say the credit goes to Nagy, I am totally joking as I think Bill Lazor should’ve been the man who received the game ball from Sunday. This is the second time Nagy has given the play-calling role to Lazor, and it is the second time that the Bears offense looked like an NFL offense thanks to Lazor. For Fields’ success on the field to continue, Lazor needs to remain as the play-caller and if that’s the case then the Bears fan base will have a lot to look forward to for the remainder of the season.
After week one I said Mac Jones would be the best QB out of the 2021 draft and, so far, he is still proving to be that good. He had probably one of the toughest matchups he will have in his career, in a game that was about 100 times bigger than him or the New England Patriots. It was the return of the defending champion Tom Brady to Gillette Stadium in his first game against the Patriots since leaving the team to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since this article is about rookie QB’s, I am only going to address the Brady vs. Bill Belichick narrative with how it directly relates to Mac Jones.
This game was so important to Mac Jones because he wanted to prove to the New England fan base that he could be the man to replace the great Tom Brady. And is there a better way to do that than by playing Brady and the defending Super Bowl Champs? Mac Jones really stepped up, finishing the game going 31/40 with 275 yards and two touchdowns. He looked comfortable against an intimidating defense led by veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh. Belichick did a great job of making Jones’ life easier, working the classic Patriots offense of making short quick throws and finding the primary target on passing plays.
Though they did lose the game, Mac Jones was very impressive, leading the Patriots to an almost game-winning drive, but a missed field goal cost them the game. Overall, Mac Jones once again did his job against his toughest matchup all season, and I am very excited to see how the rest of his season plays out.
Trey Lance got his first real chance to run the San Francisco 49ers offense as Jimmy Garropolo went down at the end of the first half with a calf injury. Coming out in the second half, Lance did not look great, completing only one pass on his first four attempts. His team did not do him any favors against their division rival foes, the Seattle Seahawks. Before he could get his second drive in, the kick return team had a botched play and fumbled the ball, giving Seattle the ball back in the 49ers red zone, leading to an easy touchdown. However, Lance was revived.
What got him going was a total blown coverage by Seattle, which led to a huge 76 yard TD for Deebo Samuel. After that, Lance showed off what he brings to the table versus Garoppolo, which is mobility. Lance would finish the game 9/18 with 150 yards and two touchdowns, adding another 41 yards on seven carries. He made some great fourth down conversions late in the fourth quarter using his feet, one on a completely broken play where he avoided pass rushers and found once again an open Deebo Samuel for the first down. He also had another big fourth and 10 conversion, which he made with his feet. Overall, I cannot put too much stock into this game, as he came in at halftime with limited reps with the first team. But once he got himself settled, he definitely looked like a problem for the Seattle defense. Besides a couple shakey throws, Lance looked surprisingly composed and did what he needed to do against a blitz-heavy defense.
Unfortunately, it was not enough to give the 49ers a comeback as they would go on to lose 28-21 but Lance’s performance nonetheless was impressive. It looks like Garropolo will remain sidelined with his calf injury for at least one more week, so Lance will continue to have a chance to prove his worth against the last undefeated team in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals. What we saw Sunday from Lance should inspire hope in his teammates and the fan base that one day, he can become their starter and ideally, the next face of the franchise.
Best performance of the week: Zach “Big Money” Wilson.