BYU Football: Grading the NFL Preseason Debuts of Rookie Quarterbacks

BYU Football: Grading the NFL Preseason Debuts of Rookie Quarterbacks

by Christian Mott

Football made its return this weekend with week one of the NFL preseason and it is a peak time for BYU and Jets fans. It is a high point in the year for every fanbase that is filled with hopes and dreams of holding the Lombardi trophy in February. On top of that, this is peak time for overreaction. Everyone’s excited to see all the new players and big name rookies play. One of if not the biggest headline the last three months was the “big five” at the QB position.

With the endless online banter of which one is the best gunslinger of the class (Hint: Zach Wilson), fans finally got their first tease of what they can do. It’s time to feed into the hype and give initial impressions on all five rookies.

1. Trevor Lawrence

Starting with the headliner is Trevor Lawrence, the chosen one in Jacksonville. The top overall pick is the most hyped rookie since Andrew Luck. With those expectations, people have been eagerly waiting. He finally made his debut against the Browns. Like most of the first string quarterbacks, he only had a few drives of work. That was still more than enough for some headlines. He went 6-9 and threw for 71 yards in the game. That included a deep throw to Marvin Jones.

Two things about Lawrence’s debut really stuck. One is how even though he had great zip on his throw, his big deep shot to Marvin jones was underthrown, nothing too big or important but a lot of people overhyped that throw on social media. The other thing I noticed massively was how long he was holding the ball and how fast his Oline collapsed. He was sacked twice in the game and fumbled once. As with any rookie, there will be constant growth and adjustment. No matter how good the prospect is, remember Peyton Manning threw 30+ interceptions as a rookie and he turned out to be pretty good. Lawrence could become the next Luck where constant battering could damage his career. Only time will tell. All in all it was a solid debut. It was nothing special but did everything he needed to do.

Grade: B

2. Zach Wilson

For Jets fans, it has been a brutal rinse and repeat cycle of expectation and disappointment. However, for the first time in over a decade the Jets have hope. A large part of that is their combo of first year head coach Robert Saleh, experienced GM Joe Douglas and the rookie Zach Wilson.

Wilson’s debut was the most anticipated. Wilson is the biggest boom or bust QB in this class. Desperate Jets fans around the country were ecstatic. In the Snoopy Bowl vs the Giants, he played limited snaps. It comes as no major surprise considering it’s only the preseason. His numbers were almost identical to Lawrence. He was 6-9 for 63 yards.

However, how he did it was different. As expected from the LaFluer offense, Wilson had plenty of rollouts and off platform throwing. Was it flashy football? Not at all. Was it an efficient debut? Absolutely. Overall, this performance is similar to Lawrence. However, because of the combination of media pressure and question marks surrounding him, he gets a slightly better grade among Jets fans.

Grade: B+

3. Trey Lance

Trey Lance out of the big five was the one that definitely was most likely to need a year before stepping in. Luckily, the 49ers can afford to do that. With that being said, his debut was an interesting one. Lance’s 80 yard TD pass to Trent Sherfield was the most viewed highlight of this game.

Even though it was nice play action throw, he didn’t do too much else outside of that. His half of football game that he played gave 49ers fans a nice sample size. His receivers dropped three passes of his which hurt his statline, but he still wasn’t too impressive. His mechanics looked good and he look fluid on his bootlegs. Lance’s first game was a solid one, but one that also should resolidify to fans that he may need a year. All in all he had a decent debut.

Grade: C+

4. Justin Fields

This could be the franchise QB Bears fans have been waiting a lifetime for. They must be more excited then ever after their first game against the Dolphins. Justin Fields played the most of the big five as he played a full half of football. Fields went 13-19 with 140 yards passing and two total touchdowns. He also showed fans glimpses of his elite athleticism as he scampered for 33 more on the ground. However, fans should pump the brakes on the hype train.

While his performance was good, it was against second and third string guys. Additionally, many of his throws were one or two read progressions which meant they were designed for quick throws. Many of his receivers were much more open than they would be if he was playing against starting defenses. While people may see that as unnecessary criticism, a majority of his throws his receivers had up a yard of separation. That means the jury is still out on if he can push the ball through tight windows. When evaluating these QBs, it’s imortant to see what they can do. Overall, he has the most hyped game but his game really slots in similarly to Lawrence and Wilson.

Grade: B

5. Mac Jones

On draft night, the Patriots had easily one of the biggest surprises last year. NFL analysts questioned the pick in New England as fans didn’t view him as the best pick. He got his first chance to prove the naysayers wrong. In his debut against the Washington Football Team, he looked very pedestrian. He threw 13 of 19 for 87 yards. That’s bad by any stretch of the imagination, but he left a lot to be desired.

It was a Belichick special with scripted short throws and deep shots off play action calls. There was nothing in this game that was necessarily bad, but there was also nothing that showed he should play over Cam Newton at this time. After one game , Newton has the edge over Mac Jones until further notice.

Grade: C

These five all did decent in their first game as NFL quarterbacks. For a rookie QB it’s a learning process. Whoever picks up and learns the quickest will have the best chance and only time will tell on that.

Featured image courtesy The Athletic

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