Bite-size Nuggets: Rookie QBs

Happy Monday, friends.  I’m going to be working to split my various pontifications and blatherings into smaller, and more frequent articles, and finally get with the spirit of the whole blogging thing.  To that end, I’m going to be more topical, and less wide-ranging in each one.

Today, I decided to talk about the play of rookie QBs in their first preseason games, focusing on the five who seem to have a chance to start for their teams.  I saw a lot of good play from these guys, for beginners, and I was mostly very impressed.

Andrew Luck - Indianapolis Colts, 1st pick

Luck looked excellent, especially in the areas of anticipation, footwork, ball handling, concept understanding, and accuracy.  He even zipped a couple of deep outs a little better than I thought he could.  His ball handling is the most impressive thing to me, and he obviously has a lot of background with play action from his time at Stanford. 

Luck looked like he could be one of the best QBs in the NFL right away on Sunday, but there’s a huge caveat to that.  He was playing against a really vanilla defense, and the Colts were running concepts that were specifically designed to beat those defenses.  I’ll be interested to see how well the kid does in recognizing more exotic coverages and rush schemes once the season starts.  In terms of handling the speed of the game, though, and executing NFL QB responsibilities, he’s beyond advanced.

Robert Griffin - Washington Redskins, 2nd pick

I think the Redskins kept things simple for Griffin, and that he did a pretty good job on Thursday night.  He showed nice touch on a few of his downfield passes, and he didn’t put the team in harm’s way.  He didn’t play on the move as much as I'd expected, and I would think that we’ll see more of that in future games, given his skill set and the play-calling style of the Shanahans.

I wouldn’t say that a lot of new information was gleaned from the Griffin appearance either way.  He did pretty well at the stuff he’s supposed to be good at, but it was a small sample size.  I’ll be interested to see how he does in more extended action this week.

Ryan Tannehill - Miami Dolphins, 8th pick

If I were Joe Philbin, I probably would have privately decided to start Tannehill based on his performance against Tampa.  All reports I’ve seen say that the team is easing him in slowly, and that he just keeps handling everything they put in front of him, with no notable setbacks.

Now, having seen Tannehill play in a game, I’m convinced that he’s ready to play from Day 1.  He clearly has an excellent feel for his offensive scheme, and his decision-making skills seem only to be a step behind those of Luck.  A lot was said before the Draft about how Tannehill was a project, and that he’d take some time to be ready, and it was all bunk.

The bottom line is that Tannehill is in an offense that he’s familiar with, and which suits him extremely well.  He’s a natural short and intermediate thrower, and a well-trained ball distributor.  He has better zip on his fastball than either Luck or Griffin, and is a very good athlete too.  While David Garrard and Matt Moore are reasonably competent, starting them only delays the future.  The Dolphins have finally found a QB with franchise talent, and the best move is to let him start getting experience ASAP.

One thing that all three of these QBs have in common is that they’re from Texas, and I heard Gil Brandt make an interesting point on Sirius this morning.  In Texas, 7-on-7 football is a very popular summer sport, and all three of these guys played it.  It’s a very fast-paced, throwing-centric game, where the emphasis is on making quick decisions and pulling the trigger.  Check out this quality ESPN article for more on 7-on-7 football.

Brandon Weeden - Cleveland Browns, 22nd pick

Not all news can be good.  Weeden looked very much like the game is too fast for him.  To be fair, he was playing against the first-team defensive line of the Lions, and they’re good, but his decision making was lousy, and his throwing was arguably worse.  He missed open receivers, misread coverages, and made several awful-looking throws. 

Weeden looked hurried in the pocket, and he had a couple near-interceptions in addition to the one that the Lions finally caught.  Then, to complicate matters, Colt McCoy came in and looked pretty good, like he can against vanilla/backup preseason defenses.  (When the games are real, any competent defense can shrink the field on McCoy and expose him.)

The Browns picked Weeden to be the starter, and they’ve already anointed him as such.  They have to be a little worried after his first outing, because he looked like he’s not ready to play.  I’ll be looking closely at what he does this week, to see if there’s any apparent improvement.

Russell Wilson - Seattle Seahawks, 75th pick

Wilson is the biggest longshot of this bunch to start on opening day, but he looked excellent for the Seahawks against Tennessee.  The thing that you have to get around with Wilson is obviously his height, which is below the standard for an NFL QB at (generously) 5-11. 

If Wilson were 6-3, he likely would have been drafted after Tannehill, and ahead of Weeden, so you have to ask yourself how much height actually matters.  Wilson makes the point that his line at Wisconsin was bigger than all but one 2011 NFL line, and that he did fine finding lanes behind them.  I tend to think that he can be successful, given his throwing ability and athleticism. 

I know we have some Kellen Moore fans who visit this site, and they’ll say, well if 5-11 isn’t a big deal for Wilson, why did Moore get downgraded.  There’s no comparison between the two players, athletically or in terms of skill, though.  Moore can’t play in the NFL, and he showed that clearly against the Browns.  He just doesn’t throw the ball well enough.

Wilson has all the skills a QB needs, and I suspect that he’ll start some games this year, and get a chance to show what he’s made of.  Matt Flynn looked pretty good too on Saturday, but not as good as Wilson.  Pete Carroll is the most competition-obssessed coach in the NFL, and he truly practices what he preaches, in terms of playing the best players, regardless of name, draft position, or salary.  I think that’s eventually going to favor Wilson, who has Flynn beat on all the measurables except height.

I hoped you enjoyed this nugget, friends.  I’m going to serve up three or four of them per week, and they’ll come at random times, so keep watching IAOFM, and you’ll keep getting served.

Which rookie QB do you expect to have the best 2012 season?

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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Ted's AnalysisBite-size Nuggets