Rookie QB Roundup

The 2021 NFL season has quickly picked up momentum over the course of September and following the conclusion of Week 4 this past weekend, many fanbases have plenty to be excited about. Unsurprisingly, a focal point throughout the early weeks of the fall has been, as it always is, the rookie Quarterbacks around the league. Although, this year's class in particular is seemingly under a microscope even more so after headlining the draft with five passers being taken in the first-round alone. 

Heading into Week 5, a total of 6 different rookie Quarterbacks have all had the opportunity to play and/or start during the regular season, each with different situations surrounding them, and all to varying degrees of success. The main commonality between the group so far is that they all have experienced their fair share of struggles and teachable moments. However, despite the rookie Quarterbacks only accumulating 3 wins between themselves through the first 4 weeks of action, there is no reason for any of their respective fan bases to panic. All of the first-round passers have demonstrated at times that they possess the skills and tools to succeed in the league. 

Patience is hard to practice in a league like the NFL, especially when it comes to the development of a talented rookie Quarterback. At this point, it seems that all five first-round passers are clearly poised to receive significant playing time this season; either maintaining the starting roles that they have held all season or by taking over responsibilities following an injury to the veteran placeholder above them. 

This will be the first of a three-part series that will periodically check-in on the rookie QB class throughout their inaugural season.

Trevor Lawrence - Jaguars (0-4)

The first overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft and supposed next generation of wonderkid, Trevor Lawrence has looked fairly human over his first few outings at Quarterback. Through the first 3 games, Lawrence logged a league high 7 interceptions, and also led the league in both 'turnover worthy plays' , and 'uncatchable pass rate' according to PFF. All the while, the Jaguars fell to 0-3 to open the season with their rookie at the helm. 

This isn't to cast a shadow on the young QB's future development at all, as several factors are naturally playing a role in how these statistics have been distributed. The Jaguars are definitely not flush with talent in supportive roles and NFL freshman, Urban Meyer has seemed overwhelmed at times in the onset of his tenure as a Head Coach of a professional team.

In every game Lawrence has orchestrated eye-catching plays and flashed moments of incredible playmaking abilities, reminding fans each week of his potential. The keys to his development heading forward is simply reducing mistakes and the old clichΓ© of continuing to slow down the game. Against the Bengals in primetime last Thursday night Lawrence started putting the pieces together. He kept a clean sheet in terms of interceptions, and reduced his average time to throw to a relatively quick 2.3 seconds which may be a sign that Lawrence is adjusting to the speed of the game at the next level. 

Despite not being able to secure a victory and falling to 0-4 on his rookie campaign, a repeat performance in Week 5 against the Titans will be a positive sign that the former college star is definitively turning the page.    

Zach Wilson - Jets (1-4)

Against the Titans in Week 4, Zach Wilson finally put his first win under the belt as a professional in a dynamic overtime victory while also playing what was likely his best half of football yet this season and his young career. Through the game Wilson completed 21 of 34 passes for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns along with only a single interception. In a limited sample size and despite being severely hampered by the lack of talent surrounding him, Wilson has shown himself to be a tremendous competitor and has flashed brilliance at times.

When Wilson was taken as the second player off the board during the draft, he was expected to experience peaks and valleys over his rookie campaign, and that is exactly what has unfolded in New York so far. The franchise and the fans simply need to be patient and support Wilson the best they can as he continues to develop. Heading into Week 5, the Jets and Wilson travel to London for an extremely favorable matchup to continue to build on their momentum against the Falcons.     

Trey Lance - 49er's (2-2)

After essentially what could be considered as a cameo appearance in Week 1, Trey Lance finally got his first substantial bite at the apple this past weekend against Seattle. It is abundantly clear that Lance has all the necessary tools to succeed in the future but the main question will be how they can be refined and effectively put to use to create production. 

In relief of Jimmy Garoppolo last Sunday, Lance looked fairly pedestrian logging 9 completions on 18 attempts, 157 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. The main culprit that reduces the significance of what seems at surface level as a commendable stat line for a rookie tossed to the wolves is a 76 yard touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel on a blown coverage; without this play Lance was only 8 for 17 and 81 yards. Similar to his counterpart in Chicago, Lance has been given the opportunity to overtake the injured veteran placeholder above them but will have to fight weekly to maintain the starting role.  

In Week 5, Lance and the 49er's are set to play the Cardinals in a divisional matchup.

Justin Fields - Bears (2-2)

In his second start this past weekend against the Lions, Justin Fields looked much more comfortable and he put a few truly remarkable throws on display. Following the injury to veteran Andy Dalton and the recent momentum picked up by Fields in his place this past weekend, the Bears seemingly had an easy decision on how to approach the rest of their season and the rookie's development. Let the kid play!

While Fields was clearly overwhelmed in his first start last week against the Browns, he responded in an extremely positive manner in his follow up performance demonstrating his powerful arm, athleticism and orchestrating three touchdown drives. It would have be disappointing if the Bears did not allow Fields to continue on as the starter regardless of Andy Dalton's health. As long as the offensive line prevents another 9 sack fiasco they experienced against Cleveland, the Bears have the talent across their skilled positions to assist Fields considerably as he progresses his game. The game against the Lions was not a perfect showing by any means, but no one is asking Fields to be perfect, just continue to show improvement.

The Bears play the Raiders in Week 5 and Head Coach Matt Nagy has reportedly decided that Justin Fields has been named the permanent starter moving forward according to multiple sources earlier today.

Mac Jones - Patriots (1-3)

It only took until Week 4 for Mac Jones to be put to the ultimate test as a Patriot, facing off against the legend himself in Foxborough and under the big lights of primetime. Jones played admirably after his 3 interception showing against Saints in Week 3, completing 31 of 40 pass attempts for nearly 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns with only a single interception. 

Despite Jones only securing a singular win so far, he has proven himself to be arguably the most pro-ready passer out of the entire draft. Jones has demonstrated a quick release, accuracy, an ability to distribute the football effectively, and a tendency to thrive with short and intermediate routes, which is exactly what the entire New England offense is predicated on. 

Against Tampa Bay it was encouraging to see Jones take command of the no-huddle offense and at one point during the contest he managed to complete 19 consecutive passes which is impressive for any Quarterback let alone a rookie. Throughout the season, Jones will continue to be asked to do more and likely start stretching the field as well but it has been an encouraging start overall for the Alabama product. 

Heading into Week 5 the Patriots will face off against a struggling Texans squad where Jones will likely poach his second win from a fellow rookie passer this season.  

Davis Mills - Texans (1-3)

The Stanford product filled in admirably after starter Tyrod Taylor went down to an injury in Week 2 and followed it up with another relatively decent showing against the Panthers in the next game with a touchdown and a completion percentage of 67.9%. Against the Bills however all hell let loose on the rookie as he was terrorized by one of the leagues best defenses for 3 sacks and 4 interceptions while the Texans were held to 6 first downs and 109 total yards. Davis Mills QBR against the Bills was 0.8 which would be the worst recorded in the last handful of years.

Unfortunately there will not be any help for Davis Mills, as the Texans are lacking talent in several key positions on offense and the deck is decisively stacked against him. Mills and the Texans will likely put forward several more similar performances to this one before the season concludes but whether Mills secures himself a role with the team after 2021, either as the franchise quarterback or otherwise will depend on how he plays moving forward.  

That wraps it up for now! We will check in on the group again around Week 10. What do you think of the rookie quarterbacks through 4 weeks? What are your expectations heading in to the next segment of the season?  

Photo Credit © Kevin R. Wexler-NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

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