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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Week 2: Home Is Where The Wins Are

With the opening week jitters behind them, our rookies settled down into a nice rhythm in week 2.

There were marked improvements by those who found themselves at the bottom last week, making ranking them very difficult indeed. As ever I'm looking past the basic stat lines and even the scoreline to try and guage just how well they played. Having sat down and watched all these games I've got to say that this was an impressive week for all the rookies, even in defeat for some of them.

Brandon Weeden remains the only one without a win, but that can hardly be a surprise. Still, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill were all able to pick up their first wins in their home openers which will have been a welcome sight for their fan bases, and one can only imagine how crazy Washington is going to be next week when RG3-mania comes home for the first time to face the Bengals. But until then, here's my week 2 rankings and break down. Enjoy.

1: Andrew Luck: Indianapolis Colts vs. Minnesota Vikings

A great home opener for Luck. Showed a lot of poise throughout the game and did really well despite another poor day for the ground game.

Luck's fancy footwork prevented a safety, while his rocket
arm worked the Colts into game-winning position.
Luck must have a proximity sensor in the back of his head because he feels pressure fantastically well, which is very useful when Jared Allen is terrorizing your left tackle all day. Luck’s mobility is a blessing behind that offensive line, He was mobile enough to avoid an almost certain safety in the 3rd quarter. His quick feet did get him into trouble once when on a 3rd and 5 at the end of the game he tucked and scrambled in the face of pressure instead of just throwing it away. He ended up taking a sack for a 22 yard loss and gave great field position over to the Vikings, who turned that into a game tying touchdown.

But other than that, and one or two throws that were almost picked off, Andrew Luck’s 2nd game at the helm of the Indianapolis Colts was a great success. He orchestrated a beautiful 2 minute drill at the end of the 1st half, which ended with a 30 yard strike to Reggie Wayne for 6. He also made 2 great throws in the dying seconds to move the Colts up to field goal range and have the ice cold Adam Vinatieri seal the win. 

There was a tendency for Luck’s throws to get a little high when he’s hurried or trying to speed the play up due to a bad snap, so it’s not all positives for the young #12, but it was a performance that would have greatly pleased the home crowd in the 1st showing of the post-Manning era.

2: Brandon Weeden: Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Wow, life is lot easier when you have Trent Richardson behind you making all kinds of plays.

It was a good day for Bradon Weeden after a rather unfortunate sack on his first drop back when he tripped over the leg of Cincy’s DE Michael Johnson. Weeden’s throws down field were far more accurate than last week and had much better touch on them. His feel in the pocket was good and the playcalling (a heavy dose of Richardson with a lot of screens and short, high percentage passes) really helped him out too.
Brandon Weeden got great support from fellow
rookie Trent Richardson
 Cleveland did a good job of protecting him, and his 1st career TD pass came on a nice and patient read, finding his checkdown man Richardson who then made Cincy look silly with 4 broken tackles before he went into the endzone.

Weeden’s second TD came on a good pass to a wide open Greg Little. He climbed the pocket well and delivered a strike to Little despite having to cut off his follow through due to Alex Mack holding his block in front and needing to loft it in between the 2nd and 3rd level of the defense. 

There were some issues with Weeden though, his 2nd pass of the day really should have been picked off when he horribly underthrew an open Little in the end zone. But all in all there were good signs there, and not all of them were the monster at running back. If Weeden really can be a viable option at QB it will allow the Browns, finally, to address some of the other holes in their roster.

3: Robert Griffin III: Washington Redskins vs. St. Louis Rams

Separating the play from the hype is a hard thing to do with Robert Griffin III. His week 1 performance was great, and the NFL talking heads exploded in near Tebow-levels of gushing praise. Here at The Pulling Linemen though, we try our best to avoid the hype and look purely at on the field performance.

For RG3’s legs it was another fine day, 2 rushing touchdowns and multiple broken ankles for Rams players, but for his arm, it maybe wasn’t so great.

That pretty much sums up Griffin's 1st career interception
He was the only rookie QB to throw a pick this week, and boy was it ugly. Pressure came off his right side with Chris Long bull rushing his way into the pocket, but RG3’s feet suddenly seemed to fail him and he stays put rather than stepping up. He threw a weird little jump ball over the middle that was an easy pick for Cortland Finnegan. Griffin also had 2 other balls go in and out of defenders hands which was disappointing to see.

His fakes were still well executed, and his deep ball is right on the money almost every time. But he was a little wayward in this game with some of the underneath stuff, forcing some tougher catches than were really necessary.

All in all it wasn’t a bad day for Griffin, not the 500 yards & 6 total TD’s that the week 1 hype would have had you believing he was a dead-cert to get, but a good performance on the road in a loud dome. Perhaps the big issue was that in the 2nd half the Redskins offense really sputtered, flags didn’t help but the only score came on a perfect long-bomb to Leonard Hankerson (admittedly there would have been another if Aldrick Robinson could have caught a bomb that hit him square on the shoulder). When you’re +2 in turnovers for the day and have a 21-6 lead midway through the 2nd quarter you really ought to be coming away with a comfortable win. The ‘Skins were just 4-13 on 3rd down, which is rather a surprise given Griffin’s mobility.

4: Ryan Tannehill: Miami Dolphins vs. Oakland Raiders

A day of firsts for Ryan Tannehill; first rushing touchdown, first passing touchdown and first win.

It wasn’t particularly pretty early on. His first throw over the middle was high in the face of pressure and nearly picked off. While he scored on a nice bootleg at the goal line, for most of the 1st half he found himself running for his life from both real and imagined pressure. Early blitzes, and poor play from Jake Long, meant Tannehill was often flushed from the pocket. But soon he was flying out of there from his own accord too and it was worrying to see.
Tannehill barely broke a sweat as he jogged into the endzone
on a well crafted bootleg
Halftime couldn’t come quickly enough and it did wonders for Tannehill, he was able to settle down and through the 2nd half he did a good job staying in under what pressure the Raiders could mount. Tannehill’s arm was good, especially throwing outside the numbers to Brian Hartline who he hit on pretty much every route imaginable. Passes over the middle weren’t quite as successful but he did a good job at clearing the line of scrimmage and his decision making was largely good. 

I'm still worried about his head when things start to go wrong though, there will be times when the Dolphins can't dominate on the ground like they could against the Raiders, and that will lead to more pressure being put on him.

I wasn't a fan of Tannehill's work outside of the pocket either. He held the ball too long as he watched the rush rather than keeping him eyes down field. On one scramble he left it far too late to throw the ball away and should have been called for a fumble that went out of bounds rather than an incomplete pass. It's these kinds of things that separate him from his more experienced counterparts, but it will come with more games.

5: Russell Wilson: Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys

This game was over before Russell Wilson really got going. Dallas fumbled the opening kick off which only served to fire up an always noisy Century Link Field. Then, after the Seahawks kicked a field goal & forced a 3 and out they blocked the punt and took it in for a touchdown.

The Seahawks defense & run game really controlled this one, but Wilson was pretty impressive too. Outside of his 2nd throw of the day, which should have been picked by Bruce Carter. It’s likely that Wilson simply didn’t see him behind the scrum the mass of bodies fighting at the line of scrimmage but that’s the kind of thing people were worried about with his height, and he’ll need to do a better job of identifying those pesky linebackers when in close at the goal line.

After that though, Wilson was a picture of calm composure. He completed 75% of his passes, mostly shorter, safer routes. But he did show great poise again and a fantastically calm head. In obvious passing situations the Seahawks line really struggled to keep Wilson clean but his feet saved him on a few occasions, and he kept his eyes down field, completing passes where others might have just thrown it away.
"Dunno what all the fuss is about, i can see over this just fine"
His 22 yard touchdown pass to Antony McCoy was a beautiful throw and he had other great passes on intermediate routes to Sidney Rice and Golden Tate.

Once again though the plays were very conservative, and given the situation they didn’t really need to open it up and let Wilson pass a lot. Next week might be a different matter though as the high-powered Green Bay Packers come to town on Monday Night Football. If they can crack the Seahawks defense we might just see Wilson being forced into a shootout, which will tell us a lot more about his NFL credentials.

I'm going to struggle to be able to rank Wilson highly, no matter how well he does, until Pete Carroll truly opens up the offense. Wilson is having, and is being asked. to do far less than the other rookies, and while he is excelling in the role asked of him, it would be good to see him doing more on a sunday.

- Toby Durant (@TDonSport)
- The Pulling Linemen

1 comment:

  1. I think Weeden was made to look better than he is by a combination of a really effective running game and a Bengals defense that has really slipped since last year. I expect regression from this performance, probably not as far as week 1, I remain unconvinced that he is a professinal quaterback.