With the real refs returning for week 4 we might get a better sense of just how good these rookies are when they don't get the benefit, or injustice, of bad calls. And as the volume of tape builds, will defenses start to figure them out?
But for now, let's look at their week 3 performances, and it's a familiar name at the top:
1. Robert Griffin III: Washington Redskins vs. Cincinnati Bengals
It was a good game from Griffin again, but I have one major gripe which is his work inside the pocket. All day Griffin was struggling with pressure as his offensive line didn’t hold up well, but he was flat footed a lot of the time, and held onto the ball a little too long on occasion. For all his speed and athleticism Griffin did not move in the pocket very well. This was on display particularly in the 1st quarter where he looked a little flat-footed when working inside the pocket.
The Redskins came out running, with a heavy dose of Alfred Morris early on, who actually caused a fumble on Griffin’s first pass attempt. Griffin executed a nice roll out and was able to keep his eyes down field on rushes. He was also able to take check downs, which is a nice sign of maturity for a rookie with a big arm.
He took back to back sacks in the 1st quarter, the first off a play-action where he held the ball too long, but the 2nd he just got rocked as Michael Johnson who went through the backup LT like he wasn’t there.
Griffin was under duress a lot early on in this game as the Bengals won the battle up front. RG3 even fumbled an option pitch as Carlos Dunlap came in and got a hand on it after getting into the backfield faster than anticipated.
In the 3rd quarter the Redskins came out running the option. Using Morris, Evan Royster and even return man Brandon Banks in the pistol with Griffin. They were able to really motor down field as Griffin executed it well and the backs all ran hard. They even threw in a designed QB sweep which nearly got Griffin into the endzone.
Any passes were almost strictly on rollouts, which he excelled at. As the time wore down and the Bengals kept scoring however they had to resort to an aerial attack with Griffin working out of the shotgun and doing well, finding open receivers and again not forcing anything. He used his feet to great use, moving the chains when there was no target open. And even though they came up short on a hail mary attempt it was another game full of promise.
When Trent Williams and Pierre Garcon return the Redskins offense should be tough to stop.
2. Andrew Luck: Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
|"I see you #90, you can't sneak up on me"|
As for his arm, well barring a really bad interception to a wide open Paul Posluszny it was an impressive day. Particularly going down field to T.Y. Hilton for his first touchdown.
Luck seems to have mastered the 2 minute drill as well, executing it excellently to get a 2nd touchdown to Mewelde Moore just before half time. In the 2nd half things weren’t quite as easy. Jacksonville adjusted well and really limited Indy’s ground game. He had a badly underthrown ball picked off by Posluszny and several drops to boot. But in the 4th quarter he twice moved the Colts quickly into field goal range, only for Adam Vinatieri to miss the 1st one, and Cecil Shorts to retake the lead on the very next play after Vinatieri put the Colts up by 1 with the 2nd.
Luck’s accuracy is poorly reflected in the stats (22-46 on the day) as the Colts had to take multiple shots down the field and go for big plays as they found themselves down late in the game. You get the feeling that if they can start to work a successful running game that Indianapolis could have an effective offense this season.
3. Russell Wilson: Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
|There was no doubt about this long bomb to Tate|
What’s lost in all that, and the stat line, is that Wilson played pretty well. Seattle was even more vanilla on offense than they were before. They looked afraid to do anything other than hand off to Marshawn Lynch out of the I on both first and second down, before shifting to an empty shotgun set on 3rd down, only for the WR’s to seriously struggle getting open.
Wilson kept his composure though, even as his offensive line gave up multiple holding flags, and everyone got involved in the false start horror show. He used his feet very well, but did get in trouble once, taking a big sack as he tried to extend the play and out run Nick Perry. Otherwise his athleticism continues to be a huge boost to this offense which is struggling to protect and struggling to uncover its receivers.
Wilson’s 1st touchdown was a superb long bomb to Golden Tate off a play-action. It was the only time they gave Wilson license to go down the field in the 1st half and he really repaid that faith, hitting Tate in the numbers on a pass that was 45 yards in the air.
The second half was tougher due to the Packers dominating the time of possession and really clamping down on Lynch in the run game.
He had a pass tipped by his receiver and then picked off, but that got wiped out by a rather kind roughing the passer flag. But he didn’t let that affect him at all and was super-calm in the dying moments of a crazy game.
Once more though, it’s impossible to put him high up this ranking unless others are awful as the Seahawks refuse to “turn him loose”. Undoubtedly they don’t have the receivers to really excel as a passing team, no matter how good Wilson is. They struggled all day to uncover against what his normally a poor secondary and that will hamper Wilson all year. Seattle are the only team in the NFL with more rushing yards than passing, that tells you all you need to know about how the Seahawks are running their offense.
4. Ryan Tannehill: Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets
|"Damn, we're not in green this week"|
Tannehill missed receivers left, right and centre. He misthrew screen passes, opened the wrong way on a run and threw a horrible pick 6 after taking too long to identify Anthony Fasano and had LaRon Landry break on it and take it back to the house. Tannehill's feet looked sluggish in the pocket too, he was ok on rollouts but still inaccurate on his passes. Miami leaned heavily on the run game, first with the impressive Reggie Bush and then after his injury Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas shared the load.
Tannehill was good with the shorter routes, but all the long plays of the day came on iffy pass interference calls or yards after the catch until he hit a wide open Brian Hartline in overtime. Even then however, Hartline had to make a lunging grab that took him out of bounds, if Tannehill hit him in the numbers it was all over, Hartline would have taken it to the endzone.
It wasn't even like playing against Darrell Revis for the first time was limiting Tannehill's play, because it didn't pick up when Revis went out. It was another weak game where a player like Matt Moore might have been able to secure a good win against a poor Jets side.
5. Brandon Weeden: Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills
|The Bills hit Weeden a lot on sunday.|
And he didn't like it at all.
Weeden threw into a lot of very tight coverage as his receivers struggled to consistently get open. But his touchdown throw at the end of the 3rd quarter was a very nice pass to the front corner of the endzone.
His mobility is by far the worst of the rookie quarterbacks, and it hurts him a lot when in direct comparison to the others. There were many times where he could have taken off to either get yards or extend the play, but he simply doesn’t have that ability and he took some hits because of it.
Weeden also threw some horrible interceptions as the Browns chased the game in the 4th quarter. He’s a really up and down player who could well get eaten alive on Thursday Night Football on the road in Baltimore.
- Toby Durant (@TDonSport)
- The Pulling Linemen