One observation on every NFL quarterback who started on Sunday
Week 3 didn’t appear particularly compelling on paper but it turned out to be surprisingly competitive. There were upsets, epic blowouts, overtimes and down-to-the-wire games. At the heart of each were the quarterbacks. Here’s one thought on all 26 QBs who started on Sunday.
Josh Allen (Buffalo): When Allen is on, he’s as exciting as any QB in football. He made his usual array of brilliant throws, including a 35-yard laser to Gabe Davis for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter, but didn’t have to sweat much as the Bills rolled Washington 37-3.
Sam Howell (Washington): The Commanders got smoked and Howell threw three picks. But damn, this kid is tough. He competes as hard as any QB I’ve watched this year, hanging in the pocket, diving for extra yards, colliding with defenders as he scrambles. But he reminds me of an exuberant pup that hasn’t yet figured out where the danger lies. Howell needs to use better discretion with the football — and his body — but he sure is fun to watch.
Gardner Minshew (Indianapolis): Minshew Mania! The ‘Stache quarterbacked a Colts team that was thin on talent to a surprise overtime win in Baltimore. Minshew ran around like a high school quarterback playing behind the JV line, making throws under constant duress. He was short on style points, but as Mike Tomlin says, style points don’t matter. Nice win for the Colts.
Lamar Jackson (Baltimore): Jackson looks caught between the Greg Roman version of himself, and the one Todd Monken wants him to become. He threw from the pocket some, he had some designed runs and he scrambled around a bit. There didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to any of it. The Ravens need to better define their offense.
Jared Goff (Detroit): Goff looks really comfortable quarterbacking the Lions. His pocket presence is sound and he remains a great play-action QB. His calm demeanor seems like a great match for the passionate Dan Campbell, too. Happy to see Goff put his career back together in Detroit.
Desmond Ridder (Atlanta), Zach Wilson (NYJ): These young QBs are struggling with the same issues: pocket presence and coverage recognition. Those traits make up the backbone of playing QB in the NFL, and they’re not easy to master. When you watch them play, you see shared signs of their struggles. Eyes on the rush at times instead of down the field. Making pre-snap rather than post-snap decisions on where to go with the football. Bailing out of the pocket before it closes. Anticipation. And at times, accuracy. It will be interesting to see how long it takes each of them to grow these aspects of their games, or whether they grow them at all. My money says Ridder will figure it out. Wilson? I’m not so sure.
Mac Jones (New England): Jones didn’t do much on Sunday, and his stats were pedestrian (15-29, 201, 1/1). But he didn’t lose the game for the Patriots, which is probably the way Bill Belichick wants it.
Tua Tagovialoa (Miami): 70 points. My goodness. The no-look shovel pass he threw to Devon Achane for a touchdown pretty much defines the Dolphins right now. They remind me of the Lob City Clippers in the NBA a few years back. Just a high-flying bunch of guys with a gunslinging coach making their sport more fun to watch.
Russell Wilson (Denver): I’ll be interested to see how Russ bounces back from that 70-20 beatdown. He and Sean Payton seem like oil and water, and that game isn’t likely to help. Or maybe it will. It’s sink or swim time for Wilson, Payton and the 0-3 Broncos.
C.J. Stroud (Houston): I liked the game offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik called for Stroud. Lots of bootlegs and pocket movement. Lots of formations that used max protection to keep Stroud clean. Simple routes Stroud could easily read. Slowik called a game that was friendly to his young QB. Believe it or not, that’s easier said than done.
Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville): Lawrence reminded us on Sunday that while he’s a rising star in the league, he still has room to grow. His numbers were fine, and he wasn’t the reason Jacksonville lost. But when a bad team like Houston comes into your stadium, star QB’s don’t lose. Lawrence will probably reach that elite status at some point. He’s just not there yet.
Derek Carr (New Orleans): Carr was a gunslinger when in Las Vegas, but on Sunday he was effective throwing quicks and timing routes in a fairly conservative passing attack by the Saints. He was an unspectacular but efficient 13-18 for 103 yards and a touchdown while directing New Orleans to a 17-0 lead before leaving in the 3rd quarter with a shoulder injury. That injury opened the door for a Green Bay comeback led by…
Jordan Love (Green Bay): Love got off to a slow start but led the Pack to a spirited comeback win. He only completed 50% of his passes, and he threw his first interception of the season. But his poise in the second half was excellent. Must be something in that Lambeau water that allows Packer QBs to play cool as a cucumber when the pressure’s on.
Kirk Cousins (Minnesota): The adjective I’ll use to describe Cousins is “haggard.” Minnesota was in their game with the Chargers right up until the final play, but Cousins’ body language reminded me of someone on the downslope of a failing marriage. My man Dave Stefano over at 1st and Skol would know better than me, but it sure feels like this is the last year we’ll see Cousins in Minnesota.
Justin Herbert (LA Chargers): Sheesh. We knew the Minnesota defense wasn’t great. But 40 of 47? For 405 yards? That’s absurd. And get this — the Chargers managed not to blow the game! That’s the more incredible thing. L.A. is brilliant at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They almost did so again on Sunday, going for it (and failing) on 4th-and-1 from their own 24-yard line up four with a minute to go. But a goal line interception with :07 remaining preserved the win, and Herbert’s masterpiece was not in vain.
Deshaun Watson (Cleveland) and Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee): The two veteran QBs played about as oppositely as possible on Sunday. Watson may have had his best game in Cleveland, going 27-33 for 289 yards as the Browns rolled, 27-3. Tannehill, meanwhile, was sacked five times and netted just 68 passing yards on 32 attempts. That’s right. The Titans called 32 pass plays and they netted 68 total yards. Rough day for Ryan Tannehill fantasy owners, if that’s a thing.
Geno Smith (Seattle) and Andy Dalton (Carolina): Holy 2014, Batman! This would have been a really intriguing QB matchup a decade ago. Actually, it wasn’t a bad one on Sunday. Both Smith and Dalton played well as Seattle bested the Panthers. In a league where the kids dominate the QB headlines, this game showed the old guys still have some decent football in them.
Josh Dobbs (Arizona): Dobbs has been better than expected as the starter in Arizona, especially since he wasn’t on their roster until the Cards traded for him a week before their opener. On Sunday, he engineered the biggest upset of the season when Arizona knocked off previously unbeaten Dallas. They won by running the ball well, but when they called on Dobbs to make plays he was effective, going 17-21 for 189 yards with no turnovers. The steady play of Dobbs is a big reason the Cards have been respectable so far this season.
Dak Prescott (Dallas): Prescott put up decent stats but didn’t make splash plays and couldn’t get the Cowboys into the end zone more than once. Dallas drove inside the Arizona 10-yard line on all four of its second half drives yet came away with just six points. Prescott has to be better in those situations.
Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City): The Chiefs crushed Chicago as Mahomes casually led the offense to 34 points on 21-29 passing for 224 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions… in the first half! He added a quick touchdown drive to start the second half before giving way to Blaine Gabbert midway through the third quarter. This felt like one of those early-season SEC games where Georgia tunes up for Alabama by pummeling The Citadel.
Justin Fields (Chicago): Poor Justin Fields. Every time I flicked to the Chiefs-Bears game he was running for his life. Some were designed runs. Others were simply plays where Fields tried to escape the pressure being applied by the defense. The situation on offense in Chicago is untenable. Either Fields is going to get hurt or offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is going to get fired. It’s even money on which happens first.
Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh): Pickett struggled mightily the first two weeks against two of the league’s best defenses in San Francisco and Cleveland. He was hit more than any other QB and looked understandably skittish as a result. But Sunday night, against a much weaker unit in Las Vegas, Pickett was solid, throwing two touchdowns and not turning the ball over in a 23-18 win. It helped that coordinator Matt Canada dialed up a host of play-action passes and bootlegs to get Pickett some easy throws outside of the pocket. Both Pickett and Canada took big steps forward and may have quelled some of the angst that was building among the Pittsburgh fan base.
Jimmy Garoppolo (Las Vegas): Jimmy G was battered by an aggressive Pittsburgh defense, getting sacked four times, intercepted three times and harassed on nearly every drop-back. Garoppolo was also bent backwards on a sack by T.J. Watt and came up moving gingerly. He’ll need a long bath and a short memory to put this game behind him.
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