Third time’s the charm? Not quite for some guys.
Rookie quarterbacks haven’t exactly set the NFL on fire yet. That’s what happens when you’re, well, a rookie.
Sunday’s games provided the best opportunity for the most intriguing rookie passer to get a chance to do so. Justin Fields got his first crack at starting in the NFL, and it’s going to be a day he’ll want to forget.
None of the rookies have reached “concerning” levels yet. Not even Trevor Lawrence, who turned in another bad game this week, nor Mac Jones, who had his first real bad game on Sunday.
While they’re two passers with different expectations, systems and situations, they both turned in stinkers and losses. Jones threw three picks — and one pick-six — while Lawrence added two more turnovers to his Pro Football Reference page.
Davis Mills: C
Stats: 19/28, 168 yards, one touchdown
Next: at Bills
Hey, Davis Mills didn’t look too bad on “Thursday Night Football” in his first career start.
Once the offense opened up a bit and Mills was allowed to let it eat, the rookie had a pretty good game. He finished 19-of-28 passing for 168 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Panthers.
Mills is going to need more help from the running game, but his first NFL action proved he can be serviceable. He held up well against Carolina’s strong defensively line and the game was competitive through the first half before it got away late.
Luckily, Mills looks like he was fostering a good rapport with the extremely reliable Brandin Cooks (nine catches for 112 yards) vs. Carolina. We’ll see if that translates to some more production in the coming weeks while Tyrod Taylor is out.
Justin Fields: C
Stats: 6/20, 68 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions
Next: vs. Lions
Fields got his first chance at starting in the NFL on Sunday. It was bowling-shoe ugly — and he was a small, small part of the problem. That’s why he’s earned an “Incomplete” grade here.
Fields couldn’t really get anything going behind a bad Bears offensive line and a playbook that still looked like the largely immobile Andy Dalton was running the offense, which is inexcusable for Matt Nagy and Co. Considering they had a week (and really, an offseason) to better tailor the offense to Fields’ unique skillset, the fact that the offense looked exactly like the Dalton-Trubisky-Foles-Whoever Else vehicle it has been during the Nagy tenure.
There was no real moving pocket action, nothing to get him outside and throw on the move, no designed runs, nothing to help your young passer and cater to his talents. Fields had just 12 yards on the ground on Sunday.
And what’s worse: Fields was sacked nine times — that’s right, Mrs. Bueller: Niiiiiiine tiiiiiimes — in his debut vs. the Browns. The arrow should point up from here, but should is a powerful and maybe overly optimistic word when you’re throwing out Bears’ offenses under Nagy.
Justin Fields: “I’m not used to this. I don’t like feeling like this.”
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) September 26, 2021
Better get used to it, Justin.
Mac Jones: D
Stats: 30/51, 271 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions
Next: vs. Buccaneers
“Dink and dunk” isn’t necessarily a negative thing when it works — and when it’s an accurate depiction of what’s going on — and Jones has done that to perfection early on in the season for the Patriots. Sunday’s game was pretty, pretty bad when it comes to throwing the ball downfield, though, which was a Jones knock coming out of college.
Jones’ efforts to throw deep were met with great resistance in the Patriots’ loss to the Saints. Per ESPN Stats, Jones was 1-for-8 on throws 15-plus yards downfield in the first half of the Patriots’ loss to the Saints on Sunday:
Mac Jones was 1-of-8 for 17 Pass yards and an Int on throws 15+ yards downfield in the first half today.
He was 9-of-11 for 88 Pass yards on shorter throws.
Of the 7 deep incompletions, 4 were due to overthrows. pic.twitter.com/WjnzyoYjiI
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 26, 2021
While the Josh McDaniels offense is going to rely more on those short passes and working the middle of the field, Jones is going to have to improve down the field to really become a more complete passer in the league.
Trevor Lawrence: D
Stats: 22/34, 219 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions
Next: at Bengals
It hasn’t been the best showing for the No. 1 overall pick through the first three games of his career, but the good thing is, it’s the first three games of his career.
On Sunday, Lawrence threw two more INTs, including a pick-six in the Jags’ loss to Arizona, sending Jacksonville to 0-3 on the season. At minimum, it’s good that Lawrence keeps slinging it, because there are 14 more games to go.
To be fair, Lawrence did throw a beautiful ball to DJ Chark for his lone touchdown pass on the day — it’s the kind of throw that reminds you just how good Lawrence can be. These highlights will come more consistently with time, but there’s no reason to sugarcoat that Lawrence has been not very good early on.
Zach Wilson: D
Stats: 19/35, 160 yards, two interceptions
Next: vs. Titans
Wilson seemed more settled in his start vs. the Broncos on Sunday than when he got smoked for four interceptions vs. the Patriots last week, but not by much.
The No. 2 overall pick (again) had absolutely no help from receivers, his offensive line, or his playcalling in the shutout loss to Denver. While Robert Saleh wanted Wilson to play a “boring” brand of football, he succeeded with that: The Jets had just 162 yards of total offense on Sunday, which is, in a word, troubling.
Wilson’s two picks were differing in variety: One was a late throw, and the other was a dropped pass. The rookie is going to need more help moving forward if he wants to continue progress and build in his rookie year.