The Rookie QB Revolution heralded preseason has had its successes, but Week 7 of this year proved that the rookies and Year 2's wouldn't displace the veteran signal callers so easily.
This week's post doesn't deal only with the Cowboys or the NFC East, but with the so-called hot topic of 2012, the influx of game changing quarterbacks through this year's talent-rich draft. No one can deny that all of the QB's who have seen action so far have adjusted to the game. Even Miami's Ryan Tannehill, who was expected to be left alone to be brutalized by opposing defenses, has been able to get his team to over achieve.
But this past Sunday, and Thursday as well, have been a reality check not just for the rookie and second year quarterbacks themselves, but to the league and media. Unfortunately, in a game that depends on multiple skills that no single position player possesses all of, a quarterback can't be the team. If somebody else fumbles, misses tackles, misses a kick, drops a pass, or blows a blocking assignment, the quarterback's contribution is negated. Also these team leaders often lead their team to doom, a la Philip Rivers last Monday. In that case a quarterback may be the Achilles' heel of his team.
Eli, meet Robert. If this were a summer camp it would be a four way fight for the top bunk. The NFC East features the four QB's with the highest profiles in the NFL. Don't believe me? Watch who appears on the next Subway or NFL Store commercials.
This was a bad week to be a young quarterback, unless you were Andrew Luck who was facing a fellow rookie. But were the failures of those teams really due to the passers? Rebuilding teams usually draft a quarterback as the centerpiece even when the surrounding cast isn't so good. Luck's opponent, a Cleveland team led by fellow Big 12 alumnus Brandon Weeden, didn't commit a single turnover, and actually had superior passing numbers. The real problem with his team seems to be a lethargic run game, butterfingered receivers, and bad tackling in clutch situations. Weeden has actually improved from past weeks.
What's the standard of success?
Andrew Luck, the victor, in that game actually lags in the bottom half of the rankings for his position. What brought Luck across the finish line in this game was the superb performance of some of his less famous teammates. Rookie RB Vick Ballard had 84 yards on the ground, a high for his young career. Ballard actually outran the starting running back Delone Carter. Other than that, this was actually a game with two dynamic offenses that nevertheless seemed reluctant to execute.
Christian Ponder also pulled out a needed Minnesota victory against Arizona, but the best performance by a rookie or second year QB was Robert Griffin III's in a losing road effort against the Giants. RG3's playcalling is as unpredictable as his famous repertoire of socks, and the Redskins should be satisfied with this guy. But all of the clutch heroics he's conjured up have mostly been undone by the incompetence of other Washington players, such as Josh Morgan's boneheaded blow-up against Cortland Finnegan in Week 2 or the atrocious pass defense throughout the season.
Cam Newton may be one of the best athletes at his position but his posture in this
and other photos make him look like a player ten years older. . . and not in a good way.
Veterans retain an advantage
In general, the theme of Week 7 was that one player cannot completely change the fortunes of a sports team. Russell Wilson's performance with Seattle in San Francisco was about as underwhelming as could be expected. To his credit, Wilson, like Dalton last year, goes into many situations as an underdog due to his anonymity, height disadvantage, and other factors. And he was facing the 49ers pass defense on the road.
The situation everybody is talking about is Cam Newton's atrocious regression in Carolina. Newton was in the opposite situation as Wilson, facing a defense that wasn't nearly as secure and physical, playing on the road. Newton chose to blame the people who put together his game plan. He was wrong for saying that in public, but the principle of his words was spot on. With their depth at running back, the Panthers are squandering money on those backs if they choose this pass-heavy call scheme. Steve Smith had a decent game Sunday, but other than him and Brandon LaFell, the receiving corps suffered from a lack of initiative.