Why young QBs are thriving in 2016 - Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
Brooks explains that the recent success of young QBs has caused widespread panic in the NFL. But perhaps not in the way you'd think.
Why are so many young, inexperienced quarterbacks thriving this season?
That's the million-dollar question being asked around the league, with evaluators having watched Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Trevor Siemian, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett play like seasoned vets in the pocket over the first three weeks of the 2016 campaign.
Emergency meetings are being held everywhere to discuss how these teams have been able to quickly prepare these young quarterbacks to not only step onto the field right away, but to play winning football with nothing more than a few OTAs, minicamps, training-camp practices and preseason snaps under their belt.
Overall, the early success of these young quarterbacks probably can't be replicated by downtrodden franchises, but it could encourage the decision makers of mid-level squads and perennial contenders to take more chances on quarterback prospects on draft day. With young players forced to play on budget deals, the thought of a rookie passer surrounded by veteran playmakers and a quality coaching staff has more appeal than it did a few weeks ago.
NFL rookie quarterbacks are off to an astounding start. - Michael Tunison, Sports on Earth
Through three weeks of the 2016 season, rookie quarterbacks are off to amazing starts, and Tunison wonders whether they can keep it up or if they are bound to regress.
Teams will study their tendencies and force them into throws that are more likely to result in mistakes. Look at Marcus Mariota in 2015. The Titans QB got off to a hot start, throwing eight touchdowns and just two interceptions in his first three starts in 2015. He proceeded to have a more balanced ratio of 11 touchdowns to eight interceptions in his last nine starts of his rookie year. Jameis Winston began 2015 with three games where he threw four touchdowns to three interceptions, and improved slightly the rest of the way, throwing 18 touchdowns and 12 picks over the final 13 games of 2015, though it's a lot closer if you remove one standout game where he had five touchdowns and no picks against the Eagles.
Inexperienced Quarterbacks Are Wildly Exceeding Expectations in 2016 - Chase Stuart, Footballperspective.com
Stuart drops some interestig nuggets on this year's rookie QB class that has exceeded even the wildest expectations:
Calling it a fluke is an easy explanation, given that interception rate is pretty random. And a lot of these players are throwing very short passes: Prescott (18th) and Garoppolo (19th) rank below-average in average depth of pass, while Wentz (30th) and Siemian (32nd) are both in the bottom three (there are 32 qualifying passers so far this year, and neither Kessler nor Brissett meet that threshold). That helps to keep interception rates down, but still: is the story of September how well these inexperienced quarterbacks have played?
Quarterbacks and the Progression of Air Yards - Scott Kacsmar, Football Outsiders
Kacsmar notes that Trevor Siemian and Carson Wentz rank in the bottom three in average air yards and wonders whether good quarterbacks usually increase their air yards with more experience, or whether their passes actually get shorter over time.
Air yards are the average distance each pass travels beyond the line of scrimmage. As of Week 3, Siemian (6.85) and Wentz (6.86) rank in the bottom three for average air yards, sandwiched between Philip Rivers (6.55) and Alex Smith (7.08). The league average is roughly 8.5.
Generally, air yards are a stat where you don't want to rank at the bottom, because that is where many ineffective passers dwell, including Blaine Gabbert. That preference for short throws often extends to crucial downs, which is why these quarterbacks tend to do poorly in ALEX and attacking the sticks. However, it is not preferable to rank at the very top in air yards either, because that is how "screw it, I'm going deep" players such as Michael Vick, Tim Tebow, Vince Young and Rex Grossman have earned their reputation as inefficient passers. The ideal quarterback would rank a little above the average, capable of effectively mixing in a variety of passes from screens to bombs, and everything in between.
One reasonable conclusion is that air yards do not tend to increase over time. From the 14 quarterbacks with at least eight years of data, we observed a gradual decline from 9.11 yards in the first year to 8.33 yards in the eighth year. But again, this includes a mixture of players at various career points rather than seasons 1-to-8 of their careers. As a quarterback ages, expectations would be for him to not get as much air on the deep ball, and perhaps to get rid of the ball faster to avoid taking more hits that become harder to overcome with age.
Carson Wentz vs. Dak Prescott: Who's better? - Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
Dubin plows through a cornucopia of stats in an attempt to answer the question in the title of this article, and drops a few interesting nuggets along the way.
From a pure passing perspective, though, it's important to note a major difference in the way Wentz and Prescott have accumulated their statistics. Of Wentz's 102 passes, 20 of them have been thrown to receivers behind the line of scrimmage. That's nearly 20 percent of his total throws, and he's racked up 19 completions, 136 yards and one of his five touchdowns on tosses that were essentially uncontested. Prescott, meanwhile, has thrown only nine passes behind the line of scrimmage, totaling eight completions for 55 yards.
As such, Wentz has gotten a far greater percentage of his total yards via post-catch runs by his receivers. Per Pro Football Focus, only one quarterback (Matt Ryan) has accrued a lower percentage of his passing yards pre-catch than Wentz's 46.0 percent figure. That's far lower than the NFL average of 57.1 percent, while Prescott is above that average with a 58.6 percent figure.
When do you know a QB will be good? Solving the Wentz and Prescott question - Bill Barnwell, ESPN
The rookie QBs for the Eagles and Cowboys actually have shown signs of stardom just by not failing miserably, Barnwell writes, and explains that other hurdles to becoming a true star now stand in the way.
It's way too early to crown Prescott and Wentz as future superstars and come up with trade packages for Romo while laughing at the Browns. They're not going to go the rest of their respective careers without throwing an interception. They're going to lose key pieces, as Prescott is likely to experience this weekend with Dez Bryant unlikely to play. They'll go down early in games and have to throw against teams teeing off on passes to catch up. They'll take hits and have to play at 80 percent, and even worse, they might develop bad habits with relation to the pass rush to avoid getting hit again. Defenses will make adjustments, and Prescott and Wentz and the ex-quarterbacks who coach them will make adjustments, and we may very well end up in a different place from where we all started.
As tempting as it is to crow about a future secured, Cowboys and Eagles fans should probably wait at least until the end of the season before they start naming their children Dak and Carson. Put it this way: If everything works out right, they'll have plenty of time to brag about their new franchise quarterbacks.
Tyron Smith questionable vs. San Francisco - Todd Archer, ESPN
The Cowboys could be without starting left tackle Tyron Smith, who is dealing with tightness in his back, for the second straight game.
If he can’t play, then Chaz Green would start for the second straight week at left tackle. Ronald Leary is starting at left guard for an injured La'el Collins, who has been ruled out with a toe injury.
In addition to Smith and Bryant being listed as questionable, so are cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who did not play last week because of hamstring strains, defensive end Jack Crawford (shoulder), right tackle Doug Free (quadriceps), linebacker Andrew Gachkar (neck), safety Jeff Heath (knee), and linebacker Mark Nzeocha (Achilles). Quarterback Tony Romo (back) is out.
Chaz Green ready for second career start in place of Tyron Smith - Charean Williams, The Star-Telegram
Green, a third-round pick last year, will start in place of Tyron Smith again this week if Smith can’t go.
"My technique has grown tremendously, just being with those guys, working techniques, getting more focused on it," Green said. "When you’re going on the scout team as a backup, it’s more reading a card. It’s hard to really work your technique and transfer it over. I think this week has definitely helped me improve in that area."
Dez Bryant says he won't play Sunday against the 49ers - Will Brinson, CBSSports.com
The Cowboys are going to play it safe with their star receiver, who's dealing with a knee injury.
Unlike Last Year, Cowboys Can Win Despite Injuries - Jeff Sullivan, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have battled through a slew of injuries, but that hasn't stopped them from winning games - unlike last year.
Never mind who the competition was, here’s what the Cowboys have proven: They can win with some of their better players sidelined. That right there, that singular sentence, is what separates the upper tier from those teams looking for new head coaches every two years. The Vikings are 3-0 minus their franchise quarterback, their All-World running back and Pro Bowl left tackle, among others. The Patriots are undefeated minus Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
That’s what the Cowboys have done thus far. Might not sound like much, but it’s a really big deal with what this team has done the last three or four years. It’s the NFL, there’re going to be injuries. Find a way to win. That "next man up" mentality is fine to say, much more difficult to prove a reality.
Final Thoughts: Can 49ers defense rattle Prescott? - Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys
Among his many final thoughts ahead of Sunday's game, Broaddus wonders how well Prescott will react to a 49ers defense that'll be a little more complex than what he's faced so far.
With how the 49ers play their front seven on defense, they will present a huge test for Dak Prescott. I like what they have done through the draft by adding young players like DeForest Buckner and Ronald Blair – not to mention the presence of veterans Ahmad Brooks and NaVorro Bowman. As difficult as it has been for opponents to confuse and rattle Prescott, look for Jim O’Neil to throw some blitz packages at him that involve his linebackers and secondary in order to make Prescott feel uncomfortable. In talking to several players this week, there were some concerns with the way that the 49ers were able to hide their coverages and how that would affect Prescott. Scheme-wise I believe this will be the best defense the Cowboys will have faced at this point in the season.
Dak Prescott gets chance to show 49ers what they missed - FOX Sports
Lots of teams passed on Prescott, and the 49ers obviously are one of them, so that's not much of a surprise. Though according to Prescott they did not show a lot of interest in the first place.
"They're probably one of the teams I talked to the least," Prescott said.
"We looked at him just like all quarterbacks in the draft and we were really impressed with him and thought that he was someone that could really play in this league," Kelly said. "Where it fell in terms of what we were taking, he was kind of slotted around where he got taken. That's kind of where we thought he was going to go. But, I've been very impressed with him."
Cowboys know Chip Kelly's offense but pace of play remains difficult - Todd Archer, ESPN
The Cowboys have had some success against Chip Kelly's fast offense in the past, Archer explains, but the 49ers are struggling on that side of the ball heading into Sunday's game. Rod Marinelli doesn’t care about the 49ers' unimpressive numbers.
"It’s such a high speed," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "When that thing is really humming, the speed of it is really fast so you can never assume you understand the temp. Every time you play them, you’ve really got to work on your tempo and try to be on it because it’s really difficult."
Ezekiel Elliott Receives A Ton Of Praise From 49ers Coach Chip Kelly - Dan Lyons, The Spun
Elliott has a big fan in the man whose team will be trying to shut him down on Sunday: Chip Kelly.
"I think when you're going to take someone that high, he has to be a three-down back and that's definitely what Ezekiel is," Kelly said.
"He's got speed. He's got power. You know, he's kind of the best combination. Sometimes you get a bigger back that's not going to break and hit homeruns but can really hunker it up in there and hit it up in between the tackles. Then you have other guys that are kind of outside guys that got great speed but they're not a guy that can run inside the tackles. I think he's the combination of both where he is physical and has that ability to run inside the tackles but he also has the ability to break away and take it the distance. So, that's what made him, and I think everybody agreed, that he was the top back in the draft last year."
Morris Claiborne leads NFL in lowest completion percentage allowed - Charean Williams, The Star-Telegram
Finally healthy, and playing with the confidence that comes with it, Claiborne is having quite the season.
Morris Claiborne leads the NFL with the lowest completion percentage against him among cornerbacks who have been targeted at least 20 times.
Quarterbacks have thrown at Claiborne 24 times. He’s allowed only nine catches for 90 yards and no touchdowns, a 37.5 completion percentage against him, according to STATS, Inc.
"I just think his confidence is growing every day," Rod Marinelli said. "But he’s practicing. He’s on the field every day. We know he’s got talent. That’s never been the issue. But now he’s out there every single day working. He’s on top of the details, all those things. As a player, when you have talent like that, and when you put together kind of the grind and the work, the improvement starts showing."
Cowboys Waived C Jake Brendel From Practice Squad With Settlement - Nate Bouda, NFLTradeRumors
The Dallas Cowboys officially waived C Jake Brendel from the practice squad with an injury settlement.
The Cowboys’ practice squad now consists of:
TE Rico Gathers
WR Andy Jones
WR Vince Mayle
QB Jameill Showers
LB Jeremiah George
DE Zach Moore
T Keavon Milton
DB Sammy Seamster
C Shane McDermott
OT Clay DeBord