Rookie report: Where the QBs struggle, excel

Four rookie quarterbacks have played more than 100 snaps apiece this season. We break down where they have been good and bad.

Maybe the pundits shouldn’t have been so quick to throw out that age-old adage that it takes three years to develop a quarterback. It certainly isn’t stopping young coaching staffs from trying to ride rookie quarterbacks.

In Tennessee, Ken Whisenhunt has moved to Zach Mettenberger. In Oakland, interim head coach Tony Sparano, who took over for Dennis Allen, fired at the end of the first month of season, has been riding Derek Carr.

Interestingly, the rookie quarterbacks taken after the first round are outperforming the first-round picks in some areas, at least in the stats that don’t account for wins.

Here is a look at the rookie quartebacks who have gotten playing time, listed in order passer rating among those that have played at least 100 offensive snaps.

Zach Mettenberger (6th round, LSU)
Tennessee Titans, 6-5, 244
Where he has excelled: Mettenberger has dropped to pass on almost two-thirds of his snaps. At 6-foot-5, he has had only two batted paases but has been pretty average overall, throwing for three touchdowns and three interceptions and a 78.3 passer rating.
What he has lacked: Predictably, he can do much better against the blitz, as he has only a 59.9 rating when blitzed. He has been solid in the short passing game and decent when opening it up, but the intermediate passes – 10 to 19 yards – need to improve. That’s where all three of his interceptions have come.

Derek Carr (2nd round, Fresno State)
Oakland Raiders, 6-3, 214
Where he has excelled: No rookie QB has played more than Carr, who has fared decently with the Raiders, completing 61.1 percent of his passes for 1,903 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions (and a 78.3 rating).
What he has lacked: Carr has been much more effective throwing to his right than his left. Whether it’s short (0-9 yards), intermediate (10-19 yards) or deep throwing (20-plus yards) to the right, he has a rating of 98 or above, but throwing to his left, his ratings are 35.8 deep left, 67.4 intermediate left and 88.2 short left. His quarterback rating also dips to 62.7 when blitzed.

Teddy Bridgewater (1st round, Louisville)
Minnesota Vikings, 6-2, 210
Where he has excelled: Bridgewater has had a slightly lower rating (74.9) than Mettenberger or Carr, thanks to throwing two more interceptions than touchdowns. But Bridgewater has excelled under pressure. His highest passer rating actually occurs when has been blitzed, at 80.1, and he has thrown one touchdown and only one interception on those situations. And unlike Mettenberger and Carr, Bridgewater has been about equally effective throwing to his left or right. Bridgewater is also ranked 14th in converting 34.8 percent of first downs on third-and-long (8 yards or more to go).
What he has lacked: Bridgewater has had two problems that stick out. First, he has been sacked 18 times and admits to holding onto the ball too long and trying to be “too perfect.” Second, he has connected on only 1 of 8 passes in the deep middle.

Blake Bortles (1st round, Central Florida)
Jacksonville Jaguars, 6-5, 232
Where he has excelled: Bortles has the highest completion percentage of the four rookie quarterbacks that have registered significant playing time, and the most passing yards (1,920). He has been especially effective on throws from 10-19 yards, with a passer rating of 84.4. He is the only rookie to register in the top 20 overall with 14 pass plays of 25 yards or more, and he is 18th in the NFL in converting third-and-longs.
What he has lacked: Like Bridgewater, Bortles has been sacked too much – 23 times already. And he has thrown 14 interceptions – leading the NFL in that negative stat and easily the most of the rookie QBs with significant playing time.

Only three other rookie quarterbacks have seen any time this season, with New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo getting 22 snaps and completing 9 of 10 passes.

Arizona’s Logan Thomas has played 16 snaps and completed only 1 of 8 passes, and Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel, a first-round pick, has played only five snaps, missing on his only pass attempt.


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