Quick impressions of Matt Stafford's and Mark Sanchez's(notes) NFL debuts:
Stafford (16 of 37, 205 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT): He tried throwing into tight windows too often – every quarterback who comes to the NFL in love with his arm strength has to learn that the windows at the next level are very thin, and this is true even against the Saints' pass defense. Calvin Johnson(notes) was targeted 13 times, and he caught three passes. Stafford has more than enough weaponry around him, and he'll learn to use it.
But his two picks to Darren Sharper(notes) were indicative of the growth process – one was a howler into triple coverage, and the other was right to Sharper; Stafford could not have thrown it more accurately to Sharper if he was trying to. By all indications, Stafford has taken to the playbook in a way that has impressed his coaches, and he really does have the kind of arm that can make just about any throw. The Lions just need to be patient. In the next five weeks, Stafford will go up against the defenses of the Vikings, Redskins, Bears, Steelers, and Packers. He's going to have some really bad games, and the front office just needs to keep thinking in the long term.
Sanchez (18 of 31, 272 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT): The thing I like most about Sanchez, and I noticed it as much against the Texans as I did when he played for USC, is that he knows what kind of quarterback he is. He doesn't tend to extend beyond his abilities, or beyond what the play will give him. That's not to say that he's a Captain Checkdown or anything – he has a good deep ball and he used it on the touchdown to Chansi Stuckey(notes), on a busted Cover-Zero look he analyzed correctly.
Sanchez reminds me of a pitcher who doesn't have a 98-mile-per-hour fastball at an early age and has to learn to survive just as much on guts and intelligence. He has excellent pocket presence (when I saw him inside Lucas Oil Stadium at the Scouting Combine, I was amazed at his footwork). He was consistently good on rollouts and little shotgun screens, moving the ball and converting third downs. When it comes to quarterbacks, the word "efficient" can be a backhanded insult, because it implies that the player in question is just chipping away at a huge boulder when he should be breaking out the dynamite, But Sanchez's efficiency shows up on the drive charts, and I think that will only get better with time. He will make mistakes, but I really like his ability to overcome them.
Photo: Matt Stamey-US PRESSWIRE