August 16, 2011
With one full week of the preseason in the books, every rookie quarterback in the league has had their chance to go out and take their first pop quiz. Very few aced it, but hey, that's a really tough quiz.
Of the 17 rookies who got to throw the ball, only four of them completed better than 50 percent of their passes and had more touchdowns than interceptions: Jake Locker(notes) of the Titans, Ryan Mallett(notes) of the Patriots, Josh Portis(notes) of the Seahawks and Greg McElroy(notes) of the Jets.
I think you'd have to call McElroy the biggest surprise of the bunch. He threw the ball an astounding 39 times, more than double the attempts of any other rookie (with the exception of Tyrod Taylor(notes)). McElroy did a lot of good things, too. He led a couple of long drives for the Jets, and went 23 of 39 for 208 yards, with a TD and no picks. The touchdown total should've been two -- there was a pretty blatant drop in the end zone.
Of the six quarterbacks drafted in the second round or higher -- Locker, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert(notes), Christian Ponder(notes), Andy Dalton(notes) and Colin Kaepernick(notes) -- the highest grade would have to go to Locker. On one play, he actually fumbled the snap, only to recover it himself, pull it back and find Yamon Figurs(notes) for a 45-yard touchdown. There's a really good (and really in-depth) review of Locker's performance here at Music City Miracles.
Newton, the top overall pick, did some good things and did some things that weren't so good. Only completing 8 of 19 passes is a concern, but he did make some impressive throws and he didn't turn the ball over. He's still competing for the starting job. Head coach Ron Rivera says he'll make the decision after one more preseason game.
From the "drafted later, not likely to start a game in 2011 unless there's a catastrophe" category, the most notable performances were from Ryan Mallett of the Patriots and Josh Portis in Seattle. Mallett threw for 164 yards and a touchdown, and Portis looked super athletic and confident in going 5 of 9 for 59 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers.
As for the most disappointing rookie quarterback in the first week, I feel like it's not even fair to name one -- being mediocre is kind of the baseline for your first game as a professional. If I have to pick one, though, it'd be Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers. Making it even less fair was that he was running for his life most of the game, but he had two picks and spent a lot of time looking flustered, which I'm sure he was, given that none of the guys in front of him were very good at blocking.
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