We now have three rookie starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Derek Carr had already been named the opening day starter by the Raiders. He's joined by Blake Bortles in Jacksonville and Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota after the starters went down with injuries last week.
Having watched Carr for three weeks, it's hard for me to make a solid assessment of his play. He hasn't been asked to do a lot as far as I can tell. I think that's a smart strategy for a young quarterback, but it hasn't exactly led to team success as the Raiders ended the weekend at 0-3. One of the things I can point out about Carr's game that I like is that he isn't afraid to challenge defensive backs down field no matter who they are. His deep passes haven't been all that with their accuracy, but just the fact that he is willing to take those shots impressed me immensely.
Both Bortles and Bridgewater saw action in relief on Sunday, but I am not sure how much you can take from either performance. Bortles started the second half against the Colts on Sunday, and showed some positive flashes. He threw two touchdowns. One was a nice ball on a little slant route from the slot to undrafted rookie sensation Allen Hurns. Hurns broke a couple of tackles and took it to the house for a 63-yard touchdown. Nice play, but most of the work was obviously done by the wideout.
Big Cat Country
Jaguars free Bortles, season can finally start
Blake has been freed. The Jaguars finally ended the charade of sitting him, and the season can start. Sunday was a big day for Blake and Jaguar fans, but for what reasons?
Big Cat Country
The other was pretty much a weak sauce, fake spike play with 22 seconds left in a game the Jaguars were losing 44-10. I mean they all count, but it might have been a good idea to save that play for when the Jaguars actually need it in a close game. Just a thought.
Bortles also had a couple lowlights. He threw two interceptions including a pick-six. One of them came as he was trying to push the ball down the field. Colts cornerback Vontae Davis just made a good play to go up and get it over the receiver on a fade.
Bortles committed one of the major sins for quarterbacks on the pick-six. He did a good job avoiding an unblocked Colts defender and scrambled to his right. Then he made the mistake of trying to throw across his body and hit one of his wide receivers down field. He'll come to learn that those are dangerous passes with a low chance of something positive happening, no matter how wide open his man looks at the time. Most guys never see the corner coming from the opposite direction; Bortles was no different.
On his second drive of the day, Bortles took the Jaguars down for a field goal. He showed off his ability to escape defenders on one broken play where he avoided the sack and delivered a pass down field to his fullback for 26 yards. To me, that drive was most impressive because he led the Jaguars all the way from their own 18-yard line to the Colts' 41 in seven plays. That's going to be more typical of the drives he will have to consistently put together in order to help get the Jaguars get in the win column as a starter. It was the one thing Chad Henne struggled to do every week.
As for Bridgewater, his performance was more of a mixed bag, even though he didn't throw any interceptions. He took over for Cassell near the beginning of the second quarter in a loss to the Saints. Let me state for the record something that I would hope would be obvious: Bortles playing in relief at home against the Colts defense is much different than Bridgewater taking over on the road in New Orleans against Rob Ryan's defense.
The Saints showed Bridgewater all kinds of funky looks and rushed as many as eight guys one time. Even when they only rushed four, Saints defensive end Cam Jordan was creating all kinds of havoc. Bridgewater didn't have much time to pat the ball and look down field. He missed on some easy short throws to flat, which is something analysts said before the draft he might struggle with for whatever reason. To me, it looked like his mechanics were off on a few of them.
I also felt like he was afraid to take shots down the field at times. He missed at least two opportunities for touchdown passes by not pushing the ball deep. Once, he was under a little pressure when his tight end Kyle Rudolph was open on an out route from the slot to score. The other time, he chose to throw short even though Greg Jennings had inside leverage on his man up the seam with nothing but green grass in front of him. I would never want my quarterback to throw the ball up willy-nilly just for the hell of it, but no quarterback is going to get as much as he should out of the talent around him if he is afraid to take a few chances.
Still, you have to give credit to Bridgewater for not turning the ball over and also leading his team to two field goals in a very hostile environment.
It will be interesting and exciting to watch all three of these quarterbacks develop over the coming weeks, especially since there were so many different opinions on all three guys before the draft. It may not be how the Vikings and Jaguars preferred their young quarterbacks start their careers, but the future is now for those franchises. I don't think there will be any turning back.
By the way, what's the latest on that Johnny Football fella?