Week 3 of the 2019 NFL season will go down as the weekend where against all odds, a bunch of backup quarterbacks played their best ball. On Sunday, six quarterbacks started for the first time all season, with a few of them possibly replacing franchise cornerstones forever.
There were some impressive performances, and I’m here to discuss if we should jump on the bandwagon or not.
Yep, looks like it: Daniel Jones, Giants
We must start with Daniel “Danny Dimes” Jones, who brought the Giants back from the dead on Sunday. Down 28-10 to start the second half, Jones led the Giants to a 32-31 victory with a 7-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-5, which ended up being the difference after Tampa Bay’s Matt Gay missed a potential game-winning field goal as time expired.
It was a great win for the Giants but more importantly, for Jones. The rookie played better than he ever did in college, which is a huge plus for the Giants considering Jones’ numbers at Duke weren’t that good.
In his first start since replacing Eli Manning, Jones finished 23 of 36 for 336 yards, two passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns. The first of those rushing touchdowns had to be a Giants first — I feel fairly certain they’ve never scored on a zone read run where the quarterback pulled the ball from the running back and raced to the end zone:
Jones being able to move adds a new dimension to the offense, something they haven’t had in years. Even subtle movement in the pocket was welcome, as Jones routinely avoided pressure to make plays down the field. He remained calm down the stretch while the Giants were making this comeback, despite several drives stalling out in the fourth quarter. In the end, the Giants got their first win of the season.
Even if the Bucs had made the field goal to win, this game was exactly why Jones was giving the starting nod. Every time he’s on the field — especially when he’s got the opportunity to lead a game-winning drive — it’s a learning experience that, in theory, should help him next season, when the Giants are more competitive (in other words: when they have a defense).
Jones gives the Giants hope, something they haven’t had in years. Now, this is just one game, against an average team, so we shouldn’t go overboard. But, I think we might need to get on the Jones hype train.
Not yet, but maybe soon: Teddy Bridgewater, Saints
Bridgewater deserved the win he got Sunday. He’s had a tough haul. He was headed toward becoming the Vikings’ franchise quarterback, then had a horrific knee injury before the 2016 season. He ended up in New Orleans via trade before the 2018 season.
Bridgewater got an opportunity to start in Week 17 last season while the starters rested before the playoffs, and it didn’t go well. That’s a hard game to judge, though, as a lot of backups played and the Saints’ only goal was getting out of there without injury.
With Drew Brees out around six weeks with a thumb injury, Bridgewater gets a big opportunity to show he can return to old form. He took a step forward this week. Playing in Seattle is difficult. The Seahawks had only lost 12 home games in Russell Wilson’s career. It’s loud in Seattle. It’s often raining. And when things start going bad, it starts to snowball into an avalanche of pain quickly.
You have to play with composure and purpose in Seattle to win, and the Saints did that on Sunday. They had an advantageous gameplan for Bridgewater: moving the pocket, screens, and relying on their big bodies up front. Bridgewater’s numbers weren’t eye-popping (19 of 27 for 177 yards and two touchdowns), but he was efficient enough on the road. It also helps when you score twice outside of the offense, like the Saints did with a fumble return and a punt return.
I’m not quite jumping on the hype train with Bridgewater because of what I just mentioned. It was an efficient performance, but it was nothing to get excited about. He didn’t need to be challenged as the Saints were ahead for most of the game. Bridgewater wasn’t asked to drive the ball downfield or carry the weight of the offense. He will need to do more moving forward.
Hold off for now: Kyle Allen, Panthers
I was high on the Panthers heading into the season, probably more so than anyone else in the industry. I was high on them because I saw what the offense had become the first eight games of last season with a healthy Cam Newton. It was diverse, unique, and geared toward their personnel. With a hobbled Newton, the offense went to shit.
Well, enter Allen, who led the Panthers into Arizona for a convincing victory while Newton is nursing a foot injury. Allen moved the offense with ease, throwing four touchdowns. That was the offense that Norv Turner imagined with all his weapons. They used multiple formations with players all over the backfield and included misdirection, motions, and finding ways to get “easy” throws for Allen.
Allen, just like Jones, was able to move around the pocket and extend plays with his legs — which isn’t any different than Newton, but Allen was accurate when he delivered the ball. While Allen has now started and won two games in his career (including Week 17 last season) and has thrown six touchdowns and zero interceptions, I’m going to hold off on the hype train for him. He’s only played a half-effort Saints team last year and one of the worst teams in the NFL this year.
However, if Allen keeps this up, there will be a quarterback issue in Carolina. Do the Panthers go back to Newton or stick with the youngster? I think Newton will get the job back whenever he’s ready to return, which won’t be in Week 4 because he’s been ruled out against the Texans.
In fact, it might not be for a while:
#Panthers QB Cam Newton is believed to be dealing with a Lisfranc injury, I'm told. Plan for now is to keep rehabbing in hopes of returning and avoiding surgery, but it could be awhile until he's back on the field. Kyle Allen's show until then. (@josephperson 1st)— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 24, 2019
‾\_(ツ)_/‾: Mason Rudolph, Steelers
The first three quarterbacks all played on teams that won their games Sunday. The fourth, Rudolph of the Steelers, lost a close battle on the road to the 3-0 49ers. Rudolph played just OK, going 14 of 27 for 174 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. A lot of those yards were on just a few long pass plays, too.
The encouraging part for Rudolph and the Pittsburgh offense is he didn’t “lose” the game. He played within himself and was able to cash in on the opportunities provided to him. There wasn’t much to take from his performance, other than that. We’ll know more going forward, though, with Ben Roethlisberger out for the year.
Overall, Sunday was an excellent start for those four quarterbacks who are now getting the ball under center for their teams. While we love to hype everything that happens each week, we need to show restraint as usual as we evaluate all their play. The next time they take the field should be more telling than their first.