Months after being drafted, many of the National Football League’s rookie quarterbacks debuted in Week 1 of the NFL preseason on Saturday. First impressions are everything and the performances from these young quarterbacks created plenty of takeaways.
It all started with Justin Fields, the Chicago Bears’ future and maybe even their present at quarterback. Coming off the bench, the rookie exceeded expectations and might have created some real trouble for Andy Dalton.
But that showcase was only the beginning of Saturday’s NFL preseason action. From noteworthy outings from the likes of Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance to other standout efforts, we learned plenty from Saturday’s games.
Justin Fields is the second-best quarterback in NFC North
Reading this will cause Minnesota Vikings fans to lose their minds, but Mike Zimmer and Co. might agree with it. All of the physical tools favor Fields and in an era when those matter more than ever, we’ll bet on him over the plexiglass walls limiting Cousins’ upside. The Vikings tried moving up for Fields and were outbid by Chicago. As his NFL debut showed, that might be the reason the Bears are the future king of the NFC North.
The only reason Matt Nagy is sticking by Andy Dalton right now is out of veteran loyalty. The reports out of training camp about Fields were already glowing, very few players can make sidearm throws like this. Whenever Fields is named the Bears’ starting quarterback, he’ll start the beginning of a legacy. There will be some rough points along the way, but all that matters is Chicago has its next star.
Drew Lock demonstrates the Denver Broncos potential
There’s a reason many called the Denver Broncos a Super Bowl contender if they pulled off an Aaron Rodgers trade. Denver came in No. 3 in our NFL defense rankings, its offensive line is solid and the Broncos’ offensive weapons are outstanding. Outside of the quarterback, this is one of the best rosters in the NFL.
When Lock doesn’t make mind-numbing mistakes, good things happen. KJ Hamler and Jerry Jeudy are playmakers, which they demonstrated once more in their first NFL preseason game. Both know how to get open, all Lock needs to do is read them and fire. If he executes as we saw on Saturday, he is the Broncos’ starting quarterback and this team is a playoff contender.
Taysom Hill isn’t a starting quarterback
Sean Payton always planned to alternate Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill as his starting quarterbacks in the preseason before making a decision. Hill started against the Baltimore Ravens, that should never happen again as long as Winston is healthy.
Making this call isn’t entirely a reflection on Hill. The interception he threw was due to a miscommunication and he didn’t have a great supporting cast around him. But the Saints won’t have Michael Thomas to begin the regular season. When Hill replaced Brees, running became his only option if Thomas wasn’t open.
Winston looked better with worse players than Hill did in a better situation. We already knew Winston has far more arm talent and the Saints’ first NFL preseason game made it more clear Payton only has one choice.
Gardner Minshew lost a fake quarterback competition
Urban Meyer said this was an open quarterback competition. Whether the first-year NFL coach said it to appease Gardner Minshew or to send a message to the locker room that every job is earned, it was a fake contest. If there was any lingering doubt about that, this NFL preseason game proved it.
Trevor Lawrence experienced life under duress from an NFL pass rush for the first time. You would have thought he was an NFL veteran, displaying great poise and looking past the pressure to make sharps throws. Meanwhile, the quarterback with 20 career starts overthrew an open running back, got away with a dropped interception and finished with a 28.6 passer rating. On the bright side for Minshew, No. 2 is an option now.
Jordan Love needed this
No first-round quarterback from the 2020 NFL Draft class lost more last season than Jordan Love. Spending months working directly with Aaron Rodgers is phenomenal, but the suspended NFL preseason meant Love never played in a game. Following a challenging offseason, the former Utah State star finally got his moment.
Things didn’t start on the perfect note. Green Bay’s offense went through three-and-outs on its first two drives. After shaking off some nerves, Love responded with a nine-play, 88-yard drive. Love’s first NFL touchdown was all Kylin Hill, but the Packers’ quarterback made some nice reads and crisp throws.
With Rodgers likely sitting the entire preseason, Love has two more games to prove he is this franchise’s future. If he delivers a repeat performance, general manager Brian Gutekunst will be more than happy to trade Rodgers in 2022.
Patience with Zach Wilson will be worth it
The New York Jets were patient with Zach Wilson once, with the No. 2 pick being the last first-round selection to sign his rookie contract. It’s time for the fans and media coverage to exercise that same discipline, because it’s going to take some time before the flashes turn into sustained excellence.
Wilson is doing what he can. This is a young quarterback making the leap from BYU to the NFL, adjusting to faster speeds and a distinct change in talent disparities. When given time to throw, Wilson threw some darts and he looked pretty comfortable operating in the structure of Mike LaFleur’s scheme. The need for patience is tied entirely into his acclimation period and the year-long process of the Jets building an offense around him.
Trey Lance won’t be sitting for long
NFL preseason games are about far more than stats. It’s the little things that happen during the action, moments that signal outcomes for the upcoming season. Making his NFL debut, Trey Lance showed everyone why he is the quarterback Kyle Shanahan always wanted.
Lance does things Jimmy Garoppolo can’t imagine pulling off in his wildest dreams. That’s not to knock Garoppolo, he helped this team reach the Super Bowl just two years ago. But Lance hits that throw to Emmanuel Sanders, he offers athleticism that will make one of the NFL’s most creative offenses even more insane.
Trey Lance is the skeleton key, that’s the simple explanation. Yes, he’ll miss throws and there will be a steep learning curve for him. But whether it’s the Week 1 opener or a few weeks later on the 49ers’ schedule, Lance is taking this job.