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Grading NFL's next generation of quarterbacks: Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts show off their scrambling talent


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Grading NFL's next generation of quarterbacks: Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts show off their scrambling talent


The two young passers weren't special through the air in Week 2 but made some big plays on the ground

Chris Trapasso
Sep 21, 2021 at 7:48 am ET13 min read

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Two new rookie quarterbacks -- Justin Fields and Davis Mills -- got ample playing time in Week 2 after injuries to starters forced them onto the field, and similar to last week, it wasn't collectively an impressive outing for the young passers. And Tua Tagovailoa was knocked out of the contest against the Bills in the first quarter.

A grand total of eight quarterbacks selected in the past two NFL Draft classes saw considerable playing time during a wild Week 2 -- more than 10 pass attempts.

Let's dive deep into the individual efforts of each quarterback and assign a grade on a per-snap basis, taking every individual aspect of their performance into account. Now that we're into Week 2, the quarterbacks are listed from best to worst season grade. 


Best Throws: 

  • After leaving what looked like a clean pocket, Herbert found Keenan Allen behind the defense and threw a dart while on the run at the boundary for 22 yards.
  • Early in the second, after being flushed out of the pocket to the right, Herbert threw a touch pass across his body to an open Mike Williams. The throw itself wasn't difficult -- the improvisation was impressive. 
  • Herbert ripped a frozen rope to Allen for 42 yards up and over the underneath cornerback. It was a throw only a handful of NFL quarterbacks can make. Legitimate "wow" throw with serious heat on it. 
  • His best throw of the afternoon came on a out and up route from Austin Ekeler in the slot. Leighton Vander Esch ran with the back and the safety was flying in from the deep middle. The pass needed to be a fastball and have perfect ball placement. It had both. 

Worst Throws: 

  • Herbert threw low and away on a short, outbreaking route that forced Jared Cook to dive to catch the football. 
  • Driving, on third-and-8 right before the half, Herbert threw just a bit outside on a throw to Allen near the sideline that, if on the money, had a chance to move the sticks.  
  • Early in the third, Herbert did everything right inside the pocket -- he looked middle, then right, before coming back to the middle and firing a pass to Cook that was about a half-second late. It was nearly intercepted by safety Jayron Kearse
  • A back-shoulder toss into the end zone to Mike Williams was about a yard or two underthrown and hit the Cowboys defender in the back. 
  • Late in the fourth, from inside the Cowboys' 10-yard line, Herbert hesitated, then retreated, and took an intentional grounding penalty 18 yards behind the line of scrimmage. 

Summary: Heading into every film session of a Herbert game, I prepare myself to be floored on a few drop backs. And that happened against the Cowboys. This game doesn't quite reach the "A" range because of the interception in the first quarter, a few slight misfires and the bad intentional grounding late in the contest. 

Grade: B+
Season Grade: A-



Best Throws: 

  • Early in the first, Hurts got through his reads and fit it into Devonta Smith for an 11-yard gain.
  • The 26-yard gain to Quez Watkins featured a cornerback falling down in the middle of the route, but the throw was perfectly timed and placed on the outside shoulder of the receiver near the sideline.
  • Hurts later put the ball in the bucket to Watkins down the right sideline for a 91-yard explosion. It had plenty of loft and hit the speedy receiver in stride. 
  • The second-year quarterback lofted a moon ball to Jalen Reagor for what looked like a touchdown but was ruled incomplete because the wideout was out of bounds before he came back in to make the grab.
  • His last throw of the contest was a laser to Zach Ertz on a corner route near the goal line between two defenders. A genuine strike. 

Worst Throws: 

  • In the third, he underthrew a deep ball to Smith that should've never been made. It was into double coverage and Smith didn't have leverage on either defensive back. 
  • Later, there was a go ball to Smith down the right sideline that was too far to the inside and fell incomplete even with the rookie receiver diving in hopes of making the catch. 

Summary: The Eagles opened things up for Hurts in this game, and while he did connect with Watkins for a 91-yard gain, the vast majority of his long-ball attempts fell incomplete. He did a great job taking care of the football and was a weapon with his legs when he couldn't find anyone open. Hurts finished with 82 yards on 10 carries with a score on the ground.

Grade: B
Season Grade: B



Best Throws: 

  • With under six minutes to go in the half, Jones put perfect loft on an outside release go ball to Jakobi Meyers that went for 24 yards. 

Worst Throws: 

  • On a similar play to the one he dropped into the basket to Meyers, Jones overthrew the veteran wideout a few plays later.
  • While scrambling left in the fourth quarter, Jones skipped a pass to Hunter Henry

Summary: The game plan for Jones in Week 2 was even more conservative than a noticeably cautious attack against the Dolphins in Week 1. The big-time throws were all but completely absent, but the brutal throws or horrible decisions were hardly there, too. Jones has been routinely working the flats, dumping it down to his backs, and occasionally finding his tight ends over the middle at the start of the intermediate level.  

Grade: B-
Season Grade: B-



Tagovailoa was knocked out of the Week 2 game against Buffalo on the second drive of the game on a hit by Bills second-year edge rusher A.J. Epenesa

Grade: N/A
Season Grade: B-



Best Throws: 

  • From his own goal line, Burrow threw a laser to Higgins an on out route near the sideline that actually led the second-year receiver up the field. 
  • In the third, Burrow found Higgins over the middle in the midst of a crumbling pocket that didn't allow him to step into the throw.
  • Burrow's 7-yard touchdown to Higgins was thrown with perfect timing and placement. It hit the second-year wideout the moment he turned around past the goal line. 

Worst Throws: 

  • Late in the first quarter, Burrow forced a football that didn't have any business being thrown on a short in-breaker to Tee Higgins that was knocked away. Weird decision.
  • He made a similar decision on a comeback to Higgins later in the first half. Same result.  
  • On a scissors concept, Burrow predetermined where he'd throw the football, too, and threw it to Joe Mixon cutting across the field. The only problem -- a Bears defender was directly in the throwing lane and the pass hit him in the back.
  • Burrow threw a pick six to linebacker Roquan Smith, whom the quarterback didn't locate underneath his throw over the middle early in the fourth quarter.
  • His next pass was late and too far to the inside on a comeback route near the boundary to Higgins. Intercepted by Jaylon Johnson.
  • To make matters worse, Burrow's next drop back featured another pick. He was hit as he threw and the ball landed directly in defensive lineman Angelo Blackson's hands. 
  • Late in the fourth, Burrow had Ja'Marr Chase with about two steps on the outside cornerback, but the ball sailed over his head and out of bounds. Should've been a touchdown.

Summary: Shaky effort from Burrow after a solid debut last Sunday. He walked into pressure a few times and uncharacteristically had clear-cut misses from clean pockets, especially the long-ball to Chase in the fourth quarter. Zac Taylor schemed open some throws for Burrow -- and there were some quality passes from the former No. 1 overall pick -- but his pocket presence and overall accuracy were simply not there in the loss in Chicago.

Grade: D+
Season Grade: C+



Best Throws: 

  • Late in the third, Mills fit one into tight end Jordan Akins through tight coverage for a 17-yard gain.
  • On his next throw, he ripped one down the seam to Akins through traffic, but the pass was dropped. 
  • In the fourth, he threw with rhythm and zip to Brandin Cooks on an outbreaking route at the intermediate level for 11 yards. 
  • While not a difficult throw, Mills created a lane for himself by gliding into the pocket to find Andre Roberts uncovered for a 35-yard gain.

Worst Throws: 

  • Mills second NFL throw was low and behind its intended target over the middle and intercepted by Malcolm Smith. Welcome to the league.
  • Late in the third, he had Cooks scorching down the middle of the field for a long touchdown, but the ball didn't get there. Missed opportunity. 
  • He tried to give Cooks a jump-ball opportunity against springy rookie cornerback Greg Newsome late in the fourth, but the pass was too high and gave Newsome ample time to track the football to knock it away. 

Summary: Not too shabby for a rookie third-round pick thrust into the game in the third quarter on the road against a defense with a fair amount of talent at all three levels. Mills was far from exquisite, but the situation didn't look overwhelming to him.

Grade: C+
Season Grade: C+



Best Throws: 

  • His second attempt of the outing was a rocket to Darnell Mooney a deep out route. 
  • FIelds made an in-rhythm, on-target throw on a deep over to Mooney as a collection of Bengals converged on the throw. It was dropped near the sideline.
  • Later, the two connected on the same route for 21 yards. 
  • He nearly dropped one in the bucket deep down the left sideline to Allen Robinson but it was well defended and fell incomplete. Had the throw been slightly more out in front of the receiver, it likely would've been completed. The catch could've been made though.

Worst Throws: 

  • Fields first throw of the game was long one, from the far hash to Marquise Goodwin outside the numbers. Had it been made a tick sooner, it probably wouldn't have gotten knocked away.
  • In the fourth, Fields didn't locate linebacker Logan Wilson, who was sitting underneath a drag route by Goodwin, and the pass was intercepted.  

Summary: A lot of good, some bad in Fields first extended action as an NFL quarterback. The ball jumped out of his hands all afternoon, and there were a small collection of pinpoint darts. There were also two sacks on his 19 drop backs and a bad misread of a coverage that led to an easy interception in a critical moment of the game. Fields' rushing ability was on display, too. He essentially sealed the game with a 10-yard scamper on third-and-9 with under three minutes to go. 

Grade: C
Season Grade: C



Best Throws: 

  • Wilson made a Patriots defender look silly in the backfield while ad-libbing, then the rookie slid to his left and found Tyler Kroft on a scramble-drill throw near the sideline. However,  the ball was dropped. 
  • In the fourth, while fading away from a defender, Wilson lofted a gorgeous 27-yard pass to Braxton Berrios right before he stepped out of bounds. 
  • Late in the fourth, he fit the ball in over the middle to Berrios for 15 yards. He later hit Berrios on a crosser down the field while getting hit. 
  • He had a very similar toss later in the final quarter on a 35-yard gain to Jeff Smith.

Worst Throws: 

  • The first throw of the game was a sign of things to come for Wilson. He forced the football over the middle to Corey Davis -- throw was behind him. The ball was tipped and intercepted. 
  • Wilson's next toss wasn't as bad, but was high, slipped through Davis' hands and was picked again. 
  • Although it was his longest completion of the game -- 27 yards -- Wilson had a completely uncovered Elijah Moore down the field on a rub route early in the second quarter. Had the throw been out and in front of the rookie receiver, it could've been a touchdown. Instead it carried him out of bounds. 
  • His third interception was late and well underthrown on a flag route. A cinch of a pick for J.C. Jackson.
  • His four pick was, well, I have no idea what Wilson saw on that long throw. It was essentially a fair catch for Devin McCourty
  • There was another underthrown deep ball to Moore late in the game.

Summary: The dreaded rookie quarterback first outing against Bill Belichick game. Wilson was completely flabbergasted by New England's coverage all afternoon, was too aggressive -- which is often what first-year quarterbacks try to do against Belichick to no avail -- and took four sacks en route to a horrid performance. 

Grade: F
Season Grade: C-



Best Throws: 

  • Lawrence's second throw of the contest was a good one, a strike on a deep outbreaking route to tight end James O'Shaughnessy.
  • The 25-yard touchdown was gorgeous -- a perfectly placed vertical route over his receiver's shoulder for six. 
  • Lawrence patiently scanned the field before coming back to his left to rifle a 19-yard dig route to D.J. Chark.  
  • Late in the game, Lawrence ripped a nice post route to O'Shaughnessy just beyond a diving Texans defender. 

Worst Throws: 

  • On his first drive of the game, Lawrence had Laviska Shenault open over the middle after a play-action fake. The ball was too far out in front of his target, and it fell incomplete. 
  • To start the second quarter, Lawrence again had Shenault open, this time on a run-of-the-mill comeback near the sideline. The throw was late and wide. Incomplete. 
  • He was late on a throw that ultimately sailed to Chark on a deep flag route. 
  • After stepping into the pocket, he threw a short drag route well over its intended target's head. 
  • His interception came on a -- you guessed it -- late throw down the left sideline to tight end Luke FarrellKareem Jackson was ready and waiting for the throw to be made. 
  • Lawrence wasn't able to step into a flag route in the second half but decided to throw it anyway. The ball floated and was made too far to the inside. Nearly picked. 
  • In the fourth quarter, he had Marvin Jones streaking down the middle of the field with a step on his defender. The ball was wide of where it needed to be an fell incomplete. 

Summary: This game was worse than the opener. Most of Lawrence's throws were late or off-target, and he put the ball in harm's way on a few occasions. The only place Lawrence can go is up from here. 

Grade: F
Season Grade: D



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7 hours ago, time2rock said:

Fields first throw of the game was long one, from the far hash to Marquise Goodwin outside the numbers. Had it been made a tick sooner, it probably wouldn't have gotten knocked away.

I know I'm a fan of Fields but this doesn't sound like a particularly bad throw. I mean sure it was incomplete and sure it was knocked away but sounds like he was a tick away from a huge completion with his first throw of the day. 

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