Rookie QB Progress Reports: Who Could Start Week 1

Monday, August 6, 2018

Six quarterbacks came off the board in the first three rounds of this year’s NFL draft, including five in the first round. How have they looked so far?

NFL Nation reporters offer progress reports on the QBs’ performances at camp — and in Lamar Jackson‘s case, his first preseason game.







Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

How he looks so far: Mayfield has been impressive with what he has been asked to do. Operating with the backups, he has steadily improved and now looks far more comfortable than he did when minicamp ended. He runs the huddle efficiently, gets the play called and gets rid of the ball quickly. That ability to find a receiver and get rid of the ball is especially noticeable. His arm is also stronger than it appeared in college. Mayfield has yet to work against the starters, and he has yet to play a preseason game against NFL competition, but what he has been asked to do, he has done well.

What has been said about him: “Baker Mayfield has been everything I thought a quarterback should be for our organization thus far,” coach Hue Jackson said after the first three days of training camp. “He’s doing the things that we want him to do the way we want him to do it, and he’s exceeding those things. Because he’s putting in the time. He doesn’t have a pride or [arrogance] any kind of way.”

Chances to start in Week 1: 5 percent. The Browns remain committed to their plan to go with Tyrod Taylor. They have the support of another former No. 1 overall pick who played quarterback, Tim Couch, who said that though Mayfield might not realize it, he will benefit from sitting and learning behind Taylor. The Browns see no reason to doubt Taylor, and they remain committed to giving Mayfield (hopefully) his entire rookie season to learn and absorb the pro game. — Pat McManamon

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

How he looks so far: Darnold looks fine, considering he missed the first three practices due to a contract dispute. Two of his best attributes have been evident — his ability to extend plays and his accuracy while throwing on the run. He’s an aggressive quarterback, willing to attack downfield instead of settling for a safe checkdown. It’s risk vs. reward, and he’ll have to learn the proper balance. He displays an aptitude for the position, checking out of plays if he doesn’t like the pre-snap look from the defense. The Jets couldn’t be happier with his first week.

What has been said about him: “I don’t know what system he ran in college, but I know that he’s been taking it from the classroom and applying it to the field,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “That’s the first step, because being able to comprehend and transfer it to the field, that’s a sign of understanding that you’re aware of what’s going on. I’ve been amazed by that. … I’m a huge fan of Sam.”

Chances to start in Week 1: 50 percent. Technically, Darnold is the No. 3 quarterback, but he gets a handful of first-team reps each day — part of the overall plan that will allow him to compete for the starting job. If he lights it up in the preseason, it’ll be hard to keep him out of the lineup. Ultimately, the decision belongs to coach Todd Bowles. He has a comfort level with incumbent Josh McCown, and he’s intrigued by Bridgewater, but he also recognizes Darnold has more raw talent than the veterans. — Rich Cimini

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

How he looks so far: Like a rookie making the jump from Wyoming to the NFL. Allen was considered a raw prospect with ideal size (6-foot-5 and 237 pounds) and arm strength but a shaky college résumé marred by a 56 percent completion rate. Allen has worked mostly with the third-team offense, but through the first nine practices of training camp, he had led the first-team offense in five periods of 11-on-11. Consistent accuracy has been his problem, as demonstrated in a one-on-one period during a practice last week in which one of his passes hit a reporter’s leg behind the end zone before one of his next passes was perfectly placed to a receiver in the corner of the end zone.

What has been said about him: “I like his presence. The game doesn’t seem too big for him, even when, to this point, he’s moved up to the 1s. … Josh has done a nice job; he’s handled himself well. People take it for granted sometimes, but just [his ability to] give out the huddle call, that’s important. There’s a learning curve that goes with that.” — Bills coach Sean McDermott

Chances to start in Week 1: 35 percent. The Bills’ decision on who to start Week 1 could be influenced by their schedule, which includes five out of their first seven games on the road. Given Allen’s uneven start to camp — which is expected for a rookie — he would seem to have ground to make up before being considered a candidate to start Week 1. AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman continue to split first-team reps, rotating each day. — Mike Rodak

Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals

How he looks so far: Rosen has looked confident and poised from Day 1 of camp, having had several practices with fellow rookies in the days leading up it. He opened camp as the backup to Sam Bradford and worked with the No. 2 offense all week. Coach Steve Wilks and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy are quick to praise but just as quick to mention Rosen’s level of confusion as he works through reads and progressions. It’s not as easy to remember the playbook while going full speed and trying to master your dropback footwork.

It’s clear Rosen has the arm strength, accuracy and belief of his teammates that he can be special in the NFL. Bradford also has been a good mentor, and the respect between the two is mutual.

What has been said about him: “Josh is like every rookie,” McCoy said. “There’s the good days, the good plays, and there’s that one or two plays you look at and you say, ‘Didn’t we just go over it in the meeting? Were you not listening?’ But there’s so much we throw at the quarterbacks. We give them a lot of freedom, and we put a lot on their shoulders. But he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

Chances to start in Week 1: 5 percent. Rosen looks good for a rookie, but Bradford is running the offense like he has been immersed in it for a couple of years. McCoy’s offense is new to everyone, so Rosen isn’t as far behind as he would be if the starter and offensive coordinator had been in place. The Cardinals also have an experienced backup quarterback in Mike Glennon, so with two NFL-tested signal-callers, Rosen won’t see the field if he ends up as the No. 3. — Jose Romero

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

How he looks so far: Jackson has been up and down so far in training camp and in his preseason debut. He has made some nice throws deep downfield and hit a receiver over the middle despite a small window, but he followed that up by tossing a wobbly, 20-yard pass and throwing the ball over the head of a receiver along the sideline. Jackson is different than a lot of young quarterbacks. He throws better on the run than when setting his feet. The coaching staff is preaching consistency with Jackson, but he has been very inconsistent this summer.

What’s been said about him: “Everybody kind of has these expectations that they are going to see fireworks and all that,” coach John Harbaugh said after the Hall of Fame Game. “I think he ran right, played well. The first task that we gave him was to operate the offense. He did. He got the plays called. He got people lined up. He got snap counts off. That stuff gets taken for granted. That’s really what I asked him to do today. He will build from that.”

Chances to start in Week 1: 5 percent. Jackson showed in his preseason debut that he’s a work in progress and is not a legitimate threat to beat out Joe Flacco for the starting job. Flacco is having one of the best training camps of his career, and some of that motivation comes from the Ravens drafting Jackson in the first round. The more realistic expectation for Jackson is becoming the primary backup to Flacco so they don’t have to carry a third quarterback in Robert Griffin III. — Jamison Hensley

Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers

How he looks so far: Rudolph has made slow improvements throughout camp, but ball security has been an issue. On the first day, the ball slipped out of his hands and behind his head as he attempted to throw from the pocket. That has happened a few times. One of his recent throws in 7-on-7 went to cornerback Mike Hilton. But the arm talent is there. On Thursday, he threw back-to-back darts to the sideline to Tevin Jones and Damoun Patterson. And he has connected with college teammate James Washington on a deep ball.

What has been said about him: “We’re just beginning to get to know him,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “You know, oftentimes the position is defined by what happens in stadiums, and appropriately so, so you’ll never hear me paint with a broad brush or make too many drastic comments about his progress, positively or negative. I like his general approach to the work.”

Chances to start in Week 1: 0 percent. Veteran Landry Jones might be too valuable to cut. He’s having a strong camp. That leaves Rudolph battling with second-year quarterback Josh Dobbs for the third quarterback spot. Rudolph might have the inside track now, but preseason games will determine that outlook. Dobbs has had positive moments but threw two pick-sixes from the red zone Thursday. — Jeremy Fowler

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