NFL Rookie QB Progress Report: Sam Darnold Looks Set To Start; Who Else?

Lamar Jackson went 7-of-10 passing for 98 yards and a touchdown in Week 3. AP Photo/Darron Cummings


How do the top six rookie quarterbacks look this preseason? Who’s going to start in Week 1 of the regular season? A couple of QBs are trending up since our most recent progress report.

With three full weeks of games done for Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph, we have updates from our NFL Nation reporters on the ground:





Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

What he did in Weeks 2-3 of the preseason: Mayfield was 8-for-12 for 76 yards passing and one interception in the Browns’ 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The No. 1 overall pick was slated to play in just the second half, but saw two series with the first-team offense while Tyrod Taylor was out of the game during the first quarter having his dislocated pinkie put back in place. Against the first-team Eagles defense, Mayfield was 2-for-4 for 19 yards and took a sack. Mayfield was cleared after being evaluated in the fourth quarter for a concussion, but did not play the final two series.

What has been said about him: “The last two weeks I think he sees in the National Football League it is a grind. It does not always go the way you want it to, and you just have to fight through, keep playing and keep making plays, and I saw that in him. There is no flinch in him at all. He competes, and that is what you look for.” — Browns coach Hue Jackson.

Chances to start in Week 1 of the regular season: 5 percent

Taylor is still the starting quarterback for the Browns as they approach the opener against the Steelers. The only way Mayfield will start is if the injury to Taylor’s left hand does not allow him to play, but Taylor has not missed any practice time. — Ryan Isley

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

What he did in Weeks 2-3 of the preseason: Darnold started both games and played a total of four-plus quarters. Facing mostly starters, he completed 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the two games. The statistics don’t show it, but he played with veteran-like poise, displaying superb pocket presence and flashing the ability to find his second and third reads in the progression. Most rookies can’t do that. The only unanswered question: the deep ball. Darnold didn’t take any deep shots, as his longest completion was only 16 yards.

What has been said about him: “I’m thinking along the same lines as everyone who has watched Sam carry himself, conduct himself and play since he’s been here. We’re absolutely thrilled. … I love the way he moves. He’s really able to move around nicely — not only move around, in and out of the pocket, but throw running to his left and still get the ball down the field accurately. He has a really good overall presence on the field.” — Jets legend Joe Namath (via NJ Advance Media).

Chances to start in Week 1 of the regular season: 99 percent

The so-called open competition is over. While it could be argued that Darnold was outplayed by Teddy Bridgewater, the rookie played well enough to earn the trust of the coaches. Darnold has taken 75 percent of the first-team reps in three games, so it would be hard to start anyone but him. All that’s left is for coach Todd Bowles to make it official. — Rich Cimini

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

What he did in Weeks 2-3 of the preseason: 15-of-25 for 94 yards and one touchdown. Coach Sean McDermott wanted Allen to simulate a regular-season week as the Bills’ potential starter by starting him in Sunday’s game against the Bengals, giving him an opportunity to audition for the job with a full half of action with the first-team offense. After going 9-of-13 for 60 yards with the second-team offense in the second preseason game against Cleveland, Allen’s results in his starting debut were disastrous. He was sacked five times behind a problematic offensive line and overall the offense lost 5 passing yards in Allen’s eight possessions under center.

What he said: “Getting out there with the 1s, obviously it’s moving very fast and to see that speed, it was eye-opening. They have a really good defense and they came out and they brought it. But at the same time we have plays in place where they could have worked if I got the ball out in time. You know that just didn’t happen enough tonight, but like I said, we’ll just continue to grow.” — Allen after the loss to Cincinnati. 

Chances to start in Week 1 of the regular season: 40 percent

With AJ McCarron fading in the Bills’ quarterback competition because of his shoulder injury and shaky performance in his lone preseason start, the question for McDermott is whether he wants to risk starting Allen in the season opener or stick with Nathan Peterman as a steadier option. Peterman has statistically been the Bills’ best quarterback this preseason, completing 33 of 41 passes for 431 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Given the struggles of Allen and the Bills’ first-team offense in Sunday’s game against the Bengals, it appears Peterman has the edge. — Mike Rodak

Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals

What he did in Weeks 2-3 of the preseason: Rosen didn’t play Sunday against the Cowboys. He suffered a hand injury to his right thumb Monday when he hit it on a teammate’s helmet. He was a game-time decision, coach Steve Wilks said earlier in the week, but, apparently, the Cardinals didn’t see enough out of Rosen’s ability to throw or grip the ball, as Wilks wanted, to let him play. Against the Saints in the second preseason game, Rosen completed 10 of 16 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.

What has been said about him: “Josh Rosen has been nothing but amazing for us so far.” — cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Chances to start in Week 1 of the regular season: 0 percent

As long as Sam Bradford is healthy, Rosen will sit and learn as he’s done all offseason and preseason. And it’s benefited him thus far. Rosen has proved to his coaches and teammates that the hype about his higher-than-average football IQ was warranted, all while impressing on the field. — Josh Weinfuss

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

What he did in Weeks 2-3 of the preseason: For the first time this preseason, Jackson provided a glimpse of how dangerous he can be in the NFL. As decisive as he was elusive, Jackson combined for 137 yards of total offense in five drives against the Dolphins, throwing a 21-yard touchdown and running 19 yards for a score. Jackson, who was the least accurate passer in the first two weeks of the preseason, was on target in Miami, completing 7 of 10 passes for 98 yards.

What has been said about him: “I think today was his breaking out in a game. We’ve seen it in practice, where he’s done some really good things. We hadn’t really seen it in a game yet. Today just kind of fell in place for him a little bit.” — Ravens coach John Harbaugh after a 27-10 win in Miami.

Chances to start in Week 1 of the regular season: 0 percent

Joe Flacco is the unquestioned starter after having one of the best training camps and preseasons of his 11-year career. He won’t be playing in the preseason finale, which means he is all set to start the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills. There is a chance Jackson will get on the field for Week 1. At the start of training camp, Harbaugh said Jackson would be active on game days. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Baltimore use Jackson in some special packages against Buffalo. — Jamison Hensley

Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers

What he did in Weeks 2-3 of the preseason: 12-of-23 passing for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Coach Mike Tomlin wanted Rudolph to cut it loose more after a tentative performance at Green Bay on Aug. 16, and Rudolph did that Saturday against Tennessee. He didn’t hit any big plays, but he moved out of the pocket and off script when necessary, looking to compete. The Steelers consider that a positive sign, and they have been encouraged by Rudolph’s professional demeanor.

What has been said about him: “The thing about Mason is he loves to work. He’s always quizzing me about the offense and making sure we’re on top of things. He’s very detailed in exactly how he wants routes and what he’s expecting.” — rookie wide receiver James Washington, who played with Rudolph at Oklahoma State.

Chances to start in Week 1 of the regular season: 2 percent

There’s always the tiniest possibility Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones get hurt over the next 10 days. Rudolph is set to become the No. 3 quarterback after Josh Dobbs didn’t play Saturday. The Steelers could try to trade Dobbs or sign him to the practice squad, depending on what happens in the preseason finale.


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