All things considered, it was a strong start for rookie quarterbacks in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones each started for their teams from the jump. Trey Lance and Justin Fields began the season as backups, but each scored a touchdown inside the red zone.
The good news for the rookie QBs in Week 1 was that each of them scored a touchdown. The bad news is that Lance’s San Francisco 49ers were the only team with a first round rookie QB to win their opener — and Lance only played a handful of snaps.
Week 2 featured our first head-to-head showdown of rookie quarterbacks when Jones started for the Patriots against Wilson’s Jets. It was another encouraging performance for Jones, who earned the first win of his short pro career, while Wilson would like to pretend it never happened.
Here are our grades for the first round rookie QBs in Week 2.
Week 2 started in promising fashion for Lawrence and the Jags when the rookie QB led his team on an 11-play, 83-yard touchdown drive on the first possession of the game. On 3rd and 13 just outside the red zone, Lawrence threw a beautiful strike to Marvin Jones Jr. for a 25-yard touchdown.
Unfortunately for the Clemson product, that was as good as his day would get. The rest of the afternoon was basically a disaster for Jacksonville.
The Jags lost the Denver Broncos, 23-13, to fall to 0-2 on the season. Jacksonville only had 189 yards of total offense. Lawrence threw two interceptions, and ended the game with a 37.2 QB rating. The Jaguars somehow embarrassed themselves even more after the game.
Lawrence finished the game 14-of-33 for 118 yards. You can watch every throw he made in Week 2 against the Broncos here. This was such a miserable offensive performance for Jacksonville in general that it’s hard to take too many positives away, but the early TD throw showed Lawrence’s natural arm talent. Even during a rough game, there’s no reason to worry about him. Lawrence was considered one of the top QB prospects in recent memory to hit the NFL draft, but Jacksonville clearly still has a ton of work to do to build around him. Last year’s team went 1-15 to earn the No. 1 pick and the rights to Lawrence, and this year’s team doesn’t feel much better.
Lawrence will be fine, but this was a game he’d soon like to forget. Hopefully the Jags can get running back James Robinson more involved next week to take some of the pressure off their rookie QB.
Wilson came out of BYU with a reputation as a gunslinger with great arm strength and the confidence to take shots deep down field. His Week 1 performance showed both sides of the coin on that scouting report, as he connected on a few nice throws but also threw an interception. Overall, it was a fairly encouraging debut even in a loss.
Wilson’s performance was not encouraging in Week 2. He threw an interception on his first two throws of the game against the Patriots. He didn’t have a single multi-interception game for BYU all of last year.
It only got worse from there. Wilson threw his third interception of the game in the second quarter, and then came out of halftime and immediately threw his fourth interception. At one point in the game, Wilson had four completions to his own team and four completions to New England.
You can watch all four of Wilson’s interceptions here. There are some bad throws in here.
Here is a video of all 4 Zach Wilson interceptions and none of them are the offensive line’s fault. Very concerning decision making by the rookie. pic.twitter.com/DyhCcvjSp0
— olinestats (@olinestats) September 19, 2021
Wilson ended the game 19-of-33 for 210 yards, zero touchdowns, and four interceptions. The Jets lost to the Patriots, 25-6. This was basically the worst case scenario for any young QB. Hopefully it isn’t the type of performance that hurts his confidence going forward.
Part of this is the growing paints of being a starting QB as a rookie. Part of it is playing for a Jets team that went 2-14 last year. Either way, Wilson has be better next week against the Broncos.
By the way, Wilson still has a cannon.
Zach Wilson hit 59.99 MPH on a throw this week. The highest pass velocity on a throw this year.
— Andre Weingarten (@Swami_EA) September 20, 2021
The 49ers improved to 2-0 by outlasting the Eagles for an ugly 17-11 win. San Francisco continues to start Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback despite taking Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick, and this week Lance didn’t even see the field.
Lance only got four snaps in Week 1, but one of them was a touchdown throw. He did not take a snap in a tight game against Philadelphia. Head coach Kyle Shanahan explained the decision to reporters on Monday:
“No, I never have a plan that ‘Hey, I’m going to use him or I’m not going to use him.’ It’s always an option throughout the game,” Shanahan told reporters Monday. “It’s been two games and I’ve never had him in the openers and I’ve never had him as a designated time. I plan on doing that week-to-week and whenever I feel like putting him in. You saw when I did in Week 1 and I never got that urge in Week 2.”
Garoppolo played really well in the win, finishing 17-of-25 for 314 yards with one touchdown and no picks. Jimmy G doesn’t play a particularly exciting brand of football, but he’s helped the Niners win a lot of games since coming to the franchise. It’s easy to see why the Niners are taking a patient approach with Lance given that he only played one college game last season at North Dakota State, and Garoppolo is steady enough to help the Niners be competitive right now.
Fields is still the backup quarterback in Chicago, but he saw his first bit of extended action in Week 2 after a leg injury for starter Andy Dalton. Fields played the entire second half and made some good throws even if his final numbers didn’t reflect it.
Fields hit Allen Robinson with a beautiful deep ball in the end zone that went through his hands for a bad drop. Chicago receivers let a few more catchable balls fall incomplete on the afternoon. Fields ended the game 6-of-13 for 60 yards with one interception, but he help lead the Bears to a tight win over the Bengals.
With the game hanging in the balance late in the fourth quarter, Fields made the biggest play of the afternoon by running for a first down on 3rd and 9 with Chicago holding onto a three-point lead. Fields made this play happen all by himself, and it’s possible the Bears would have lost the game without it.
1. People easily miss what made Justin Fields’ 10-yard scramble for the game-sealing 1st so great.
The broken tackle was one thing, but it was his awareness to get on the ground inbounds to keep the clock moving.
— Erik Lambert (@ErikLambert1) September 20, 2021
There were some less encouraging moments, like a bad interception late in the fourth quarter that allowed the Bengals to get back into the game.
With Dalton’s status unknown going into Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns, it looks like Fields is going to get the chance to show he deserves the starting job the rest of the season.
The Patriots didn’t need Jones to make a bunch of big plays to beat the Jets. New England came out with a conservative game plan for its quarterback, and let its defense dominant the rookie QB starting across from them to coast to an easy 25-6 win.
Jones played an efficient game, finishing 22-of-30 for 186 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown or an interception. Instead, the most memorable plays Jones made came by helping the Pats’ running game. He pushed Damien Harrison into the end zone for this touchdown.
He also helped spring a reverse for New England as a lead blocker:
Jones has looked like the best rookie QB through two weeks, but the Patriots have also made his job pretty easy. Credit the young QB for looking poised and accurate in his first two games. The big plays will come eventually.
The Patriots host the Saints next week, which should be another winnable game and an opportunity for Jones to impress again. After that? A Week 4 date with the Bucs and former Patriots legend Tom Brady.