Sep 30, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

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For rookie QBs, struggle is real

No wobbly pass, stare-down interception, busted assignment or coughed-up fumble underscores the sad state of the NFL’s underwhelming rookie quarterback class more than these ugly statistics.

Between towering Jacksonville Jaguars starter Trevor Lawrence, New York Jets signal caller Zach Wilson and New England Patriots quarterback and Cam Newton replacement Mac Jones, they’ve combined for a 1-8 record, 17 interceptions and only nine touchdown passes.

The highest rated rookie quarterback is Texans third-round draft pick Davis Mills, who’s off to a respectable start in one start and two games played with an 80.9 rating ahead of Jones’ 79.1, Wilson’s 51.6 and the Chicago Bears’ Justin Fields’ 39.9 mark.

Lawrence bumped his rating to 66.4 with a better showing Thursday night at Cincinnati.

As heralded as this group was during the preseason, their performance has been ugly nearing the quarter-pole of the regular season.

Fields’ first NFL start last Sunday was a disaster: 6 for 20 for 68 yards, and sacked nine times for 67 lost yards. The Bears had one net yard of passing offense in the 26-6 defeat to the Cleveland Browns.

Traditionally, rookie quarterbacks struggle. Justin Herbert’s rookie debut last season with the Los Angeles Chargers was the exception, not the rule.
Peyton Manning was intercepted 11 times in his first four NFL starts.

Troy Aikman went 0-11 as a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys.

John Elway was awful as a rookie with the Denver Broncos.

There are far more Dwayne Haskins, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Jared Goff and Sam Darnold type of beginnings.

No one has approached Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck’s level as rookies.

This has been a house of horrors start for the rookies this year, and it isn’t even close to Halloween.

The rebuilding Jets have been decimated by injuries on offense.

Jaguars coach Urban Meyer is a former college football coaching legend who’s still learning on the job in the NFL. He staged a forced quarterback competition with Gardner Minshew before finally trading Minshew to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Jones split time with Newton during the preseason before the team jettisoned the former NFL MVP.

Jones has been solid at times while playing in a somewhat conservative offense.

Fields hasn’t been named the starter even though veteran Andy Dalton has a knee injury.

Lawrence, Wilson, Fields and Jones combined on Sunday to pass for 717 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 53.2 passer rating.

Lawrence and Wilson are tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions.

Jones was intercepted three times on Sunday. He’s led the offense to two touchdowns in 20 possessions when not playing the Jets.

Meanwhile, Mills, while basically uncelebrated, had a solid performance against the Carolina Panthers as he completed 18 of 28 passes for 168 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 95.5 passer rating.

Whether the early struggles derail promising careers remains undetermined.

Past failure doesn’t always prevent future success, but a competent offensive line and a sound game plan sure does help.

The notion that all rookie quarterbacks need to sit has been disproven over the years, but talent isn’t enough.

Asking Lawrence to carry the Jaguars or Wilson to get by without any pass protection isn’t a realistic or sustainable plan and it can stunt their development and damage their health.

As for San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance, his team has been smart about his adjustment to the NFL.

He’s played only seven snaps as the backup to Jimmy Garoppolo.

Kyle Shanahan is bringing along Lance slowly, which appears to be a very wise move.

–By Aaron Wilson, Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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