Week 1’s NFL Rookie QB Report shows that the 2021 NFL Draft QB class may be one for the ages. Though not in quantity, but perhaps in quality, the cast of rookie quarterbacks are set to take the NFL by storm. In fact, they’ve already made history in their season debuts as a group.
For the first time since 1970, four NFL quarterbacks have made their first regular-season touchdown passes in Week 1. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones each threw a touchdown in the opening week of the season.
In our weekly series, we’ll analyze and quantify each of the first-round rookie quarterback’s performance as it unfolds each weekend.
NFL Rookie QB Report Week 1
Three of the five first-round quarterbacks started their respective franchise’s season-opening game, as expected. We were, however, treated to Trey Lance and Justin Fields’ sightings early in their regular-season debuts.
How’d all five rookie first-round QBs fare in the 2021 NFL season’s opening week?
Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
The No. 1 overall pick threw his first 3 passing touchdowns as a professional quarterback. He also threw 332 passing yards in his first career start, the third-most yards by a No. 1 overall pick.
But for Lawrence, the majority of his yardage and highlight-reel plays came when the game was well out of hand. He connected on several nice plays to lend hope, but most of his yards and touchdowns were in garbage time.
Of his 332 passing yards, 199 came when the Jaguars were down by 3 or more scores. Furthermore, Lawrence threw 2 of his touchdowns with the team down by at least 21 points.
Overall, however, it wasn’t all that bad as he was asked to do more than he had in the majority of his college games. His 332 total passing yards were the fourth most by a Jaguars QB. Lawrence also showcased some of the elite-level arm talent he’s become known for.
The road will be bumpy, but the Jaguars are equally responsible for building around their franchise quarterback. Week 1 did nothing to persuade that the road won’t be a tough, arduous one for Jacksonville.
Zach Wilson, New York Jets
In what has become pretty prevalent in his career as a starting QB, Wilson did most of his damage out of structure. He feeds off of carnage out of the pocket and hit the first touchdown pass of his career on a scramble to his right. Wilson evaded a collapsing pocket and kept his eyes downfield, eventually spotting an open target in the back of the end zone.
Putting his arm strength to good use, Wilson hit WR Corey Davis on the money. That touchdown brought the Jets within a score after a successful 2-point conversion attempt as well. He connected on another touchdown pass to Davis later in the second half to make it even more interesting, but it wasn’t to be.
Wilson finished the afternoon completing 20-of-37 passes for 258 yards and 2 touchdowns. It wasn’t all roses, however, as the team lost, and Wilson missed a dropping coverage defender for an interception. Wilson locked onto his target on a deep post against zone coverage but didn’t see a cleverly disguised Shaq Thompson underneath for his first career interception thrown.
All in all, much like Lawrence, the Jets need to continue to build around Wilson. Again, Week 1 did nothing to persuade that the 2021 season won’t be a long one for Jets fans.
Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
Lance played less than a handful of snaps, but it gave promise for potential things to come. He saw action on the 49ers’ first real drive of the game, rushing the ball once for a yard before throwing the team’s first touchdown pass of the season. Lance connected with Trent Sherfield for a 5-yard score before being relegated to the bench until the third quarter.
In total, Lance ran the ball 3 times for 2 yards and had just 1 pass attempt. The debut, though promising, leaves much more to be desired, even if San Francisco built a 28-point lead at one point with Garoppolo at the helm.
Much like the next quarterback drafted, the question “When will Lance start?” will loom large over the 49ers seemingly all season. However, unlike the Chicago Bears, the Niners have the roster and incumbent QB to actually win games.
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
All didn’t go as planned for the Bears on Sunday Night Football, but it seemingly went well for Fields. The fourth quarterback drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft got in on the team’s first drive, similar to Lance, completing a 9-yard pass to Marquise Goodwin.
It just so happened that on the very next play, starting quarterback Andy Dalton threw an ill-advised pass that was tipped and intercepted for the game’s first takeaway. Fields finished his debut 2-of-2 passing for 10 yards but added a rushing score that cut the deficit to 6 points in the third quarter.
His athleticism and proverbial ceiling at this point of his career lend themselves to much more than Dalton. It’s just a matter of time before Fields sees the field more. And it will only be a matter of time until he has a new head coach at this rate.
Mac Jones, New England Patriots
One former Alabama signal-caller outplayed another on Sunday, but Mac Jones couldn’t get the victory over Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins. Jones completed 29-of-39 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown, largely playing well past his age. He bounced back from adversity early and showcased arm talent and poise under pressure on more than one occasion.
He impressively led the Patriots on three separate scoring drives of 14 plays, but each ended with a field goal. The next step of Jones’ elevation to top-tier NFL QB will be converting those drives into 6 points rather than 3.
Regardless, while the attention fell to Tagovailoa’s ill-fated heave that landed for an interception, there is no talk about ill-advised throws from Jones. It was a great debut for a team steeped in quarterback tradition. It seems like the Patriots know a thing or two about drafting, securing, and playing the right guy at the position.