28 Aug Pre-Season Week 3 Wrap
It’s not ideal to open a column with a disclaimer, but the pre-season is designed for this sort of thing. Without the option of the all-22 coaches film, these grades are to be taken with a grain of salt. Another extenuating circumstance is the nature of pre-season football. Some quarterbacks are given watered down, vanilla scripts, while others are testing out the validity of new play designs.
Regardless, just remember to keep in mind that these grades shouldn’t send you to Vegas with a new hot tip, but rather give you an idea of my grading, and this entire project.
*Only starters, or potential starters, were evaluated.
** Cam Newton and Tyrod Taylor did not take enough drop-backs to qualify for the rankings.
***Gamepass was very shoddy this weekend.
1. Phillip Rivers – 1.33
Albeit a short outing, Rivers was perfect. His location on the underneath, intermediate and deep routes were perfect on all six of his pass attempts. A little bit of protection for this durable assassin will go a long-way towards make stopping this Los Angeles offense dangerously explosive.
2. Brian Hoyer – .938
Hoyer was the perfect choice for Kyle Shanhan to implement his play-action based scheme. Excelling at decisions on flood and drive concepts, Hoyer gets the ball out quickly and on target. Hoyer was as precise as he has ever been on Sunday registering just one negative play, and three, two-point plays. Of his 16 drop-backs, he accumulated 15 points on the ThirdAnd10 grading system.
3. Tom Brady – .933
Seeing his first action of the season, Tom Brady was, as usual, on point. Pitching a perfect game (averaging over one point per play) until his final throw, a deep heave that was intercepted, Brady was in command of his operation, parallel to mid-season form. His pre-snap checks and ability to create mismatches is unrivaled across the NFL.
4. Matt Stafford – .826
Matt Stafford is knocking on the door of the elites — he’s certainly paid like it. His post-snap recognition is nearly flawless as he escapes pressure while keeping his eyes down the field. He is a dangerous play maker that can throw from any platform and any arm angle – both on display in week three.
5. Carson Wentz – .727
Wentz was sharp in his final pre-season showing dialing up the long ball and playing with anticipation. He squeezed some tight windows on the Doug Pederson slant pattern staple – a positive sign from a quarterback that struggled in these areas a year ago.
6. Sam Bradford – .682
The box score wasn’t impressive, but neither were the rest of the Vikings offense. Two more dropped passes, poor protection on the edge, and Bradford still threw accurate passes all game. The offense was put in some tough situations and Bradford was forced to check it down, but he came up with one of the most creative plays of the weekend.
7. Carson Palmer – .672
Despite some uncharacteristic misfires, Palmer salvaged his score with a dime for a touchdown to end his night on a double-move route. Opening up the vertical game was a sight for sore eyes in Arizona, but the underneath accuracy is something to keep an eye on as Palmer regressed a year ago in that department.
8. Derek Carr – .647
The Raiders didn’t show anything out of the ordinary in week three, and Carr executed that plan — for the most part. He missed three throws early in the game (two passes high, one behind) but was sharp the rest of the way. His touchdown to Amari Cooper was a perfect dime splitting cover-2 after utilizing a pump to freeze the corner.
9. Dak Prescott – .647
It was a rather ho-hum day for the Cowboys sophomore sensation. He missed one throw (short-hopped a 3rd and 2 pass to the flat for an easy first down) but was on point otherwise. His ability to operate in a crowded pocket, climb and release is something most veterans struggle with. His best throw was a shot down the seam, over the linebacker, to Jason Witten for a huge gain.
10. Blake Bortles – 611
Moving the ball against the Panthers backups was, apparently, what the Jaguars staff needed to see to give Bortles his job back. Awkward, lengthy delivery still intact, Bortles played with a better sense of rhythm and timing, but still had three negative plays compared to one splash play (2 or 3-point play.)
11. Russell Wilson – .609
Wilson made the two best throws of the week. A dropped interception and handful or “0-point” plays impacted his overall grade. His lower body mechanics are in mid-season form as he can break the pocket and generate zip and touch from the most unconventional throwing positions. He truly is a marvel.
12. Drew Brees – .533
Drew Brees’ timing and anticipation belongs on an instructional film. Despite preserving him on the bench, Brees and the Saints offense doesn’t appear to have skipped a beat. Throwing passes before receivers make their breaks, backing the defenders off with a vertical threat, the Saint offense won’t have problems scoring points as long as #9 is under center.
13. Andy Dalton – .533
Dalton came out sharp, including a nice opening pass to AJ Green, floating it between two defenders with anticipation and accuracy. Dalton had two negative throws (both short-hops) and a handful of “0’s”, but was otherwise on time and accurate.
14. Alex Smith – .527
The Chiefs offense struggled creating separation against the Legion of Boom and, when they did, they dropped too many catchable passes. For that reason, Smith posted a positive grade despite the team struggles. He continues to play smart football, throw with accuracy and anticipation and break the pocket when necessary.
15. Jameis Winston – .478
No one can undo a terrific performance like Jameis Winston. A natural born leader with a genuine football acumen, Winston is still hampered by the turnover bugaboo. His interception in this game was a clear over throw in the red-zone, taking points off the board. Winston continues to look sharp on 90% of his drop-backs, however.
16. Tom Savage – .471
The attribute that Bill O’Brien covets in Tom Savage is his game manager mind-set. With his lack of arm talent, that is the only thing that will keep him in the league. The Texans are going to roll with Savage in hopes that the defense can carry them to a championship. The sooner this theory is nipped in the bud, the quicker the Texans can find out if DeShaun Watson is the answer. Savage made a bunch of short throws in week three, and every pass to the sideline is a ticking time bomb waiting to get picked off.
17. Scott Tolzien – .455
Tolzien’s shotput release rivals Blake Bortles for ugliest in the league, but he played a solid game against the Steelers. He drove the ball to the boundary and led the Colts up and down the field. His score was dropped by a colossal mistake wrongly keying the defense and throwing right to a Steelers linebacker for an interception.
18. Jay Cutler – .444
Cutler’s first extended action as a Dolphin saw a him hook up for a deep strike with Devante Parker as well as move around the pocket to extend a play. Cutler drove the Dolphins into the end zone on three occasions. However, a lost fumble with pressure in his line of sight knocked his grade significantly. (-2 points for that play.)
19. Eli Manning – .429
Eli’s pre-season finale was indicative of the type of player he is at this point in his career. He’s sensational pre-snap and has impeccable timing post-snap, but the arm just refuses to cooperate. He will make a great throw on one play and then vastly under-shoot his target on the next.
20. Mike Glennon – .421
Enjoying his best game as a Bear, Glennon was decisive and accurate. A few skipped passes docked his score, but he managed pressure well and targeted the right man on the majority of his drop-backs. His first quarter dime was one of the nicest throws of the weekend.
21. Deshone Kizer – .352
Attacking the field vertically was a smart play by Hue Jackson. Kizer made a couple of plays that should energize the Browns fan base, but there remains plenty of fundamentals to be cleaned up. He’s often late on reads and spends too much time stationary in the pocket. Splash plays, like the one below, should be enough to have Browns fans excited.
22. Trevor Siemian – .348
As has been the case his entire professional career, Trevor Siemian’s poor accuracy jumps off the tape. This trait is especially concerning when he throws over the middle, just as he did on the interception below. Siemian was sharp on most of his short to intermediate throws and even contributed to some big plays, but his limited skill set shows up every week.
23. Kirk Cousins – .273
There is going to be a learning curve with a new play caller and new weapons for Kirk Cousins. His drop was rarely in rhythm with the routes, and his accuracy suffered as a result. He miss-keyed Vontaze Burfict on an interception that was thrown without the requisite velocity to the boundary.
24. Ben Roethlisberger – .200
The Steelers deemed it necessary to shake some of the rust off their future Hall of Fame quarterback – and it was needed. Roethlisberger struggled with his accuracy and looked a little stiff trying to move around. He will get the cobwebs cleaned up, these types of misfires aren’t common.
25. Marcus Mariota – .160
The inconsistencies in mechanics and launch point that plagued Mariota in 2016 showed up in this game. Passes were sailing high too frequently resulting in seven negative plays just on ball placement alone. He has too many stretches of play like this for him to be considered an upper-echelon quarterback.
26. Aaron Rodgers – .000
An unceremonious outing for Rodgers, he missed one throw into the end zone (albeit a difficult throw) and that was basically it. Rodgers registered two +1’s, two -1’s and two 0’s on his six drop backs. The pass protection held up extremely well, but Packers receivers couldn’t separate from that outstanding Denver secondary.
27. Matt Ryan – -.142
Negative scores are extremely rare in this project. When the reigning MVP pitches a number below the Mendoza Line, alarms should sound. A change in the offensive efficiency is to be expected with the departure of Kyle Shanahan, but Matt Ryan missing automatic throws is a complete anomaly – worry not on that front, Falcons fans.
28. Jared Goff – -.222
Goff does look a lot more refined in the basic details of playing quarterback (poise, composure, ball fakes, mechanics) but the misfires and woeful mistakes were aplenty in his final pre-season tune-up. The GIF below is an awful decision with an even worse throw.
** Cam Newton – 2 points, 2 plays
Newton led one series, a touchdown drive, and threw just two passes. A simple dump off to Christian McCaffery and a quick slant to Kelvin Benjamin that went for six. They were basic reads with good ball placement – a positive sign for a quarterback that has been restricted since March.
** Tyrod Taylor – 0 points, 2 plays
Taylor left the game with a concussion after being slammed to the turf. Taylor and the Bills offense is in for a long season in 2017. The inability to separate on the outside causes the protection to eventually break down – which was the case on Thursday.
Week four is going to be a holiday for ThirdAnd10. As we gear up for the regular season and evaluate every throw made this season, watching future practice squad stars isn’t the business we got into.
If you have any questions about the grades of any of these players, or wish to see their play-by-play chart, I will be more than happy to share them.
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