Rookie quarterbacks struggling through 1st 2 weeks

Wed Sep 22 3:08am ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) runs the ball against the Detroit Lions in the second half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Lon Horwedel)


New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson gets up after being sacked during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, right, throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)


The rookie class of quarterbacks that entered the season full of fanfare is finding the adjustment to the NFL is not very easy.

Top two picks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson lead the league with five interceptions after opening the season with back-to-back losses, Trey Lance has barely seen the field, and Mac Jones is the only QB to get a win, and that came against Wilson.

That performance by Wilson last week was the worst yet for a rookie as the No. 2 pick threw four interceptions and no TDs in the New York Jets' 25-6 loss to New England. Wilson joined former Jets draft picks Sam Darnold and Mark Sanchez as the only top 10 rookies to throw at least four interceptions and no TDs in the past 15 seasons.

Jacksonville's Lawrence threw three interceptions in the opener against Houston and two more last week against Denver, joining Peyton Manning (six in 1998) and Matthew Stafford (five in 2009) as the only top picks to throw at least five interceptions in the first two weeks of their rookie seasons.

Lance, the third overall pick, threw a TD pass on his first attempt for San Francisco, but didn't even get on the field last week as the Niners stuck with Jimmy Garoppolo the entire way.

Fields, the 11th pick, got some extensive action for Chicago last week after Andy Dalton got hurt, and went 6 for 13 for 60 yards and an interception against Cincinnati.

Jones, the 15th pick, has been the most productive so far, completing 73.9% of his passes for 467 yards and an TD.

The rookie class overall has thrown 12 interceptions, nine TDs and posted a 67.9 rating while losing five of six starts.

In all, six rookie quarterbacks have seen action, with third-rounder Davis Mills also getting into the action for Houston. Mills is slated to start Thursday night for the Texans against Carolina in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor.

This is just the second time since the merger that six QBs have thrown passes in the first two weeks of the season, with the other coming in 1971.

There's a chance that five rookies could start this week if Fields gets the nod in Chicago, with Dalton dealing with a knee injury.

The only other time in the Super Bowl era that five rookies QBs started in a week this early in the season - with the exception of the 1987 replacement players - came in 2012 when Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson all opened the season as starter.

SEPTEMBER STREAKS

One impressive September streak was snapped last week while another ignominious one was extended.

Patrick Mahomes threw his first career interception in September after 38 career TD passes in the opening month. The Chiefs had thrown 44 TD passes without an interception in September since Alex Smith was picked in the 2016 opener against the Chargers.

The Jets lost their 11th straight September game, becoming the seventh team to do that. The only teams with longer September skids are the Rams with 13 in a row from 2007-10, and the Saints with 12 from 1994-97.

WORKHORSE BACK

Tennessee's Derrick Henry is a dying breed as a workhorse back who doesn't need to share the load with anyone.

Henry had 35 carries and six receptions in last week's win at Seattle for the the most scrimmage touches in a game since Le'Veon Bell had 42 against the Bills on Dec. 11, 2016.

The only other player in Titans franchise history - which dates to their time in Houston - with at least 40 was Earl Campbell, who had 42 touches against Seattle on Oct. 11, 1981.

Henry ran for 182 yards and three TDs in the game, marking the fourth time in his career he has recorded at least 150 yards rushing and three TDs in a game. The only other players to do that are Hall of Famers Barry Sanders (six), Jim Brown (six), LaDainian Tomlinson (five) and Eric Dickerson (four).

DUAL THREAT

Arizona's Kyler Murray is off to a impressive start to the season after throwing for 400 yards and three TDs and running for a score in Sunday's 34-33 win over Minnesota.

Murray also threw four TD passes and ran for a score in the opener at Tennessee, becoming the first player with at least three TD passes and a TD run in his team's first two games of a season.

Murray now has 12 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown, the fourth most for a QB in his first three seasons. Only Cam Newton (20 games), Josh Allen (16) and Dak Prescott (13) have more.

OPENING DRIVE WOES

The Cowboys finally ended their opening drive TD drought when Tony Pollard scored on a 4-yard run on the first possession against the Chargers. Dallas had gone 20 straight games without scoring a TD on its first possession.

The Cowboys had been tied for the longest active streak with the Broncos, who have now gone 21 straight games without an opening drive TD since Drew Lock threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Noah Fant against Houston on Dec. 8, 2019.

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Emmanuel Sanders Sep 21 11:40pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has quickly built chemistry with his new quarterback Josh Allen. Through two games, Sanders has at least six targets in each of the contests. However, he was only able to haul in two receptions for 48 yards in Week 2. It's not likely going to get easier against the Washington Football Team. A defense that surrendered the second-lowest amount of touchdowns to receivers last season. Sanders should see his share of targets, but he'll be a low-end flex option in PPR formats for Week 3.

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Dawson Knox Sep 21 11:40pm ET

Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox has done his job when called upon this season. Through two games, Knox has six receptions on seven targets with one touchdown. Sadly, things aren't going to get easier for him against the Washington Football Team defense in Week 3. A defense that allowed the fourth-fewest amount of yards to tight ends last season. Knox could see a few targets in Week 3, but won't be anything more than a touchdown-dependent TE2.

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Cole Beasley Sep 21 11:30pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley has proven himself to be a fairly reliable fantasy option in PPR formats over the last season or so. He was somewhat held in check last week with four receptions for 36 yards, but the Bills weren't forced to air it out in what was already a blowout victory. Beasley in is line for a bounce back performance, but Washington isn't normally an easy team to pass against on a weekly basis. Despite that, Beasley should get his share of targets, but will be a low-end WR3 in PPR formats.

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Zack Moss Sep 21 11:20pm ET

Buffalo Bills running back Zack Moss saw his first action of the season versus the Miami Dolphins in Week 2. He rushed eight times for 26 yards and scored two touchdowns. Let's be honest, Moss is mainly going to be the Bills red zone back. Otherwise, Devin Singletary is going to see the bulk of the work in the backfield. Moss will get a tough matchup against Washington who allowed the second-fewest amount of scores to running backs last season. Fantasy managers should consider Moss a touchdown-dependent option, but he should be on the bench in most leagues for Week 3.

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Stefon Diggs Sep 21 11:20pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs has posted two straight 60 or more yard performances to begin the season. He caught his first touchdown of the season last week. Diggs came into the season ready to play, but could have some issues against Washington in Week 3. A secondary that allowed the second-fewest amount of scores to receivers last season. However, Diggs doesn't need touchdowns in order to have success in fantasy formats. The fact Washington is above average defensively pushes Diggs into WR2 territory for Week 3.

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Josh Allen Sep 21 11:10pm ET

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has not been able to get into a groove to start the 2021 season. He has thrown three passing touchdowns against two tough defenses, but it won't get easier in Week 3. Allen will face off against the Washington Football Team defense that allowed the second-fewest passing touchdown scores in the league last season. Through two games, Allen has only completed 33.3 percent of his pass attempts. Fantasy managers might have to deal with another dud from Allen before he gets an easier matchup to begin October.

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Devin Singletary Sep 21 11:10pm ET

Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary has surprised many with two straight 70-plus games on the ground. It has been a nice start to the season for Singletary, but it won't get easier in Week 3. He'll have to run against a Washington defense that allowed the second-fewest touchdowns to running backs last season. The good news is, Singletary appears to be in line for at least 10-plus carries per game. Sadly, fantasy managers won't be able to trust him more than a RB3 for this tough matchup.

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Austin Ekeler Sep 21 10:33pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler faces the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3, and the Chiefs have allowed the most rushing yards (404), the most rushing touchdowns (7) and the most yards per rush (6.0) of any team in the NFL.

Fantasy Spin: Ekeler is already one of the steadiest producers at the running back spot thanks to his impact as a receiver, and he be headed for a big week against a struggling Kansas City defense.

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Natrell Jamerson Sep 21 10:13pm ET

Free-agent DB Brian Cole (Panthers), fee-agent LB Willie Harvey Jr. (Browns), fee-agent S Natrell Jamerson (Saints), free-agent DB Stanford Samuels (Colts), free-agent LB Josh Watson (Broncos) and free-agent CB Mazzi Wilkins (Buccaneers) worked out for the Arizona Cardinals Tuesday, Sept. 21.

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Shilique Calhoun Sep 21 9:53pm ET

Free-agent DL Shilique Calhoun (49ers) and free-agent DE Pita Taumoepenu (Broncos) worked out for the Denver Broncos Tuesday, Sept. 21.

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Chris Thompson Sep 21 9:53pm ET

Free-agent RB Brian Hill (Titans), free-agent RB Wendell Smallwood (Steelers) and free-agent RB Chris Thompson (Jaguars) worked out for the Chicago Bears Tuesday, Sept. 21.

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Kentrell Brice Sep 21 9:43pm ET

Free-agent S Kentrell Brice (Cardinals), CB Shakur Brown (Chiefs), free-agent QB Anthony Gordon (Chiefs), free-agent CB Grant Haley (Saints), free-agent WR Jaylen Smith (Seahawks) and free-agent WR Javon Wims (Bears) worked out for the New England Patriots Tuesday, Sept. 21.

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Cody Core Sep 21 9:33pm ET

Free-agent WR Cody Core (Giants), free-agent WR Damion Willis (Giants), free-agent WR Chris Lacy (Bears), free-agent WR Shawn Poindexter (49ers) and free-agent LB Tahir Whitehead (Panthers) worked out for the San Francisco 49ers Tuesday, Sept. 21.

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Deon Cain Sep 21 9:33pm ET

Free-agent DE Cameron Malveaux (Browns), free-agent WR Deon Cain (Ravens) and free-agent LB Dylan Cole (Texans) worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles Tuesday, Sept. 21.

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Andrew Brown Sep 21 9:23pm ET

Free-agent DE Andrew Brown (Colts), WR Lawrence Cager (Jets) and WR Anthony Johnson (Steelers) worked out for the Seattle Seahawks Tuesday, Sept. 21.

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Quinton Dunbar Sep 21 8:50pm ET

The Buffalo Bills worked out free-agent cornerback Quinton Dunbar and safety Damarious Randall on Tuesday. Dunbar signed with the Detroit Lions in the offseason, but he was released during training camp in mid-August. In five games for the Seattle Seahawks in 2020, Dunbar had five passes defensed and an interception in six games. Randall was released by the Seahawks at the beginning of December after he played mostly on special teams in 10 games with Seattle in 2020. The Bills defense pitched a shutout in the Week 2 lopsided victory over the Miami Dolphins, and they'll be a strong starting defensive unit in fantasy once again this weekend when they face the Washington Football Team at home.

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Quinton Dunbar Sep 21 8:43pm ET

Free-agent CB Quinton Dunbar (Lions) and S Damarious Randall (Seahawks) recently worked out for the Buffalo Bills.

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Freddie Swain Sep 21 8:40pm ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Freddie Swain leads the NFL through two weeks of play with an average of 7.5 yards of separation from defenders. With rookie Dee Eskridge missing Week 2 with a concussion, Swain stepped into the No. 3 role and has played 59.3 percent of the offensive snaps through two weeks behind D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The 23-year-old caught all five of his targets in the overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans for 95 yards and a touchdown, including a wide-open 68-yard touchdown strike. Swain could end up securing the third receiver job in Seattle. It won't be a role that'll give him weekly fantasy value, but Seattle's offense is a friendly place for receivers that can make big plays down the field.

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Tyson Alualu Sep 21 8:33pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers DT Tyson Alualu (ankle) underwent surgery Monday, Sept. 20, to repair his fractured ankle.

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Quez Watkins Sep 21 8:30pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles second-year wide receiver Quez Watkins was the fastest ball-carrier in Week 2 and through the first two weeks of the season when he reached 21.62 mph on his 91-yard reception in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers. He finished the game with just two catches for 117 yards, but he's caught all five of his targets through two weeks for 140 yards for a league-high 28 yards per reception. Watkins' snap percentage (48.8) is behind that of both rookie DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor, but the sixth-rounder in 2020 has big-play ability because of his speed despite not making his NFL debut until Week 14 last year. He's one to watch in deeper leagues.

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