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Which rookie quarterback graded the best in their first preseason game?

johnnyWeek one of the 2014 NFL preseason has now past and the “Big 3” were on full display. In a preseason long series, I take a look back on how each quarterback faired, providing an in depth evaluation of their possessions and things that they need to work on leading up to the NFL season in September.

            The Big 3 played surprisingly well in their NFL debuts, showing a good grasp of not only their team’s playbooks but the speed of the game. However, there were some things that the three quarterbacks can work on and polish in the remaining practices leading up to the 2014 NFL regular season. With that being said, here are my evaluations of Bortles, Manziel, and Bridgewater.

Blake Bortles Jacksonville Jaguars (3rd Overall)

Grade on Week 1 performance: B+

The third overall pick in May’s draft did not disappoint Jaguar fans and scouts who thought highly of Bortles. He was locked in the moment he stepped onto the field. Some of the things that Bortles put on display Friday evening was confidence and mechanics, when within the pocket he  consistently showed that he was in a rhythm, having great footwork on his drops, quickly  setting his feet and driving off his hind leg when attacking downfield. However, when working from a straight drop back would tend to eye his receivers a tad. He also seemed very comfortable working off of play action and outside the tackle box, showing no major flaws within his mechanics. He showed great touch and accuracy on his throws, putting the ball in only a position where the wide receiver would be able to make a play on it and throwing his receivers open. The one thing that made Bortles stand out from the other two first round QB’s was that he actually attacked the defense vertically, he was not afraid to take a shot downfield.  Bortles also showed everyone that he is deceiving, showing perfect execution on a zone read and scampering for seven yards. Now, I don’t want people to start too much hype. There are a couple things people need to understand… 1. Bortles was not facing the starting defense for Tampa Bay. 2. The coverage scheme that Tampa was running was far from complex, so you can expect that Bortles will see far more complex schemes in the coming weeks leading up to week one. Overall I would say it was a good debut for Bortles. the number one thing that is vital for building confidence in rookie quarterbacks is not turning the ball over and I felt that Bortles and the other two quarterbacks did a good job protecting the football.

Stats vs Tampa Bay: Passing 7/11 117 yards Long 31 yards PR: 99.4

                                    Rushing 1 rush 7 yards

Johnny Manziel Cleveland Browns (22th Overall)

Grade on Week 1 performance: B-

Johnny “Football” time finally came to the NFL this past weekend when the Browns traveled to play the Lions. I thought Johnny did a lot of minor things right. The major one that stood out to me what that it seemed like Johnny not only had an understanding of the offense but a command. There was a play within the series that he realized they were missing a full back for the following play and relayed it to the sideline to get their 11th man. In terms of actually performance, I felt that he made some big strides within camp and needs to continue to build on them. He showed poise within the pocket, going through his reads before either dumping to the hot or breaking the pocket with his legs with the exception of missing the full back on a flat route for a easy first down gain. Although he was not asked to stretch the field vertically, I thought most of Johnny’s throws were on the money. He showed solid accuracy and ball placement. Johnny also displayed vintage Johnny Football, scanning the field and stepping into a collapsed pocket only to jump, torque his body to the right and place perfect touch on a ball to West on a swing route for a quick gain. He also displayed a smarter running style, preferring to slide and get out of bounds rather than take the hit and fight for the extra yard. However, one thing Johnny needs to improve on is his execution of the read option. There were too many times were Johnny decided to be Johnny and pull the football only to have to fight just to get back to the line of scrimmage. He will have to understand quickly that the reads on option plays come faster than they would in college. With that being said, the same can be said of Manziel with Bortles in that he protected the football and didn’t have any turnovers that were because of him.

Stats vs Detroit: Passing 7/11 63 yards Long 15 yards PR: 79

                            Rushing 6 rushes 27 yards

Teddy Bridgewater Minnesota Vikings (32nd Overall)

Grade on Week 1 Performance: C+

The Teddy Bridgewater era for the Minnesota Vikings started on the Viking’s third possession of their preseason opener vs the Oakland Raiders Friday night. As many know the Vikings General manager Rick Spielman orchestrated yet another trade to sneak back into the first round to snag Bridgewater to give the Vikings seven first round selections in the last three drafts. After watching all of his possessions leading the offense the one thing that stood out to me going back to his college days was that his mechanics are flawless. He consistently got perfect depth on his drops and did a good job in setting his feet to drive through his throws. Rarely on Friday, did he not have his feet set when he attempted throws. Now, he was in the same boat as Manziel in that he didn’t really attack the defense vertically. However, that doesn’t mean to say he wasn’t impressive throwing the football. Scouting him coming out this year I felt that he was the best quarterback in the class when it came to reading defenses and going through his progressions and his snaps on Friday reaffirmed my beliefs. He did a good job in throwing receivers opens and having good placement on the wide receivers. One thing that could be taken as both good and bad was the confident he had in his arm. There were a couple throws where he was not afraid to try and force the football into a tight window. One minor thing that Bridgewater displayed that is an easy fix is that there were a few snaps where he would hold the football too long, resulting in a sack or a rushed throw. He needs to display a little more urgency when in the pocket. The big takeaway that is something that shocked me a little bit was his pocket presence, Although he did a superb job breaking the pocket once it broke down one play hitting a quick spin to escape to the edge, he needs to get better at understanding when its okay to bail out of the pocket to create a play and when he just needs to step up into the pocket and reset his feet. One play that stands out is when he attempted to spin out of the pocket to the edge and was stripped from behind. Luckily the Vikings recovered the football but that continues to go back to rule number one as a quarterback and that protect the football. Overall I believe you can call Bridgewater’s first NFL start a good building block heading into preparations for their second preseason game.

Stats vs Oakland: Passing 6/13 49 yards Long 13 yards Sacked 2x -16 yards PR 56.2

Overall, it was a pleasant surprise to see the level that the “Big 3” competed at in their first action in the NFL. Stay tuned for next week’s edition as well as a early look at who could potentially be in the running for the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards. 

This article was written by Joshua Zimmer. Josh is a guest writer for NFL Draft Diamonds who has a very solid background with the NFL.  

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at [email protected]

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