Week 6 was a much-needed midterm break for two of the NFL’s rookie passers.
Jets QB Zach Wilson and 49ers passer Trey Lance both got early bye weeks, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for either guy. Wilson’s struggles through five games are well and fairly documented, while Lance’s first shot at starting came a week before a 49ers break.
Guys like Justin Herbert are the exception to the rule, and so far in the 2021 season, the five first-round rookies — and one who was taken in third round — have all looked like, well, rookies, through six weeks of the NFL season.
With four passers still in action on Sunday, there were still plenty of students angling for good grades as we near the midway point of the 2021 NFL season. Here’s how they graded out:
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Trevor Lawrence: B+
Stats: 25/41, 319 yards, one touchdown
Lawrence continues to grow as an NFL quarterback, with Sunday’s win over the Dolphins his most polished performance yet as a passer.
The wunderkind threw an absolute dime to Marvin Jones Jr. for a touchdown (who made a nice catch on the back end) and looked sharp and accurate when he was on the move and flushed out of the pocket.
While there were more than a handful of drops — and some throws that could have (and should have) been picked off — Lawrence is showing more and more control over the Jaguars offense while Jacksonville banks their first W of the season, and of the Lawrence era.
Justin Fields: B-
Stats: 16/27, 174 yards, one touchdown, one interception; Six carries, 43 rushing yards.
Fields’ third start showed more of the same for the rookie passer: Things are happening just a bit fast out there, but the positive i
While his lone interception came on a very, very questionable officiating botch, there are positives to take away: Fields is still developing good rapport with Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson, he’s using his legs to escape tough situations and he’s generally accurate.
Fields, though, still looks a bit indecisive with the ball at times, which is expected of a rookie passer. He’ll get stronger as he keeps progressing this season (and if his offensive line ever gives him more time back there).
Davis Mills: C+
Stats: 29/43, 243 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions; 2 rushes, five yards
Mills emerging as a solid passer is a bright spot for an otherwise lost Texans season. “Solid” might not be enough to anoint him passer of the future, but in Tyrod Taylor’s absence (and Deshaun Watson’s inactivity), Mills has plenty of time to grow and learn.
Mills started the day 14-of-18 passing but finished 29 out of 43 with two second-half interceptions that doomed the Texans vs. the Colts. Mills has shown the ability to extend plays and step up in the pocket, which has been his hallmark so far this season.
Texans coach David Culley has said that Tyrod Taylor will be the starter once he returns from injury, but if Mills keeps flashing, it’ll be hard for Houston to keep him off the field for long.
Mac Jones: B
Stats: 15/21, 229 yards, two touchdowns, one interception (Pick 6)
Jones has been most productive this season by doing what he’s been asked to do: Lots of underneath stuff, lots of behind the line-of-scrimmage throws, and a reliance on the middle of the field being worked efficiently.
On Sunday, it was some more of the same: Jones worked a lot underneath and the middle of the field, with plenty of short throws to help move the Patriots offense down the field. Jones did take some 20-plus yard shots, including challenging the Cowboys secondary late in the game to give New England the lead. It was more bad coverage than it was optimal throw. (He also had a Pick 6 to put them in that position, too.)
At some point, Jones is going to be asked to reach the second and third level, like CBS analyst Tony Romo said during the broadcast. A propensity to throw deeper hasn’t been needed yet, but if the Patriots running game continues to be middling then New England may lean more and more on Jones as the season wears on.