In the past, NFL teams handled rookie quarterbacks in much the same way: draft them and let them sit – for at least one season, maybe two. In recent years, though, that hasn’t been the case. Rookie quarterbacks have been thrown into the fire with varying degrees of success.
Which route is better?
“The old-time approach was let a guy rest, but that old-time approach was because most colleges were running the wishbone (or) some form of option offense,” The Ringer NFL analyst Mike Lombardi said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “Now we are in a game where kids in high school are (playing in a) spread formation. The ball’s being thrown constantly, whether it’s pee-wee, junior high, high school, college – so they come to the NFL with a background.
“Now it’s not an NFL background,” Lombardi continued, “but there is some sense of what they need to know and what they need to do. I think that helps them speed things along, and I think each case is different. (Mitch) Trubisky didn’t play as much as Deshaun Watson, so Trubisky doesn’t have as many reps. Patrick Mahomes, same thing. He came out early. They need reps, and preseason is the best time.”
Not just for rookies, either. Jared Goff struggled mightily in 2016 but played just eight snaps in a 13-10 preseason win over Dallas this past Saturday.
Eight snaps? Really? For the former No. 1 pick who threw five touchdowns and seven interceptions as a rookie?
“He needs as many reps as he can possibly get to prove that he can belong in the NFL,” Lombardi said. “So I think each case is different, but I think you can’t judge these as we judged them in the past because the past didn’t have a lot of passing going on. This is now a passing world in football, and I think players respond better.”
Looking at this year’s rookie quarterbacks, Lombardi expects big things from Watson – if not this season, then certainly in years to come.
“If you play against Alabama two years in a row, you’ve seen pro defenses,” Lombardi said. “You’ve seen corner blitzes, you’ve seen double A-gap pressures – you’ve seen pretty much a lot of stuff that the NFL teams run. I think Trubisky and the other guys are going to need a little bit of time so the game slows down. When the game is slower, they’ll play better. It just takes time to slow the game down.”