For the Saturday and Sunday games, more rookie quarterbacks were taking the field for the first time in an NFL game. All of these players were drafted in rounds one through eight. However, the later picks have better stat lines and more playing time, as most of them aren’t competing for the starting role. Here is an analysis of the players that played in their first NFL game at the start of a three-game schedule that is the preseason.
Reacting to the Other Rookie Quarterbacks in Preseason Week One
Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Richardson started the game for the Colts with high expectations and had a rough first drive, which ended in an interception and led to excellent field positioning for the Bills. He couldn’t seem to get in a rhythm with his receivers, frequently overthrowing them, but showed glimpses of his raw talent by extending plays. Richardson was subbed out for Gardner Minshew in the middle of the second quarter, and the Colts were down 0-10. He ended the game with seven completions on twelve attempts for 67 yards and an interception, and he added only seven yards on the ground. Minshew had a much better day, showing why he should be the regular-season starter.
Notice: The Colts have named Richardson as the Week One starter for the regular season. They must have a lot of faith in his development to justify this move.
Will Levis, Tennessee Titans
Levis came in after Malik Willis took the first drive of the game, a two-yard touchdown run by Willis. He led a solid drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown run from Hassan Haskins after having great field placement from a Chicago turnover early in the second quarter. He seemed to not have enough time to make the correct reads or was going through his progression too slowly, as he was sacked four times. Willis and Levis would trade drives for most of the game. Levis ended with nine completions on fourteen attempts for 85 yards, with a late-game desperation interception. It could be better for the second-round pick, but Willis got the bulk of the opportunities.
Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers
The number one overall pick started the game for the Panthers. He played three drives, completing four of six passes for 21 yards and getting sacked once. Young looked comfortable in the pocket and aware of his surroundings, making the right throws at the right time. He had a few passes that were overthrown, but otherwise, Young was proficient with his timing and touch on the ball. The Panthers are easing the rookie into NFL action and are being cautious with his reps. Hopefully, we will see more of Young in week two of the preseason.
Tanner McKee, Philadelphia Eagles
McKee entered the game at the beginning of the second quarter. His first drive ended in a field goal, but he left some on the table as his pass on third down sailed over the receiver’s head. McKee looked comfortable with his protection upfront and was able to connect on some deep throws. He was subbed out at the beginning of the fourth quarter, ending an excellent showing for the rookie. McKee had ten completions on twenty attempts for 148 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per pass. McKee will be challenging Marcus Mariota for the second-string role throughout the preseason. This was a positive game for his case.
Stetson Bennett, Los Angeles Rams
Bennett had his first NFL drive at the beginning of the second quarter. He looked composed and almost lackadaisical in the pocket as he dished out significant gains to his receivers. Although three of his first four passes were almost “house calls” for the defense. Bennett finished with 17 completions on 29 attempts for 191 yards and a touchdown, one of the better stat lines out of this rookie class. With his performance, Bennett has a real shot at the second-string role behind Matthew Stafford if he continues this level of play.
Max Duggan, Los Angeles Chargers
Duggan made his debut after halftime for the Chargers. He only attempted three passes and made much more of an impact on the ground, where he had 20 yards. He had trouble going through progressions due to the offensive line giving up three sacks. The Chargers were comfortably in the lead the whole time, not allowing Duggan to showcase his skills. Hopefully, he will get more playing time in the next two preseason games.
Jake Haener, New Orleans Saints
After halftime versus the Chiefs, Haener took the reins from Jameis Winston and Derek Carr. He played the entirety of the second half but couldn’t seem to get anything going until late, as the Saints offense stalled after scoring 17 points in the first half. Late in the fourth quarter, he led a solid drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Ellis Merriweather to pull close to the Chiefs. Haener finished with ten completions on seventeen attempts with 105 yards, an interception, and a touchdown. It’s okay for the current third-stringer but not enough to surpass anyone in the depth chart, as the Saints already have a competent backup in Jameis Winston.
Aidan O’Connell, Las Vegas Raiders
O’Connell started the game for Las Vegas, marking his first start in the NFL. He started hot, completing four passes on four attempts in the first quarter. He unleashed a 35-yard pass to Tre Tucker toward the end of the second quarter, but it was unfortunately called back as Tucker couldn’t maintain possession.
O’Connell was relaxed in the pocket and made good decisions to drive his team down the field. He finished with fifteen completions on eighteen attempts for 141 yards and a touchdown, the best overall stat line out of all the rookies. O’Connell has a real shot at starting if Jimmy Garoppolo gets injured after this week’s performance. Let’s hope he can keep this level of proficiency up.
Aiden O’Connell, by far, had the best performance, but he also had more playing time than Bryce Young and Anthony Richardson combined. Stetson Bennett and Tanner McKee also had solid games showcasing their skills and could be emergency starters after this week. Richardson did not live up to the expectations that come with being a top-five draft pick, but he has plenty of time to grow and learn the ropes, as this is what the preseason is for.
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