Four Downs with David: How the 2018 QB Class Fared in Week One
Welcome back to “Four Downs with David.” In this week’s article, we will be using each down (and corresponding wing flavors) to rank the 2018 rookie quarterback class based on their 2019 week 1 performances. Considering we only have four downs to cover, for the purposes of these rankings, we are going to exclude Josh Rosen (as he didn’t play a complete game).
These rankings are purely based on the week 1 outcomes, and don’t necessarily indicate my long-term opinion/ranking of the class. There are arguments to be made that the Bills very own Josh Allen should be atop this list, but I believe it would be a disservice to Lamar Jackson and the excellent performance he put forth against the Dolphins in Miami.
Coincidently, these rankings are in reverse order of where each quarterback was drafted back in 2018.
1st Down: “Extra Hot Buffalo” – Lamar Jackson
Extra hot buffalo is the perfect wing flavor for a mathematically perfect game played by Mr. Lamar Jackson. Even if you want to discount Jackson’s performance based on the fact the Ravens were playing the seemingly tanking Dolphins, his pristine stat line really can’t be ignored.
The questions surrounding Jackson heading into 2019 centered on whether he could develop as a passer to compliment his electric running ability. At least for one week, he answered those questions with a resounding, “Yes.” Jackson completed 17/20 passes for 324 yards and an astounding five touchdowns as the Ravens cruised to a 49 point victory. Jackson even conceded late game snaps to Robert Griffin III due to the fact the game was completely out of hand.
Jackson did not have to do much with his legs, as he ceded the rushing workload to newcomer Mark Ingram, who rumbled for 107 yards on a mere 14 carries. Jackson couldn’t have played much better, and from a statistical perspective, he actually could not have been better…as he finished the day with a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating. Obviously, playing the lowly Dolphins clearly helped Jackson in this matchup, so time will tell if he can continue playing at a high level as a passer, but the Ravens have to be ecstatic with what they saw on opening day.
2nd Down: “Hot Buffalo with Blue Cheese” – Josh Allen
Josh Allen had a far from perfect game against the Jets, as he notably turned the ball over four times in the first half. I will leave the discussion on which turnovers were truly Allen’s fault for others to debate. In what became the tale of two halves (or really, first three quarters vs. the final quarter), Allen produced some clutch plays late in the game on his way to rallying the Bills to victory.
Late into the third quarter, the Bills were facing a 16-0 deficit before Allen shook off what was surely looking like one of his worst games as a pro, and, instead, played one of his best (if not, the best) quarters of his young career.
Borrowing a line from Ghostbusters fame, “We have the tools, and we have the talent” perfectly describes Josh Allen in my mind. He possesses all of the physical gifts you look for in a franchise quarterback, but the development of the mental side of his game shouldn’t go unnoticed. On the decision making front, he absolutely needs to improve on when/where he makes some of his throws, but he’s also shown a penchant for immediately forgetting the “bad plays” with each successive drive/series.
With a little help from his friends (ahem, Devin Singletary and John Brown), Allen put three subpar quarters behind him to deliver on a sparkling 4th quarter, completing 8 of 10 passes for 103 yards and the game winning touchdown pass. “Clutch” is the term being thrown around a lot by fans, and I can’t disagree that Allen’s 4th quarter certainly felt clutch to me. In his young career thus far, Allen has thrown more passing yards and touchdowns in the 4th quarter than in any other single quarter.
3rd Down: “Honey Barbecue” – Sam Darnold
Sam Darnold’s performance on Sunday was the epitome of basic honey barbecue…tame and sweet, lacking any kind of real punch. Darnold completed a very “professional” 68 percent of his passes on 28 completions, and did not turn the ball over at all against the Bills. However, those 28 completions only resulted in 175 yards and very few noteworthy plays.
Darnold was doing his best Trent Edwards/Tyrod Taylor impersonation, dumping the ball off to Jamison Crowder and Le’Veon Bell consistently throughout the game. To Darnold’s credit, he was largely taking what the defense was giving him, as the Bills struggled all day to defend the slot. Crowder smoothly corralled 14 receptions for 99 yards, as the Bills held outside threat Robby Anderson to a meager 3 catches for 23 yards.
On one play in particular, Darnold took a deep shot to Anderson, who was open on the play, but badly overthrew him. In my opinion, it was not so much what Darnold did on the field, but rather, it was what he didn’t do that ultimately played a role in the Jets losing this game.
The Bills defensive line certainly played a part in forcing Darnold to get rid of the ball quickly (they also sacked him four times), but he failed to connect on any meaningful plays down the field, allowing the Bills defense to repeatedly get off the field on 3rd downs. Darnold’s longest completion of the day went for 19 yards. Conversely, Josh Allen connected on four separate passes of 20 or more yards, two of which occurred on what would ultimately be the game winning drive.
There is no doubt that entering this game, the media had put Darnold on a pedestal above Allen, and especially so given that the Jets were playing at home. For these reasons, Darnold’s clean, yet hollow, stat line did not overly impress me in this game.
4th Down: “Mild with Ranch” Baker Mayfield
Dip the Browns mild effort on Sunday in ranch, folks. Baker Mayfield and the Browns were humbled by the Titans on Sunday, falling at home in a disappointing 43-13 blowout. While the Browns were not strong in any phase of the game, Mayfield appeared exceptionally pedestrian in throwing three interceptions, while also being sacked five times.
The hype train on the Browns 2019 season came to a screeching halt by the time the 1pm games were in their closing moments. Well…maybe not a screeching halt, but the train has undoubtedly slowed its pace. Although Mayfield threw for nearly 300 yards while completing over 65 percent of his passes, he failed to lead the Browns into the end zone other than one first quarter touchdown pass to David Njoku.
In a “normal” year, most fans and analysts would write this game off as “typical Browns,” but the darlings of the NFL offseason are not getting a free pass from me today. Were the Browns and Mayfield overconfident heading into opening weekend? The short answer is…probably so, but time will tell whether this will “wake them up” or send them spiraling downward.
I still believe the Browns are a very talented team, and should compete for a playoff spot this season, but the pass protection and Mayfield’s play will need to drastically improve going forward. A showdown with the Jets on Monday Night Football awaits Mayfield and the Browns in week two. An extra day of rest after getting knocked around on Sunday should be beneficial to Baker’s bruised right wrist (and a potentially bruised ego).