At this time of year, every team and every player feels really good about what’s going to happen in the coming season. OTAs are in the rearview mirror, but training camp hasn’t started yet. Nothing went wrong. It’s all about hopes and dreams.
Of course, we know that not everything can go as smoothly as possible for everyone. Some teams and some players are going to take a step back, because that’s how the league works. We’re here today to discuss five quarterbacks (and one team) that could make it in 2021.
The typical NFL quarterback sees a pretty dramatic drop when operating under pressure, compared to what he does in a clean pocket. Over the past four seasons, the league’s average quarterback score has dropped 34.6 points when the passer came under pressure, according to Tru Media. Carr’s passer rating, however, dropped 41 points in the same situations. He was more prone to rolling than the pressured average quarterback – and less likely to throw a touchdown.
On top of that, the Raiders just traded or cut three of his five starting offensive linemen, despite being under below-par pressure in each of the past four seasons. (And well below par last year.) The Raiders also have one of the weakest pass-catching groups in the league outside of star tight end Darren Waller. (Who is this team’s No.1 receiver? Is that Hunter Renfrow?) Jon Gruden is a good player and should give Carr some opportunities, but this list is not well placed for Carr to succeed.
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It’s hard to think of a single player who has had a more degraded situation than Goff. He went from pitching to Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Josh Reynolds and Van Jefferson, behind an offensive line ranked second in foreign footballers’ adjusted sack rate, in an offense whose plays were called by Sean McVay, to throw at Tyrell Williams, Quintez Cephus, Breshad Perriman, Kalif Raymond and TJ Hockenson, behind an offensive line ranked 21st at adjusted sack rate, in an attack whose plays will be called by Anthony Lynn. It seemed clear over the past two years that McVay and the talent around him supported Goff’s performance. Without this safety net, the bottom could very well fall.
The last time Ryan started a season without Julio Jones on his team, he was just 25. He will be 36 this season and he is now five years away from his MVP campaign. Bringing in Kyle Pitts should help ease Jones’s loss somewhat, but there’s a serious lack of perimeter play-making talent here outside of Calvin Ridley. No secondary in the league is afraid of Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus and Christian Blake. Ryan should be throwing easier than usual thanks to new head coach (and former Titans offensive coordinator) Arthur Smith, but Ryan’s age, lack of mobility, and the loss of his blanket / No. 1 target seems likely to lead to a drop in its performance level.
Obviously, neither Lawrence nor Wilson have played in the NFL yet. But if we talk about players we can expect to take a step back from where they were last season, it seems likely that these guys will be included.
Lawrence is currently playing in a loaded Clemson squad behind a leading offensive line with elite weapons, to play for the Jaguars. Wilson was among the best-protected quarterbacks in the country last year, and while the Jets have improved their line a bit, it’s still below par. The rise in terms of competition for both players (and especially Wilson) is real. I think we also have to remember that most rookie quarterbacks just aren’t as successful – and it’s okay for them to struggle a bit with the fit as they go. find out how to use their skills in the pros. Having a less than stellar first campaign doesn’t mean they won’t be very good in the future.
I think it’s really important to note: we still don’t know who will play the Saints quarterback this year! How can we take this team seriously as a contender? Under center, they’ll have either Jameis Winston, who has the league’s second-highest interception rate among 48 passers who have thrown at least 2,500 passes since 2000; or Taysom Hill, who is only vaguely a quarterback and has more rushing attempts than passing attempts in his NFL career.
Sean Payton is one of the best offensive coaches of his or any other generation, but the relentless efficiency with which the Saints offense has evolved during his tenure seems unlikely to be replicated with any of these two players at the quarterback position. They’re going to have to make a ton of adjustments, and it’s just not easy to count that there won’t be a break-in period. Brees was not at his peak last season, but even the sub-peak Brees completed more than 70 percent of his passes at 7.5 yards per attempt. Do you want to bet on Winston or Hill matching this? I do not.