There is something refreshing about season 2016. New blood paves the way for the typical order of the NFL to change, even if only for a fleeting moment. Examining 3 weeks of a campaign shouldn’t allow for sweeping conclusions or hyperbole over the state of the nation, simply an opportunity to pick up on any trends that are taking place.
Two quarterbacks are helping this movement by breathing life, energy and hope into their respective franchises. On one hand, there is Carson Wentz – the unheralded ginger who was passed over by the Cleveland Browns of all teams before rocking up at the City of Brotherly Love. The Philadelphia Eagles believe they are now playing in “Wentzelvania.”
The hype and excitement around this guy is palpable. The 23-year old from North Dakota State in 3 starts has shown more poise, confidence and ability to execute under pressure than the likes of seasoned professionals including Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins and Andrew Luck. It is very early days but the signs are there that Philly have a gem on their hands.
The five scoring drives that Wentz produced in Week 1 against the Browns, as if to rub insult into injury for the maligned franchise, provided the kick start they were looking for in the 29-10 win. Yet a victory in that environment will never have people in the NFL doing cartwheels – a 34-3 demolition of the Pittsburgh Steelers however is an entirely different scenario.
Throwing for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns was an incredible achievement, with the number 2 draft choice outshining the decorated Ben Roethlisberger in the process. Virtually no one bar our very own NFL Fantasy expert Chris Sinclair saw that coming and it laid down a marker for the QB.
It won’t just be the Cleveland Browns that will be kicking themselves. So often a club will opt for a safe pair of hands in the form of a veteran QB that has been around the block. Sometimes it will work, but taking the examples of the Chicago Bears (Jay Cutler), New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees) and San Diego Chargers (Philip Rivers), maybe the time is ripe to throw caution to the wind in the chance that they will find the next big thing in the game.
Neither of those 3 franchises are going to win the Super Bowl anytime soon, so the dynamic of an ageing quarterback appears at odds with the standing of the team.As the adage goes, if you’re standing still then you’re going backwards.
Then there is Dak Prescott at the Dallas Cowboys. An outfit that is accustomed to glitz and glamour, the team that last tasted Super Bowl success some 21 years ago has been putting up with Tony Romo on and off the park for 13 of those barren years. For all his Pro Bowl appearances and endorsement deals, perhaps it takes a fearless kid from Mississippi State University to finally take the gun out of the Cowboys holster.
He had a night out at AT&T Stadium against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football, going 19-24 and throwing 248 yards including one passing touchdown. The 31-17 victory flattered the visitors and it was more than just the mere stats and figures that Prescott is producing, it is that intangible gift that the best quarterbacks possess to sit in the pocket, utilising every precious second before the defence finally pierces through the line, and making that inch-perfect throw that separates the good from the great.
Just as we thought the freshmen class could not get any better, Bill Belichick gives third-string QB Jacoby Brissett an opportunity in prime time on Thursday Night Football and he takes it with both hands. In the 27-0 shutout against JJ Watt and co., the 23-year old from Florida and NC State went 11 for 19 for 103 yards, but added a sneaky 48 yards and a touchdown off his own esteem.
Tom Brady is due back this week from his Deflategate suspension, pushing Jimmy Garoppolo and Brissett to the sidelines for the foreseeable future. Yet at 39 Brady does not have a mortgage on the starting role beyond his 40s and one of these reserves will surely stick around to fill the enormous void the champion will leave when he eventually hangs up the helmet.
2016 will continue to provide extensions of the same narratives we’ve been watching for seasons, but the rookie quarterback class coming through the ranks are giving the Eagles, Cowboys and even the Patriots an extra bounce in their step. Long may it last.