NFL QB Rookie Rankings Week 14: Zach Wilson shows progress, Jacksonville might break Trevor Lawrence

Doing the NFL Rookie QB Rankings can be a drag, honestly. Three of the four rookies currently seeing game action are in atrocious situations. All three are on talent-devoid rosters, and some also suffer from incompetent coaching staffs. Only Mac Jones is a beaming light of positivity, but he went and only threw the ball 3 times on Monday Night Football. Justin Fields became a positive, but an injury took that from us too. Only Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson remained for this week’s breakdown. Yikes!

NFL QB Rookie Rankings | The better Week 13 performance

Wilson had a better day than Lawrence, which is something that hasn’t been uttered many times this season.

Letting Wilson “sling it”

The emergence of Elijah Moore has been a godsend to Wilson since he returned from injury. But the Jets have also — on multiple occasions — ran a deep curl concept with seven-plus in protection, a throw that Wilson apparently loves.

In fact, I talked about one just last week. They’re impressive passes. The Jets tweaked the formation here, substituting a receiver for the fullback. Also, the previous attempt came against a single-high safety and Cover 3, whereas this one comes against a two-high look. Moore keeps this one up the numbers instead of shading in, and Wilson delivers a strike away from the linebacker and safety on the inside.

Something I surmised with Wilson during the draft cycle — and now early as a pro — is that the more complex or tight a throw is, the more accurate he becomes. There’s an “aim small, miss small” element to his game as a passer.

This particular throw is a beauty. If no defender is bearing down on him, Wilson could have delivered a dart by the earhole of linebacker Alex Singleton. Instead, he floats a fadeaway to a spot and allows Corey Davis to run under it. It would not have been a simple reception, but Davis should have caught it.

Overall, his numbers certainly weren’t great, but Wilson looked more in control of his on-field product in this game than he had before Week 13. It’s why he’s at the top of the two-horse race in the NFL QB Rookie Rankings.

Avoiding the big mistake

I think this is simply a case of trying to do too much. Here, the Jets are down 28-17 early in the fourth quarter. Wilson attempts to move the hook defender to the field with a shoulder shrug, but that also moved Rodney McLeod toward his target.

As Wilson resets to throw, I imagine he saw McLeod scurrying to the catch point. If he throws it anywhere but into the turf or high, it’s an easy interception.

So, he tries to let Jamison Crowder elevate for the catch, but he overshoots his target, and the interception occurs anyway. However, this was a third-down throw outside of field goal range, and he was probably trying to make a play. However, if he takes the throw on the hash, they get positive yards and possibly go for it on fourth down.

Accuracy issues

The misses are still abundant. In fact, only Lawrence completes fewer passes than expected. I am not a mechanical expert, and with so many different styles working in the NFL, I don’t care to become one. What I do know is Wilson will improve this part of his game, as will Lawrence.

NFL QB Rookie Rankings | Breaking Trevor Lawrence?

I pose this as a question not just to us but also to Lawrence. The Jacksonville Jaguars are trying their damndest to ruin him in his first season playing QB in the NFL. The good news is, if it doesn’t work out, maybe he could play safety for them!

The parts are all there

I’ve watched this play through at least 40 times now. Lawrence sometimes does things in such an aesthetically pleasing manner that you wonder how he’s playing as one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. His flashes are incredible, but they weren’t abundant against Los Angeles, which hurt him in this week’s Rookie Rankings for NFL QBs.

The way he plants that right foot, torques his midsection through, gathers with the left, and then fires off the plant foot is already a treat. Seeing him again somehow get his kinematic sequencing corrected to rip that torso back through and generate velocity with accuracy is the cherry on top.

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The decisiveness and ability to execute into such a tight window is more mesmerizing from the end-zone angle. The Rams have a bit of a miscommunication on their responsibilities defending the bunch post-snap (which is why teams often use it).

But with Jordan Fuller bearing down, if Lawrence waits for another split second, this pass is going the other way.

Accuracy issues

These are the throws people will kill quarterbacks on, but that’s not necessarily fair. If James Robinson doesn’t temper his pace, this is a catchable football. The above video shows just how narrow the margins are in the NFL and why “fault” can be so tricky to divvy out.

But the saddening truth is this happens almost constantly between the Jaguars’ pass catchers and their rookie quarterback. Between dropped passes, wrong routes, or wrong route depths, the communication and the marriage between quarterback and receivers are in shambles.

I don’t think it gets fixed this season. Hopefully, things will be far cleaner with a new head coach at the helm in 2022. If not, we may never see the Lawrence we thought could blossom. It’s why he stays low in the NFL QB Rookie Rankings.

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