QB Index: Early season awards


Andrew Luck has been my favorite player in the league to watch since his rookie season. He might also be one of the most misunderstood.

Luck is flashy. He pulls off more "wow" throws than any quarterback, often from impossible spots. He moves well in the pocket, takes hits and delivers gems. He does not have "underrated athleticism." He has speed and explosiveness that were on par with Cam Newton at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Luck is also streaky. Even Indianapolis Colts fans will admit that Luck's accuracy can be erratic. He can run hot and cold for a quarter or a half at a time, and it's not always about his shaky offensive line. He had fine protection against Philadelphia on Monday night, but Luck has a tendency to sail passes and he often goes from inaccurate to dialed-in during the same game. It's happened in both of his games this season.

In this way, Luck is similar to Newton and Colin Kaepernick. Russell Wilson probably has the claim of the most consistent young quarterback, even if his ceiling doesn't seem as high as his competition.

This is not intended as a slam on Luck or a lack of belief in his future. It's a recognition that he's far from a finished product, and he hasn't made that leap to the top of the NFL just yet.

Luck would get our award for the "most misunderstood" young quarterback in the league. So let's hand out some other awards from the first two weeks

Ugliest interceptions

Josh McCown has possibly scared Lovie Smith into playing too conservatively. After a rough Week 1 with terrible protection, McCown came out playing well early against St. Louis in Week 2. And then he threw one of the worst interceptions of the season, which has become an early habit for McCown.

After that, Smith relied almost exclusively on Bobby Rainey and the running game. The team didn't even try to score to end the first half because it didn't want to make a mistake. Instead of pushing for touchdowns late in the game, Smith was content to kick field goals. We only charted three bad passes from McCown the entire game. He only passed the ball 21 times overall! In 2015, Smith needs to realize that he doesn't have the defense to win while playing 1970s-style football.

Hardest to figure out

For the second consecutive week, Geno Smith looked spectacular on a handful of plays. He's not afraid to go deep and can deliver pretty passes under pressure. His footwork and movement have seemingly improved. Smith cut down on the mental mistakes in Green Bay, but he also piloted a squad that scored just three points in its last nine drives. The Jets' offense was lost without Eric Decker. Smith shows all the signs of improving this year, but he hasn't been able to put together a complete game.

Honorable mention in this category goes to Ryan Tannehill. Pro Football Focus ranks him as their No. 2 quarterback thus far. ESPN's QBR ranks him as its second-worst quarterback. The truth is somewhere in the middle, but the game tape leans closer to the QBR ranking.

Tannehill says he's "upset at (himself)" for the way he's played, which has included way too many routine short throws. (And not enough of the eye-opening plays he pulled off as a rookie.)

Same as it ever was

The NFL around Peyton Manning changes, but his offense hums along with almost-boring excellence. Manning's arm is possibly the weakest of any starting quarterback, but he's testing the field deep now and then to nice results. The team around Manning is only getting better. Julius Thomas appears to be taking another step forward, Emmanuel Sanders is a great addition and Wes Welker will be back on the field in Seattle.

Aaron Rodgers' Week 1 performance in Seattle wasn't as bad after a second look. The offense was out of synch against Seattle, but Rodgers has been very accurate both weeks. He was exceedingly comfortable in the pocket against the Jets and looked ready to go on a streak of destruction.

Best support

The Bengals' offense looks better under coordinator Hue Jackson. The team dispatched the Atlanta Falcons with ease despite not having A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert. And Andy Dalton didn't have to do much. He had four poor red zone throws in the first half against Atlanta. The first 10 plays of the game were runs or passes to running backs. Most of Dalton's yards came on dump-off passes in the first half, but he enjoyed a very hot, clean stretch to open the second half to put the game away. Including this beautiful throw:

Dalton has played two clean games, supported by outstanding pass protection, a great running game and a better defense. The Bengals aren't winning despite Dalton, but they also aren't winning because of him. It feels like Jackson's been running this show for years, and it should only get better.

Most concerning start

Tony Romo followed up one of the worst games of his career in the season opener to a strangely passive second game in Tennessee. Romo appears to have lost something off his fastball, or he was playing hurt against the Titans. (Romo sat out practice Wednesday with back tightness.) He missed a high percentage of routine throws against Tennessee even when he wasn't pressured. The Cowboys aren't even trying to go deep at the moment. Another bad outing or two would raise serious red flags.

Nick Foles followed up his near-meltdown in Week 1 with a performance on "Monday Night Football" that was still below par. He missed open receivers and didn't see a lot of open ones. Most of his yardage came from dump offs and screen passes. Imagine how much the Eagles will score when Foles improves.

The latest Around The League Podcast breaks down the latest on Adrian Peterson and continues the search for this year's "Team Of ATL."