The first night of preseason football turned into a showcase for quarterbacks around the league.
Teams were willing to let their signal-callers take chances in the passing game to assess where they stood in their development following an abbreviated offseason schedule. While it's dangerous to draw conclusions after one game, there were a handful of QBs who caught my attention with their play Thursday night.
The Patriots' Ryan Mallett is the steal of the draft.
The rookie had a sensational debut performance against the Jaguars. Mallett completed 12 of 19 passes for 164 yards with one touchdown on his way to leading the Patriots to two scores in his four possessions. Although he worked against the second-team defense, his pocket poise and awareness were exceptional for a first-year player. He routinely found the safety valve or hot read against blitz pressure and seemed undaunted by the free rushers in his face. Mallett also showed exceptional arm strength, accuracy and touch on intermediate throws. He repeatedly delivered the ball on time, and his decisiveness indicates his quick mastery of the system. Despite the difficulty in finding quality young quarterbacks, it seems the Patriots have picked up a franchise quarterback with their third-round pick.
Michael Vick's sensational year as a passer in 2010 wasn't a fluke.
Vick picked up where he left off a season ago, showing he can be a deadly passer from the pocket. In his brief appearance against the Ravens, Vick connected on 4 of 6 passes for 74 yards with one touchdown. He showed patience and poise in the pocket waiting for his receivers to get open, and he resisted the temptation to rely solely on his legs when things appeared to break down around him. Against the Ravens' blitz, Vick displayed awareness by quickly hitting the hot receiver in the progression. With everyone wondering if he can replicate his remarkable performance as a passer, Vick's impressive debut showcased his continued development as a quarterback.
The Chargers' offense is unstoppable with Philip Rivers at the helm.
Rivers was outstanding in leading the offense to a touchdown in his only possession. He picked apart the Seahawks' defense with pinpoint throws to all areas of the field. Playing without his top weapon (Antonio Gates), Rivers distributed the ball to the Chargers' other playmakers on time, and his exceptional rhythm as a pocket passer makes it tough for defenders to make plays on the ball. With a trio of Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Gates at Rivers' disposal during the regular season, the Chargers' offense will remain a juggernaut in 2011.
Kevin Kolb will thrive in Arizona.
The Cardinals' newest addition didn't produce big numbers in his debut (4 of 6 passes for 68 yards), but showed a budding chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald that will result in tremendous production down the road. The duo hooked up on a pair of deep throws, including a 44-yard completion on a fade route in the Cardinals' second possession, that showcased the trust between quarterback and pass catcher. That faith is essential to the success of the Cardinals' offense due to the attacking nature of their system. With Kolb being able to rely on his top target to come down with contested balls, he will be more aggressive with his throws and produce the big plays that were sorely missed in 2010.
Don't count Tim Tebow out of the Broncos' quarterback competition.
Even though reports coming out of training camp have placed Kyle Orton well ahead in the competition, Tebow's solid performance against the Cowboys will certainly keep him in the mix. He was efficient and effective as a passer and provided a handful of improvisational plays that helped the offense sustain drives. Now, his performance was far from flawless -- Tebow was sacked once and had an interception nullified by a penalty -- but he flashed enough potential as a playmaker to merit a legitimate shot at the starting job. Given Orton's ineffectiveness against the Cowboys, the Broncos should give Tebow some extended playing time against first-stringers to see if he has the game to get it done as a starter.