During the Texans' shutout defeat in New England last Thursday, Belichick took advantage of Osweiler's impatience and tendency to stare down his first receiver. The Texans quarterback has shown off impressive traits early this season, from a big arm to his willingness to throw into tight quarters and hit his talented receivers. But Osweiler will have to prove he can adjust when the opposition takes away his strengths. Every team will build off Belichick's game plan.
There is no NFL Scouting Combine drill that measures a quarterback's ability to constantly evolve, but that's what separates the greats from everyone else. Blake Bortles, Marcus Mariota and Tyrod Taylor have all taken a step back early this season, in part because defenses know better how to take away their favorite plays.
Osweiler can expect similar discomfort in the coming months. His only option is to learn on the job, just without the support of the league's best defensive player.
This is the Quarterback Index. And this is the first week of the season in which we're ranking each quarterback based on 2016 play alone. Things are about to get weird ...
This won't prevent the deluge of hate tweets, but this top five looks bizarre in part because of small sample size. The rankings are now only based on grades from the last three weeks, which means each game played takes on an outsized importance. That's why Jimmy Garoppolo and Dak Prescott are both ranked in the top four of ESPN's QBR, while Wentz is ranked first by Pro Football Focus.
Perhaps Wentz can keep throwing near-perfect games all season, although history tells us that's unlikely. He gets knocked down a few pegs here for quality of competition and partly because the quarterbacks above are asked to do more. Pittsburgh's pass rush Sunday was more inept than the Browns' and Bears' defenses that came before it. Wentz's uncanny ability to accurately hit his 4-5 key throws every game is unquestionable. He makes at least two plays each week after escaping pressure that few others could. He changes speeds like a young Pedro Martinez. Wentz just isn't being asked to carry his teams like Newton, Luck, Stafford and Ryan.
There wasn't a clear No. 1 this week. Newton played two exceptional games and was electric early against Minnesota before the Vikings' defense overwhelmed Carolina up front. Luck has two of my highest-graded games of the year (Week 1 and Week 3) with a rough outing in between. His re-emergence as a top-five talent is one of the big stories to watch at the position this year.
Stafford and Ryan have been the steadiest quarterbacks thus far, which is a strange sentence to write. Ryan has faced a cream-puff schedule, but the level of Atlanta's offensive dominance can't be denied. He looks so much more comfortable in Year 2 under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Meanwhile, we're about two weeks away from a "Matthew Stafford has finally made the leap" article that will be regretted four weeks after that.
The erosion of the Steelers' weapons has impacted Roethlisberger the last two weeks. Markus Wheaton's drops changed the shape of the loss in Philadelphia, and Sammie Coates has proven to be a one-trick pony. (Although he does that one trick -- running really fast down the sideline -- exceedingly well.) The tight end position is extremely underleveraged, and it's a bad sign that slot receiver Eli Rogers' injury was such a setback for the offense. Big Ben can still make enough big plays to win, but it could take this Steelers offense some time to get fully in sync.
Flacco is another veteran quarterback playing well in Year 2 with his coordinator (Marc Trestman). He is getting all his receivers involved and showed in Week 3 that he's not afraid to move on his surgically repaired knee. There aren't many tandems in football more trustworthy on fourth down with the game on the line than Flacco and Steve Smith Sr.
Middle of the pack
Dalton has avoided mistakes and remains one of the NFL's best quarterbacks at throwing up the seams. He's just not getting his usual support up front or from his defense. The team's thinned-out receiver crop isn't helping, either. It was curious, though, to see Cincy go so run-heavy against Denver. The Bengals did not seem confident they could protect Dalton.
Gary Kubiak's approach in Cincinnati was just the opposite. Facing a run defense that had struggled early this season, the Broncos coach broke tendency in order to let Trevor Siemian win the game. After missing throws early, Siemian laudably stayed aggressive. It was one of the best game plans by any coach this month, and Siemian showed increased confidence in letting his talented receivers make plays for him. His pocket movement is undeniable. And any analyst that questions Siemian's arm strength is simply not watching the games.
Bradford is playing effectively despite no running game and a terrible offensive line. The world is a strange place.
Bortles is not hitting his targets and is not seeing the field well. The Ravens' secondary had 11 passes defensed against him, an insane number that shows the defense was one step ahead of the quarterback. The same story played out in San Diego the week before. Jacksonville's big-play offense isn't going deep and linebackers are jumping the team's underneath routes. Bortles has way too many raw skills to give up on because of a few games, although he desperately could use a bounce-back performance against the Colts in London before Jacksonville's bye week. If this play continues, Bortles' future in Jacksonville will be a big question for the Jaguars' next head coach.
Of the quarterbacks above, Brissett and Kessler should be applauded for besting modest expectations in their first NFL starts. Also credit New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Cleveland coach Hue Jackson for putting their young players in position to succeed. Meanwhile, Gabbert's lack of accuracy is likely to have him on the bench watching Colin Kaepernick before long.