NFC West: Brandon Weeden

Final 2013 preseason QB snap counts

August, 30, 2013
Six projected starting quarterbacks played in their teams' final exhibition games of the 2013 preseason. The Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson and the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick were two of them, and both led touchdown drives before exiting after one series. None of the NFL's projected starters got hurt Thursday night.

The chart shows week-by-week snap counts for quarterbacks I singled out as projected starters heading into preseason. NFC West alums Kevin Kolb and Matt Flynn might not start after all, but I've left them in the chart for context.

St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher has generally played starters in the final preseason game. He did not this time.

"Typically I have, but I guess in the new world that we’re in, it’s hard to," Fisher told reporters after the Rams' game against Baltimore. "What that implies is that I'm pleased with where they are right now, those guys that sat. They worked hard. We got a great workout and it allowed them to fast-forward their minds to Arizona."

Fisher could have been alluding to the run of higher-profile injuries around the league this summer. Last year, the Rams lost rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers to a high-ankle sprain in the final preseason game.

The Rams emerged from this preseason healthier than their division rivals. That did not stop the 49ers from playing their offensive starters or the Seahawks from playing starters on both sides of the ball Thursday night. The Arizona Cardinals rested most of their starters, though Michael Floyd was one notable exception.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh offered no explanation for playing his starting offense one series. Kaepernick hadn't gotten many snaps through the first three games, however. Getting additional reps for Kaepernick and the team's group of emerging receivers made some sense on the surface.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll went into the final preseason game saying he wanted starters to play because the team values this games as competitive opportunities.

How recently drafted QBs are stacking up

December, 5, 2012
Every team in the NFC West has been starting a quarterback drafted since 2010 in recent weeks.

The trend will likely continue unless Kevin Kolb returns from injury and gets the start for Arizona against Seattle.

I've put together a chart showing 2012 stats for all quarterbacks drafted since 2010 (minimum 10 attempts). They're ranked by Total QBR, which is a rate stat, not a cumulative stat. The order doesn't necessarily reflect how much each player has contributed to his team over the full season. It does generally reflect how well each quarterback has played when given a chance.

Cards make QB change while leading 13-3

November, 18, 2012
The Arizona Cardinals have benched John Skelton after the quarterback missed a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone Sunday.

Skelton entered this game against the Atlanta Falcons needing one interception to tie Ryan Leaf's NFL record for most consecutive games played with at least one pick thrown. Skelton has not been intercepted to this point in the game. However, the Cardinals have only 13 points to show for three picks off Falcons starter Matt Ryan. They lead 13-3.

Skelton has completed 2 of 7 passes for 6 yards. Former starter Kevin Kolb is inactive while recovering from injury. Skelton finished the Cardinals' most recent game, at Green Bay, with a season-high 41.1 Total QBR score. Fifty is average. Skelton entered the game Sunday with a 21.3 score for the season. That ranked 32nd out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks, ahead of only Cleveland's Brandon Weeden (19.9).

Ryan Lindley, a rookie sixth-round draft choice, has never attempted a pass in an NFL regular-season game.

Thursday night reader: Seahawks-49ers

October, 18, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO -- There's not a cloud visible here at Candlestick Park, where temperatures in the low 80s should make for warmer than usual conditions for the 8:20 p.m. kickoff between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

Recommended reading as you await kickoff:
  • Chris Sprow's piece for InsiderInsider is probably the smartest one I've read regarding Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Lots of interesting details. He notes that Wilson, despite being shorter than other quarterbacks, has bigger hands than Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and even Cam Newton. Sprow: "Anybody who's tossed an NFL ball around knows it's not the arm strength, it's being able to wrap your hands around the thing that matters most. One comes before the other. Quarterbacks haven't always been tall because they have to be. They often are because at a young age, QB isn't just determined by who can see over people, but rather by who can actually grip a full-size football. It's not a surprise that some of the bigger kids can do so at a young age, and they become QBs."
  • The against-the-spread staff picks Tim Kawakami passes along invoke the idea that a good team coming off a blowout defeat will play angry the next week, covering the spread. The thinking caught my attention after reading a recent study on that subject. I'm not sure where I saw the study first, but some Googling led me to Beyond the Bets. Their findings: Teams losing by 21-plus points one week recently went 73-76-4 against the spread as favorites the next week. The theory is that oddsmakers adjust for conventional wisdom by increasing the spread. The 49ers opened as a nine-point favorite against Seattle. That spraed fell to seven points. San Francisco is 8-1 against the spread in its past nine divisional home games.
  • Greg Cosell of NFL Films joins Adam Caplan in breaking down the Thursday night game for their podcast. Cosell analyzes all the coaching video and offers thoughts regularly. Here's the audio link. He thinks the Seattle run game will struggle against the 49ers after surprisingly struggling against New England. He questions whether Wilson can connect on deep throws against the 49ers even though he thought Carlos Rogers and Chris Culliver struggled some against the Giants. Cosell also breaks down Alex Smith's struggles in that game.
  • Bill Simmons is taking the Seahawks from his seat near the front of the Wilson bandwagon.
  • ESPN Stats & Information notes that Wilson has thrown all six of his interceptions on the road this season. There are also notes on the 49ers' Smith and Frank Gore.

Less than four hours til kickoff now. I'm sitting here in the press box with eight fans. These fans are the oscillating kind. Like I said, it's warm here.

Batting around views on Russell Wilson

September, 7, 2012
Bill Polian likes what he sees Insider from Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.

Polian, the former NFL executive and current ESPN analyst, thinks height issues won't matter so much in a West Coast offense incorporating quarterback movement off play-action and bootlegs. Wilson, as you might have heard, stands 5-foot-10 and 5/8.

K.C. Joyner isn't so sure Insider. He anticipates too many batted passes and a so-so rookie season.

Wilson had three passes batted while at Wisconsin last season, according to Allison Loucks of ESPN Stats & Information. The chart shows three of the other four 2012 rookie starters having suffered batted/tipped passes more frequently. Only top overall choice Andrew Luck had fewer than Wilson among these players. Ryan Tannehill had five times as many as Wilson.

Wilson did suffer from 12 batted or tipped passes on 527 attempts while at North Carolina State in 2010 but he had a stronger supporting cast last season. He didn't have to force as many throws. That could explain some of the difference.

I checked in with Joyner on Friday for some additional thoughts. Here's what he said:
"My bigger concern was his varying level of play between collegiate programs. When he was at Wisconsin last year, Wilson was on a squad that had three All-Big Ten linemen, a Heisman Trophy contender at running back, an NFL-caliber prospect at receiver (Nick Toon) and an alternate target in Jared Abbrederis, who actually was more productive than Toon.

"Compounding those positive factors was a schedule against the mediocre Big Ten secondaries. The best cornerback in that conference wouldn't have even cracked the top four cornerbacks in the Big 12.

"Now, compare that to 2010 when Wilson was at N.C. State. The Wolfpack did not have anywhere near the offensive talent the Badgers had last year and Wilson finished fifth in the conference in passer rating and sixth in YPA.

"That leads to a thought that Wilson tends to perform to the talent level around him. If that is the case in Seattle, which has solid but certainly not great talent on offense, we could see a return to the 2010 Wilson, who would not have generated the draft day buzz the 2011 Wilson generated."

Joyner pointed to Scott Tolzien, now with the San Francisco 49ers, as another example of a quarterback benefiting from his time at Wisconsin. But he also allowed for the possibility that Wilson did indeed improve dramatically at Wisconsin. We'll start seeing a fuller picture Sunday in Arizona.

"I'm not saying he's going to fail," Joyner said. "I'm of the mindset he'll struggle early. I need to see it against NFL defenses in the regular season before signing off."

Earlier: Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks Wilson makes Seattle an NFC West favorite.
Pete Carroll and his Seattle Seahawks coaching staff have shown little use for conventional wisdom.

They've built a strong, ascending defense in decidedly unconventional fashion. As discussed Tuesday, we'll be better off setting aside the usual templates when analyzing what Carroll and the Seahawks might do at quarterback.

Yes, it is possible the team will go into the 2012 regular season with a rookie third-round quarterback standing less than 5-foot-11. Russell Wilson will need a strong exhibition season and training camp to make that happen, of course.

Tony Softli, former personnel evaluator for the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams, backed Wilson as an immediate threat to Matt Flynn. He also called Wilson a future star.

"Flynn will have his hands full in a training camp competition against this star in the making," Softli predicted.

A big thanks to Nick Andron for passing along what has to be the most in-depth analysis on Wilson to date.

Matt Waldman's debut piece for Football Outsiders ran in early April, before the draft and well before Wilson made a positive first impression during offseason practices. Waldman studied three games from Wilson's career at North Carolina State, each against a strong ACC opponent. He saw a smart, resourceful player with a strong arm, uncanny deep-ball accuracy (even on the move) and solid fundamentals. He stopped short of guaranteeing Wilson's success, but he saw parallels between Wilson and Drew Brees.

"Considering the examples from Wilson's junior year in the Atlantic Coast Conference where he’s effective on deep passes off play-action, throws receivers open, and improvises on the move, his potential to develop into an NFL quarterback is better than his height may indicate," Waldman wrote. "Still, it is reasonable to approach Wilson’s NFL prospects with skepticism. Brees never overcame doubts from the organization that drafted him. ... However, as Brees, Tom Brady, Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck, Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, and several others have demonstrated, careers don’t end due to an inauspicious beginning."

There has been nothing inauspicious about Wilson's beginning to this point. He's fallen into a perfect situation, one featuring an open-minded coaching staff, no established starter and a zone scheme requiring quarterback movement.
St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke doesn't say much publicly. He generally doesn't convey emotions.

As a result, we're left to wonder to what degree he wants the Rams to remain in St. Louis.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the Rams' proposed stadium renovations indicate Kroenke is serious about keeping the team in town. Burwell: "Look very carefully at the plan. It is not an over-the-top, ostentatious, football-only counteroffer that attempts to thrust the Dome to the very top of the National Football League's most extravagant stadiums. It's not an outrageous plan that feels like the sort of crazy counteroffer whose sole intent is to blow up the entire process, thus allowing Kroenke to scoot off to Los Angeles as quickly as possible. What the Rams have put in front of us is a design whose intent is to make the Edward Jones Dome something that works for all of St. Louis, not just the football team." Noted: I also thought the Rams' proposal seemed reasonable under the circumstances. It's all part of a process that will continue, most likely, with arbitration beginning June 15. That arbitration would be binding for the Rams if the stadium authority accepted the arbiter's proposal. The Rams' lease would then extend through 2025. Otherwise, the Rams would go year-to-year on their lease beginning in March 2015.

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports says Pete Carroll, like Tom Landry decades ago, seems to think competition at quarterback can be a healthy thing. Roger Staubach: "Coach Landry thought the quarterback just went in and executed the play the way everybody else does what they're supposed to do. He didn't understand that quarterback was different. It took him awhile to get that. … It got to the point where I really didn't care if it was me or not and I think Craig (Morton) felt the same. Yeah, you want to play, but both of us just wanted a decision." Noted: The Seahawks are not yet to that point, in my view. Matt Flynn owns two regular-season starts. Russell Wilson has never played in even an exhibition game. Tarvaris Jackson has the look of a journeyman at the position. Committing to one of them wholeheartedly at this point would be premature.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle came away impressed after watching Wilson's first practice with the team. Huard: "My first minicamp practice was spent just trying to call the play correctly. Wilson's first practice consisted of team, seven-on-seven, routes versus air and individual drills where it was difficult to find a misguided pass. Sure, he had a few passes tipped at the line and in the secondary, but his completion percentage was north of 80, and this is with guys he didn't even know by name. It would be fun to compare Wilson's initial camp with his draft-day peers: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler & Co. While Tannehill, like Wilson, has a background in his current offensive system, I can't imagine any of the rookie passers making more of an impression than Russell.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers thoughts on the Seahawks' recently concluded rookie camp. On Bruce Irvin: "The first day of practice was a little bit of a challenge in his conditioning, but even then, you saw bursts of that speed off the edge as he jetted around Alex Barron. Yes, Barron has been out of the league for a year, but we're also talking about a former first-round pick of a tackle. Irvin might not start right away, but he's going to have a role as a pass rusher right off the bat, and he showed this weekend he has the speed to make the most of it." Noted: That's good news for the Seahawks. I watched the first day of practice and thought Barron's length and experience created challenges Irvin would not have faced had he gone against rookies instead.

Clare Farnsworth of runs a photo showing Carroll as a college player, with the third-year Seahawks coach recalling how he found out no NFL team had drafted him back in 1973.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers thoughts on LaMichael James' upbringing in a tough neighborhood. Barrows: "I could just have easily written about the Texarkana neighborhood in which he grew up. James, in fact, credits both his grandmother and his home town with forging him into the man and the player he is today. That neighborhood is on the Texas side of town and is known as Beverly. James described it as a virtual war zone. ... I talked to one of his coaches and asked him if he thought James was embellishing a bit. No, he said, Beverly was that bad. His sister, Tasha, who is 16 years his senior and who is extremely protective of her little brother, wanted him to get as far away from Texarkana as he could."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle puts into perspective A.J. Jenkins' conditioning. Branch: "To those up in arms, I invite you to travel back to early June when Smith, the No. 7 overall pick, arrived at San Jose State during the lockout for his first workout with veteran teammates such as Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald and Parys Haralson. How'd that go for Aldon? Well, Sopoaga was still laughing about the rookie’s performance a week after he debuted."

Darren Urban of checks in from the Cardinals' annual golf tournament. Urban: "There are serious golfers, like coach Ken Whisenhunt and kicker Jay Feely, some middle-of-the-road guys who all seemed to hit good shots when the cameras were around (at least, that’s what they were telling us) and other guys who you should be careful to be around when they are taking a shot (Um, Beanie, about that swing …)."

Gruden QB Camp: Brandon Weeden's turn

April, 18, 2012

NFL teams covet players whose passion for the game makes them put football first.

Brandon Weeden, one of the top quarterbacks in the 2012 NFL draft, put baseball first -- for good reason. The New York Yankees made him a second-round pick in 2002, in part because Weeden, a shortstop-turned-pitcher, could throw a baseball in the 90s consistently (as in 90-plus miles per hour, as opposed to the 1990s).

Now 28, Weeden continually faces questions about his age, a subject ESPN's Jon Gruden raised during his latest conversation with a top quarterback prospect. That video is available above and is the latest installment in a series that has already covered quite a few college prospects at the position.

Mel Kiper jr. sent Weeden to Cleveland at No. 37 in a recent mock draft Insider. Todd McShay agreed Insider, as did Pat Kirwan of Which can only mean the Browns will not take Weeden. Kidding. Unless I'm right.

One dissenting opinion: Rob Rang has Weeden going to Miami at No. 42, with the Browns taking Ryan Tannehill fourth.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Quick thoughts after a second session watching quarterbacks and receivers at the NFL scouting combine in Lucas Oil Stadium:
  • Who did not throw: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler were among the more highly regarded quarterbacks opting not to throw Sunday. I was watching receivers more than quarterbacks in this session. Kellen Moore, Darron Thomas and Brandon Weeden were among the quarterbacks throwing.
  • Who did not catch: Alabama receiver Marquis Maze struggled holding onto the ball. He caught only 9 of 14 passes while running through the gauntlet drill with quarterbacks firing passes at him in rapid succession, seven per drill over two drills. He dropped one pass on a hitch route and watched another go through his hands without making contact.
  • Running the gauntlet: Overall, receivers were much more effective in the first of the two gauntlet drills. Nineteen of the 24 receivers I charted caught all seven the first time through, with Maze dropping three, Miami's Tommy Streeter dropping two and two players, Arizona State's Gerell Robinson and Fresno State's Devon Wylie, dropping one apiece. Only 11 of the 24 receivers in this group caught all seven the second time through.
  • Who showed surest hands: Washington's Jermaine Kearse, Iowa's Marvin McNutt, Penn State's Derek Moye, Stanford's Chris Owusu, Toledo's Eric Page, Appalachian State's Brian Quick, Rutgers Mohamed Sanu and Baylor's Kendall Wright did not drop passes during the gauntlet drills or when I was watching them in other drills. The ball barely made a sound when McNutt caught it.
  • Sitting out: Wisconsin's Nick Toon did not participate in receiving drills with this group. He's been dealing with a foot injury. Toon did run 40-yard dashes, running in the 4.5s, and he participated in the vertical jump.

This was the second of two trips inside Lucas Oil Stadium as part of groups organized by the Pro Football Writers of America. I'll remain here until Monday morning, working from the media room at the stadium.