NFC West: Joe Ferguson

Little precedent for Seahawks' Wilson

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
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Five rookies are scheduled to start at quarterback in Week 1 this season.

The NFL has previously had no more than two rookie starters at QB on opening day since the 1970 merger, ESPN Stats & Information notes.

Seattle's Russell Wilson isn't quite the same as the other rookies scheduled to start in 2012. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden were drafted in the first two rounds. Wilson lasted until the third, presumably because teams were skeptical about his relative lack of height.

Wilson will become only the sixth rookie since the merger to make an opening-day start at quarterback after entering the NFL as a draft choice taken in the third round or later. That note comes from Elias Sports Bureau. Wilson stands out from that list as well in that he won the job outright, unlike most of the others.

A quick look at Wilson and the other rookie quarterbacks since 1970 to start in Week 1 as third-round-and-later picks:
  • 2012 Seahawks: The team appeared most likely to start free-agent addition Matt Flynn, but Wilson kept exceeding expectations. Their competition was close most of the way, particularly when viewed through the filter that tends to suppress expectations for rookie quarterbacks. The way Wilson performed in the preseason, especially against Kansas City, validated what the Seahawks were seeing behind the scenes. At that point, Wilson won the job decisively.
  • 2005 Chicago Bears: Fourth-rounder Kyle Orton became the starter by default after Rex Grossman suffered a broken ankle and backup Chad Hutchinson failed to impress. The Bears, with a defense that allowed an NFL-low 12.6 points per game, went 10-5 in games Orton started. Thomas Jones carried 314 times for 1,335 yards. Orton tossed nine scoring passes with 13 interceptions, completing 51.6 percent of his passes. The Bears attempted the third-fewest passes in the NFL that season.
  • 2001 Carolina Panthers: Fourth-rounder Chris Weinke became the starter after Jeff Lewis struggled during the preseason. This would be George Seifert's final season as an NFL head coach. Matt Lytle and Dameyune Craig were the other quarterbacks on the roster. Carolina ranked fourth in pass attempts that season. Weinke had 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions while going 1-14 as the starter. Jim Harbaugh was on the roster that season, but did not play.
  • 1982 Baltimore Colts: First-round pick Art Schlichter's out-of-control gambling had to play a role in another rookie, Mike Pagel, emerging as the starter that year. The Colts went 0-8-1 during that strike-shortened season, all with Pagel as the starter. Pagel went 7-8 as a starter the following season.
  • 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eighth-round choice Randy Hedberg opened the expansion Bucs' second season as the starter. Gary Huff and Jeb Blount also started that season. Tampa Bay went 2-12, then used the 17th pick of the 1978 draft for Doug Williams.
  • 1973 Buffalo Bills: Joe Ferguson started as a rookie and held the job for 12 consecutive seasons. He won four of his first six starts and went 26-16 as a starter over his first three seasons. Ferguson beat out incumbent Dennis Shaw for the job. The Bills leaned heavily on a ground game featuring O.J. Simpson and future Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure.

The chart breaks out Wilson and the five others for a quick look at their combined 20-36-1 record as rookie starters

How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

November, 10, 2009
11/10/09
11:00
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Falling

Boldin
1. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals WR. The Pro Bowl wideout nearly overshadowed the Cardinals' victory Sunday by essentially calling out his head coach for not being "man enough" to tell him about his deactivation in person. On the field, Boldin is as manly as any wide receiver to play the game. In this instance, Boldin should have been man enough after the game to take his case directly to Ken Whisenhunt instead of reporters crowding around him in the locker room at Soldier Field. Don't get me wrong: I've got nothing against players popping off after games. It's good blog fodder. It's also bad form, particularly for a player with Boldin's credentials. The Cardinals had just improved to 4-0 on the road while taking a two-game lead in the NFC West. Their offense had just played its best game. That wasn't the time for an inactive player to hog the spotlight.

Smith
2. Alex Smith, 49ers QB. Let the record show that Smith played a good game against the Titans. That was the word from coach Mike Singletary, anyway. The bottom line, of course, is that the 49ers lost another game with Smith as their starter, and the other team caught three of Smith's passes. The 49ers have lost both of his starts this season and seven of his last nine. When they needed Smith to rally them in the fourth quarter Sunday, Smith locked onto receiver Josh Morgan without enough regard for safety Chris Hope, who picked off the pass. Smith needs a victory over the Bears on Thursday night for Singletary's words of support to resonate with fans.

Mora
3. Jim Mora, Seahawks coach. Seattle's performance in falling behind the Lions by 17 points at home suggested Mora's harsh words for the team failed to gain traction following a blowout defeat at Dallas a week earlier. That seems like a bad sign. Yes, Seattle is learning new systems on both sides of the ball. Yes, the team has dealt with significant injuries this season. That's life in the NFL. The Lions are also learning new systems. They are even breaking in a rookie quarterback (the Lions probably would have won that game if Daunte Culpepper had been the quarterback). The Seahawks were as healthy for this game as they've been all season. Falling behind 17-0 at home to the laughable Lions is simply inexcusable. Perhaps this is the week Seattle responds to Mora's challenges.

Rising

Warner
1. Kurt Warner, Cardinals QB. With five touchdown passes against the Bears, Warner passed Ken Stabler, Steve DeBerg, Joe Ferguson, Bobby Layne, Norm Snead and Ken Anderson on the all-time list. He needs two more to reach 200 touchdown passes for his NFL career. Warner's fifth and final scoring pass against the Bears killed any chances for a Chicago comeback. Whisenhunt had prematurely handed over the offense to Matt Leinart, whose interception helped fuel a Bears rally. The Cardinals were on their heels when Whisenhunt sent Warner back into the game. Warner immediately connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a 13-yard gain. A penalty for leg whipping against left tackle Mike Gandy negated the play, but Warner had nonetheless proved his head remained in the game.

Hawthorne
2. David Hawthorne, Seahawks LB. Lofa Tatupu's legacy as a middle linebacker remains secure in Seattle. He was a three-time Pro Bowl choice and the key addition to a defense that helped the Seahawks reach Super Bowl XL following the 2005 season. Hawthorne has somehow outperformed Tatupu when given chances this season. That's a tremendous credit to Hawthorne. With Tatupu on injured reserve, Hawthorne picked off two passes against the Lions. He had two sacks against Dallas the previous week. He had a 16-tackle game against the Bears earlier in the season. The Seahawks will need to find a place for Hawthorne beyond this season if he builds on what is already an impressive start to his career.

3. Cardinals tight ends. You know the Cardinals' offense is functioning at a high level when tight ends Anthony Becht and Ben Patrick are catching touchdown passes in the same game. The Arizona passing game goes through Fitzgerald and the other wide receivers, but the tight ends could get more chances as the Cardinals embrace two-tight end personnel groups. The Cardinals averaged 6.3 yards per rushing attempt against the Bears when playing with one back and two tight ends. Similar groupings could become more common in the longer-term future if Boldin talks his way out of Arizona -- particularly if the tight ends show they can catch the ball.

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