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Saturday, November 17, 2012
Rookies raising the bar for league QB play

By Michelle Sastri

US PresswireRobert Griffin III (left), Andrew Luck (center) and Russell Wilson are among the starting rookie quarterbacks this season.
Last season after Week 10 of the NFL season, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees topped the Total QBR chart, both with 82.7 averages. This year, they average a 71.2. Yet somehow, the league average Total QBR is up to a 57.6 from last year’s 54.0.

Sure, other big names such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are pulling their weight, but the difference is this season’s rookies.

The five starting rookies who began the 2012 season as their teams’ starting quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden) have the highest average Total QBR, a 54.9, of any rookie class since 2009. And, they are far outperforming the quarterbacks they replaced, who averaged a 39.2 through Week 10 last season.

Even though pass completion percentage is about the same between the groups, this season’s rookies are better in key QBR areas.

Facing the blitz, the five rookies have a 61.0 Total QBR, better than both the replaced quarterback’s 37.8 and the non-rookie’s 53.8. In fact, the league leader in Total QBR facing the blitz is Robert Griffin III, with a 97.7. With RG3 at the top of this list, it’s not a surprise that a key component to success facing the blitz is rushing ability. The rookies have a 2-to-1 ratio of rushing first downs to fumbles, not bad considering the same ratio for the non-rookies is 1-to-1.

Blitz pressure isn’t the only area where rookies have raised the bar. With their teams tied or down one possession (zero to eight points) in the fourth quarter, the rookies have a 58.8 Total QBR, a far cry from the 16.1 their predecessors managed last year.

But if the numbers don’t convince you, the play behind them should. Four times this year Andrew Luck and the 6-3 Colts have gotten the win when they started the fourth quarter tied or behind one possession. And don’t forget Week 6 when it wasn’t Tom Brady but Russell Wilson who threw the game-winning pass, giving the Seahawks a 24-23 win against the Patriots.

With rookies not only significantly outperforming their predecessors, but also playing at an overall above average level, average Total QBR through Week 10 is the highest it has been since Total QBR’s inception.