Each week, the Washington Post's Mark Maske provides in-depth NFL analysis with "First and 10," a dissection of the league's most important developments from a weekend of action.
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It is becoming a year of rookie quarterbacks in the NFL, by necessity more than by design, with one notable exception.
The rookie quarterback chosen first overall in the last spring's draft.
Rookies Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys are starting. Jacoby Brissett seems likely to take over as the starter this week for the New England Patriots, as they face a short turnaround before Thursday night's game after Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a shoulder injury Sunday. Cody Kessler could inherit the starting job for the Cleveland Browns after Josh McCown, in his first game since taking over for Robert Griffin III, hurt his non-throwing shoulder.
Yet Jared Goff continues to sit and wait his turn for the Los Angeles Rams behind Case Keenum.
Here's a quick look at each situation:
- Prescott got his first victory as an NFL starter and kept the Cowboys from falling to 0-2 when they won, 27-23, Sunday at FedEx Field against the Washington Redskins.
Prescott clearly outplayed the Redskins' Kirk Cousins. The fourth-round pick ran for a touchdown and completed 22 of 30 passes for 292 yards. Dallas's coaches moved Prescott around with frequent rollouts, and he calmly directed a fourth-quarter drive to the Cowboys' go-ahead touchdown. Prescott, while filling in for the injured Tony Romo, is yet to throw a touchdown pass through his first two NFL starts. But he's also yet to throw an interception.
"It's been fun," Prescott said after the game. "I've got great coaches, an unbelievable coaching staff, and great teammates that pick me up every day. I come in and I just focus on the moment. I focus on the day and just try to live in the moment. I've got great people around me helping me do that."
- Wentz makes his second NFL start Monday night for the Eagles at Chicago. He is coming off a superb, 278-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception passing performance in the season-opening triumph at home over the Browns, who traded the No. 2 overall selection in the draft to Philadelphia so it could choose him. Now Wentz must go on the road, where the competition gets a bit tougher.
It was fair to question whether the Eagles went into rebuilding mode when they traded Sam Bradford to Minnesota eight days before the opener and made Wentz the starter. Wentz was, after all, making a big jump from North Dakota State to the NFL and missed almost the entire preseason because of a hairline rib fracture. But if the Eagles win Monday night, they will find themselves tied for first place in the NFC East with the New York Giants at 2-0, a game ahead of the 1-1 Cowboys and two games in front of the 0-2 Redskins.
- Brissett, a third-round draft choice from North Carolina State, made his NFL debut Sunday after Garoppolo reportedly suffered a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.
Brissett completed six of nine passes for 92 yards as the Patriots hung on to beat the Miami Dolphins, 31-24. It is not clear how long Garoppolo will be sidelined. But there is little time this week for him to heal with the Patriots hosting the Houston Texans on Thursday night.
Coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the rest of New England's coaching staff did a magnificent job getting Garoppolo ready to thrive during Tom Brady's four-game Deflategate suspension. They undoubtedly will get the most out of Brissett if the rookie plays Thursday.
"Liked him and Prescott equally in this last draft," Gil Brandt, the former longtime Cowboys executive, wrote of Brissett on Twitter.
At this point, the Patriots pretty much are playing with house money. They won an opening-night game at Arizona that few expected them to win. They are 2-0 and already are ensured of at least breaking even during Brady's suspension, and a triumph over either the Texans or Buffalo Bills would get them to 3-1 before Brady returns.
- The Browns could have stayed put at No. 2 in the draft and taken Wentz. Instead they signed Griffin, traded away that second pick and didn't draft a quarterback until taking Kessler, out of USC, in the third round.
There was little reason to believe entering the season that Kessler would play any time soon, with Coach Hue Jackson seemingly committed to helping Griffin recapture his rookie-year magic with the Redskins. But Griffin is on the injured reserve list after suffering a broken bone in his left shoulder in the opening loss at Philadelphia. McCown started Sunday and began brilliantly, as the Browns raced to a 20-2 lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter.
But the Browns, being the Browns, came from ahead to lose, 25-20. McCown reportedly could not raise his left arm following the game. Kessler could be next.
- The Rams, in their first game back in L.A., evened their record at 1-1 by beating the Seattle Seahawks, 9-3. Keenum played decently, throwing for 239 yards. But the Rams, after being shut out in their opening loss at San Francisco, have totaled only nine points in two games. Could Goff, who was promoted to No. 2 on the depth chart behind Keenum for this game, really do much worse?
. . . AND TEN
1. Peterson's injury:Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Monday to determine the extent of the knee injury that forced him out of Sunday night's triumph over the Green Bay Packers. It certainly didn't look particularly promising when Peterson was helped to the locker room, putting little to no weight on his right leg. He was on crutches and had a brace on his right leg in the postgame locker room, although Coach Mike Zimmer told reporters that the injury had calmed down and might not be serious.
Peterson returned to lead the NFL in rushing in 2012 after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at the end of the 2011 season. But he's now 31 years old and in his 10th NFL season, so there would be room to wonder if his ability to recuperate quickly from another major injury would be as great.
2. Bradford's exploits: Some observers were critical of the Vikings for giving up first- and fourth-round draft picks to the Eagles in the trade for Bradford. But it says here that the deal made perfect sense for both teams, and Bradford's performance Sunday night in his first start for Minnesota was extremely promising for the Vikings.
He threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He outplayed the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, and he helped the Vikings to up their record to 2-0 with a 17-14 win. He even returned to the game after being taken to the locker room for X-rays on a swollen left (non-throwing) hand.
"It's football," Bradford said in a postgame interview with NBC. "It's part of the game. You've just got to stand in there, take the hits and deliver the strikes when your team needs them."
Bradford and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who had nine catches for 182 yards, were in sync. They will have to be the centerpieces of the offense if Peterson's injury turns out to be serious.
"My teammates have been great," Bradford said. "They've been behind me since Day 1 since I got here. Everyone has offered advice. They're all willing to help. I didn't do it on my own tonight. Those guys were right there with me the whole way. And without those guys, none of it would have been possible."
3. Fisher's extension: There have been reports that the Rams have a contract extension in place with Coach Jeff Fisher, ready to be announced. Never mind whether Fisher, who's in the final season of his current five-year deal, deserves an extension after failing to produce even a .500 season for the franchise so far. The Rams, coming off the victory over the Seahawks, had better hurry up and announce the deal while they have a feel-good window in which to do so.
4. Elliott's fumbles: Cowboys rookie tailback Ezekiel Elliott had a reasonably productive day, rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against the Redskins. But it had to be somewhat alarming for the Dallas coaches that Elliott fumbled twice, with the Cowboys losing one of them. With the game on the line late, it was Alfred Morris and not Elliott on the field. Morris ran for the go-ahead touchdown with less than five minutes remaining, then had two carries on the Cowboys' final possession as they ran down the clock and forced the Redskins to use their timeouts.
5. D.C. drama: There is no such thing as just losing with the Redskins. Losing, it seems, always must be accompanied by melodrama. So it was Sunday when the Redskins' defeat to the Cowboys was followed by a report by NBC and Pro Football Talk that there already is grumbling within the locker room about Cousins' play through two games.
Yes, Cousins missed some open receivers Sunday. He threw a dreadful interception in the fourth quarter. His early-season play appears to suggest a measure of regression after his increasingly solid play last season. But this season is, in large part, about finding out whether Cousins, now playing on his franchise-player deal, can be the team's long-term solution at quarterback. No one should be making a judgment after two games, even those within his own locker room.
6. Norman vs. Bryant: Washington's coaches, particularly defensive coordinator Joe Barry, were criticized after the Redskins failed to have cornerback Josh Norman cover Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown all over the field during the opening loss to the Steelers. Norman stuck to his customary side of the field, and covered Brown only when the star wideout lined up on that side of the Steelers' offensive formation.
The Redskins had Norman follow Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant to either side the formation at times Sunday, particularly late in the game. Bryant still had a productive game, with seven catches for 102 yards. Prescott said he took notice of the Redskins' switch in defensive tactics.
"He did [follow Bryant] at some point," Prescott said of Norman. "A guy like that, you've got to give credit to and pay attention to where he is and when he does travel. So I noticed that. But I trust my guys. I stress that to my guys all the time: I trust them against anybody. We've got great playmakers on this team."
7. Garoppolo's success: Garoppolo might play again before Brady returns. He might not.
Either way, his play over the past two weeks has likely earned him a lot of money wherever he signs his next contract, probably with a team other than the Patriots. He has demonstrated that he is NFL starter material by throwing for 498 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions, in less than two full games. He has a passer rating of 117.2, and that's with tight end Rob Gronkowski sitting out both games.
8. Colts' woes: Hey, didn't you used to be the Indianapolis Colts?
Colts owner Jim Irsay surprised many when he retained Chuck Pagano as his coach and Ryan Grigson as his general manager following the team's hugely disappointing 2015 season. Irsay's stay-the-course approach seemed to be based on a belief that all would be well again once quarterback Andrew Luck got healthy once more and returned to the lineup.
Well, Luck is back. But the Colts still aren't very good this season. They dropped to 0-2 with Sunday's 34-20 loss at Denver.
Luck put up good numbers in the team's season-opening loss at home to the Detroit Lions. Things were, predictably, tougher Sunday against the Denver defense, as Luck was sacked five times and threw for only 197 yards. He had an interception and a fumble returned for touchdowns.
Luck still might be the league's next great quarterback. But the team around him appears to have deteriorated significantly, and another awful season will leave many wondering if Irsay did the right thing by keeping things as they were.
9. Steelers in charge: The Steelers are the early favorites in the AFC North after beating the Cincinnati Bengals, 24-16, Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted twice but threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns. The Bengals held Brown in check; he had four catches for 39 yards. But the Steelers again showed the depth of their talent at wide receiver with Sammie Coates producing 97 receiving yards on only two catches. They also stuck with the running game, as tailback DeAngelo Williams needed 32 carries for rush for 94 yards, and got a solid performance by their defense.
The Ravens also are off to a 2-0 beginning. But the Steelers are the early front-runner in the division by virtue of their victory over Cincinnati.
10. What's with G.B.?: The Packers looked disjointed on offense fairly regularly last season. Aaron Rodgers still played well; he always does. But he wasn't at his MVP-caliber best.
That was supposed to change this season with the return of wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed last season because of a knee injury. So far, the results have been disappointing. Rodgers threw for only 199 yards in the opening victory at Jacksonville. He managed 213 passing yards Sunday night at Minnesota. He's completing a modest 57.1 percent of his passes through two games this season, and his passer rating is 82.6. The Packers need much better production if they're going to be a top contender.