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Quarterbacks can’t be behind schedule in the NFL anymore

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NFL: Pro Football Hall of Fame Game-Atlanta Falcons vs Denver Broncos Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock made his NFL preseason debut on Thursday in a 14-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The second round pick out of Missouri played in 28 snaps and completed seven of 11 attempts for 34 yards. But on a play-to-play basis, NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger was critical of Lock’s decision-making and inability to get the ball where it needed to be to help his football team, even if it’s a simple throwaway or avoiding a dangerous sack.

Lock’s follow-up to being the center of attention on Friday as the most notable player in the NFL’s first and only game of the week is on Thursday at 7 PM against the Seattle Seahawks. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio assumed that Lock would take time to develop but given the first-year success of more and more quarterbacks in the last decade, teams expect young signal-callers to show some signs early that they will be exceptions to the rule that most quarterbacks won’t be able to cut it in the NFL.

Lock didn’t do that against (and to be fair, with) backups on Thursday.

I was hoping for more, but [I’m] not surprised,” Fangio said. “He’s still got a lot of work to do. I thought his accuracy wasn’t clean all the time along with his reads, but that’s to be expected. We’ve got four more games and we’ve got to get him ready — more ready than he is right now.”

Rookie quarterbacks in the last 10 years include Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Dak Prescott, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Derek Carr, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, all of whom displayed exceptional skills almost immediately. And then you have the cases of second-year players like Patrick Mahomes who clearly showed incredible potential immediately and then built on that during his first full time opportunity.

One common theme I’m growing more and more curious about recently is how special players don’t actually take time to “develop” like we seem to assume. I mean they do. And some actually do need a few years to develop. But consider so many cases like the ones above — we knew that Wilson should start not only from the early stages of the 2012 preseason but in training camp as well — as well as players at other positions like Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa, or Derwin James. Special has proven to be special. Even if your rookie season is well below what you’re going to do for the next ten years and there is some development, you at least know that player is going to become something special.

Earl Thomas in 2010 comes to mind.

Lock was not a top-10 pick but he was not a sixth round pick either. At pick 42, Lock was drafted to compete as a starter no later than 2020, but that also means that the team is hoping he competes in 2019. He wasn’t going to beat out Flacco, but I’m sure the hope was that he’d make coaches really think about it should Flacco struggle — as we know he could — early.

Dalton was the 35th overall pick and he started in Week 1. Prescott was pick 135 and he started Week 1. Wilson was pick 75 and he started Week 1. They weren’t drafted early but they were starting NFL quarterbacks immediately. Lamar Jackson was pick 32 last year. But how many quarterbacks have we seen drafted on day two or early day three struggle to open their careers and then go on to play as well as either Dalton, Prescott, or Wilson?

It doesn’t happen often. Kirk Cousins comes to mind. But more often you’re seeing Jimmy Clausen, Brock Osweiler, and another quarterback we’ll see a lot of next Thursday, Geno Smith.

It wasn’t a great start for Lock, but it was only a start. Next week he gets his second opportunity and with a Seattle defense feeling it has something to prove and players competing for starting jobs at safety, nickel corner, and all along the defensive line, some side has to give.

And I’ll be there to watch* it.

*have it on in the background after the first couple series

I also wrote a bit about this in the Seaside Joe newsletter. Sign up for the daily Seahawks newsletter to keep you company this season. I am five months into my goal of writing one newsletter per day for a year and you’re not* going to want to miss this!

*actually totally reasonable if you do want to miss this