NFL Preview: The best quarterback class since '83?
The first pass from Andrew Luck found the hands of Donald Brown and went for a 63-yard touchdown, an auspicious beginning for his career as an Indianapolis Colt.
Robert Griffin III, the second pick of April's NFL Draft, hasn't disappointed in the preseason either, leading the Washington Redskins to a 3-1 record and showing the versatile skills that had scouts actually wondering if Luck should have been the top pick.
And not to be outdone, Russell Wilson has almost come out of nowhere to steal the starting quarterback job with the Seattle Seahawks from highly paid veteran Matt Flynn, who came to the team with a three-year $19.5 million deal in the offseason.
NFL history tells us that the 1983 class of quarterbacks is arguably the greatest ever. Six signal-callers were selected in the first round that year. Four of them made the Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. Three (Jim Kelly, John Elway and Dan Marino) are now in the Hall of Fame.
The Class of 2012 has a long way to go to even be mentioned in the same sentence as those greats. Still, the comparisons are being made and the expectation is there. Former Colts president Bill Polian said that this is the most talented crop since that vaunted 1983 class, at least physically. Fan bases in Washington and Indianapolis look at their young stars as franchise saviors.
Luck and Griffin III are considered can't-miss prospects. Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, with a big arm and even bigger potential, has been anointed the starter for the Miami Dolphins. Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, almost 28 years old, has overtaken Colt McCoy in Cleveland. And Wilson has proved to be a dynamic presence in Seattle, so much so that the Seahawks recently traded Tarvaris Jackson to Buffalo, in part because of his dramatic rise.
"He's just been impressive," Seahawks safety Earl Thomas told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "You never want to use the term surprising because I don't necessarily know what to expect. But he's just very impressive to watch. He's a rookie, but he conducts the offense like a veteran."
The class will see five rookies start during opening week. All eyes will be on Luck and Griffin III. So far, neither has done anything to disappoint his franchise.
The Indianapolis offense has grown with Luck during the preseason, while the former Stanford star tries to replace what Peyton Manning used to bring every Sunday. He's struggled at times. More often, however, he's made plays with his arm and his feet.
Luck led three scoring drives in his debut against the St. Louis Rams, went 10 of 16 through the air 188 yards and had a passer rating of 142.7. The next week against Pittsburgh, with one of the best defenses in the league over the last decade, he went 16 of 25 for 177 yards. It was his response to a pair of interceptions, leading touchdown drives immediately after, that impressed many.
"I think it's been incredibly beneficial for me to get as many snaps as I have during the preseason," Luck said during a recent news conference. "It's beneficial for a rookie quarterback to see four different teams during the preseason. I think we've all come a long way since the first game. I look forward to seeing what we can do during the regular season."
Griffin III's statistics aren't as gaudy as Luck's, but he's been arguably just as impressive. Griffin III appears to have a better and more balanced offensive supporting cast than Luck notably a healthier running game.
But Griffin III has shown poise in the pocket. He has developed a relationship with Pierre Garcon, Washington's top wide receiver and a free-agent acquisition brought in specifically to help Griffin III. He has also shown a willingness and ability to throw the deep ball.
"The thing about the preseason is to get out there and to get a feel for the game," Griffin III said to the Washington media last Monday. "We've had fun as an offense and that's the biggest thing. We have to go out and continue to get better."
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