NFL's 5 rookie QBs are winning at record rate


NFL's 5 rookie QBs are winning at record rate

MIAMI (AP) As a rookie starter, Ryan Tannehill learns on the job, and since the season began he has become better at stepping forward in the pocket, throwing past tall pass-rushers and avoiding passes into coverage, especially at crunch time.

Even his slide improved. The Miami Dolphins quarterback was gently scolded by a teammate during the exhibition season for his brazen scrambling, and Tannehill now tries to hit the ground before tacklers arrive.

``He understands his value to the team, and how he needs to be able to play the next play for us,'' offensive coordinator Mike Sherman says.

All five rookie starting QBs in the NFL have showed their value this season. They're not only playing, but winning - at least some of the time. Last week the quintet of Tannehill, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson went 4-1.

``That's a little different from what people would assume would happen to rookies,'' Sherman says.

The one-week victory total tied for the second-most by first-year starting quarterbacks since 1970, according to STATS LLC, supporting the argument that this crop of new QBs ranks with the best ever.

But wait. The record of five victories in one week was set in 1974 by this group: Jesse Freitas of San Diego, Larry Cipa of New Orleans, Larry Lawrence of Oakland, Mike Boryla of Philadelphia and Tom Owen of San Francisco. Each ended up in obscurity, not in the Hall of Fame.

So are these 2012 guys really fancy passers, or merely a passing fancy?

To judge their potential, a more meaningful statistic might be their 13-16 record going into Wilson's game with Seattle against San Francisco on Thursday night. That .448 winning percentage won't get anyone to the playoffs, but the rookies were nonetheless on pace to break the season record of 26 victories by first-year quarterbacks set in 2004.

That group included Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer and Eli Manning, but also Craig Krenzel, Drew Henson and Ken Dorsey.

At the moment, the 2012 rookies look more like Big Ben than Ken, although all of the newcomers have been humbled at times.

``They're probably all dealing with the same issues - trying to play at a high level, and once they play at a high level, be consistent,'' says Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who is grooming Weeden. ``That's what they're grinding through. I think all rookie quarterbacks to some degree grind through the first season, and I see that from our guy. I think Brandon is grinding through it. He's having pockets of success, and then he's making mistakes, and I'm sure that's the case with all of them.''

Weeden threw two touchdown passes on his 29th birthday Sunday against Cincinnati to lead the Browns to their first win. He leads all of the rookies in passing yardage but also leads the NFL with 10 interceptions.

Weeden will go head to head with Luck on Sunday when the Browns play at Indianapolis. Luck, the No. 1 pick in the April draft, ranks next to last among all starting QBs with a completion percentage of 53.4 and has thrown seven interceptions.

``He's really, really trusts his arm, and sometimes it will get him into trouble, and sometimes it will make him look great,'' Browns cornerback Joe Haden says. ``When he tries to squeeze those passes into those windows, sometimes it's intercepted and sometimes it makes him look like Peyton Manning.''

Luck's potential was such that the Colts deemed Manning dispensable. Despite looking like a rookie on occasion, the former Stanford star has helped Indy to a 2-3 start, matching last year's win total.

``I see the guy that we all were hoping we could have drafted,'' Shurmur says. ``He's doing a really smart thing - he's throwing the ball to Reggie Wayne a lot, which confirms why he went to Stanford. He's obviously got the skill and ability to be an outstanding player.''

Among the rookies, Griffin has by far the best numbers, including the most highlight-reel plays. The Heisman Trophy winner leads the league with a completion percentage of 70.2, ranks second in yards per attempt and is on pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards.

``You hear about how good these guys are coming out of college, but you don't really know until you get a chance to work with them,'' Redskins QB coach Matt LaFleur. ``He has lived up to every expectation that I have ever had for him. He's just doing a great job. He's got that sense of urgency - he wants to be great.''

Wilson is only rookie QB whose team is above .500, and he leads the group in touchdown passes. Tannehill has the Dolphins tied for first place in the AFC East at 3-3, while throwing for more yards in his first six games than any Miami rookie, including Dan Marino.

``He's got to be the best rookie QB out right now,'' rookie teammate Jonathan Martin says.

That's a slightly biased, probably premature view. To be declared the best of this bunch will require a lot more games - and wins.


AP Sports Writers Mike Marot in Indianapolis, Joseph White in Washington and Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.


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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...


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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?