Saturday, June 22, 2024

Grading NFL’s next generation of QBs, Week 5: Desmond Ridder has best performance, slight dip for C.J. Stroud

The Steelers were able to squeeze out a victory against the bitter rival Ravens in Week 5, but Kenny Pickett didn’t make much of a step forward in the win. 

There was a grand total of seven quarterbacks selected in the past two NFL draft classes who saw considerable playing time in Week 5.

Let’s dive deep into the individual efforts of each quarterback and assign a grade on a per-snap basis, taking every individual aspect of their performance into account. More than 10 attempts were needed to qualify for this piece, which publishes weekly on Tuesdays.

High-Caliber Throws/Plays: 

  • While being hit, he threw with nice placement on a deep ball down the left sideline to D.J. Chark. The wideout dove for the pass but wasn’t able to reel it in. 
  • His second touchdown of the day was a strike with good velocity deep over the middle to Chark with a defender closing in. 
  • Young’s next throw — on the following drive — was a vertical pass to tight end Ian Thomas that needed to get over the underneath defender but not lead the veteran pass-catcher into a huge hit. 

Low-Caliber Throws/Plays:

  • He was lazy on his inside slip screen attempt to Thomas that was tipped and intercepted by Aidan Hutchinson
  • His second interception didn’t have enough velocity on a flag route, and the underneath cornerback sunk to make the play. 

Summary: Young showed some signs of life late in garbage time in the loss to the Lions. For the first three quarters it again was rough sledding for the No. 1 overall pick. He had major issues dealing with pressure all afternoon. 

Grade: C-
Season Grade: D+

High-Caliber Throws/Plays: 

  • In the second quarter, Pickett placed a back-shoulder beautifully to George Pickens.  
  • There was another one of these on Pickett’s second-to-last throw of the game. 
  • The game-winning touchdown to Pickens was thrown perfectly in stride deep down the right sideline.

Low-Caliber Throws/Plays: 

  • Pickett missed badly on an early back-shoulder attempt to Pickens. 
  • He threw late on an over-the-middle dump down to a covered Darnell Washington that fell incomplete.
  • In the fourth, Pickett missed woefully short on a slot fade in the end zone that hit the back of the defender. 

Summary: The Steelers offense did enough to win a defensive slugfest, but Pickett was hardly impressive. The offense has become a checkdown or a back-shoulder pass down the sideline to Pickens. Ironically, the last throw of the day that gave Pittsburgh the lead late was a downfield throw that was out in front of the receiver, not purposefully behind him. Still a fair amount of misses from the former first-round pick.  

Grade: C
Season Grade: C-

High-Caliber Throws/Plays:

  • Midway through the first quarter, Ridder threw a rocket on a flag route for Kyle Pitts for 16 yards against tight coverage. Probably the best throw of the year thus far from the second-year passer.  
  • In the second quarter, he zipped a fastball on a vertical route to Kaden Smith close to the numbers for 28 yards. 
  • He had perfect accuracy on a back-shoulder pass to Pitts that was dropped as the defender fought to break it up. 
  • With the deep safety converging on Pitts, Ridder threw with plenty of velocity on a deep out-breaker for 20 yards. 
  • Ridder gave his enormous wideout, Drake London, a chance on a fourth-quarter back shoulder. 

Low-Caliber Throws/Plays: 

  • In the second, he threw late on an over-the-middle target to Pitts that was nearly intercepted. 
  • Later, Ridder was late and behind on an open slant to London.

Summary: Quite easily Ridder’s best game as a pro to date. He threw with a new-found confidence and more velocity than I’ve seen from him. There were a few misses, and some miscommunications, but in general, he looked much more in command of the offense than ever before. 

Grade: B+
Season Grade: C-

High-Caliber Throws/Plays: 

  • His touchdown in the third quarter was short, but Howell made the throw against the momentum of his body with perfect placement. 
  • Later in that quarter, Howell was about to be sacked but somehow scooted back and away from pressure, vacated to his right and scampered for 10 yards on a third and long. 
  • His next snap, on the following drive, he had a similarly awesome escape from a collapsing pocket that led to a five-yard gain. 
  • In the fourth, Howell escaped to his right and was still able to get plenty of velocity on a throw between two defenders to a wideout 10 yards down the field for a first down. 
  • Late in the final stanza, Howell got through his progressions and found Jamison Crowder against tight coverage for 11 yards over the middle. 
  • A few plays later, Howell dropped one in the bucket deep downfield to Logan Thomas, who dove for the pass that was well covered but wasn’t able to control the ball to the ground. 
  • He also ripped a fastball down the numbers from close to the far hash between four Bears defenders for 25 yards.   

Low-Caliber Throws/Plays: 

  • In the second quarter, Howell was late on a throw over the middle that saw a defender step in front and intercept the pass.  
  • He threw behind a wide-open Dyami Brown on a short throw into the end zone in the fourth. 
  • Howell underthrew Terry McLaurin on a long ball late in the game. 
  • He missed Jahan Dotson on a deep corner in the fourth. 
  • There was a bad sack in which he held the ball far too long during garbage time. 

Summary: This was what has become a vintage Howell game six outings into his NFL career. Rather large collection of impressive throws — and scrambles — some misses and too many sacks. Despite the blowout loss at home, the second-year quarterback was mostly impressive against the Bears. 

Grade: B
Season Grade: B-

High-Caliber Throws/Plays: 

  • Purdy’s first touchdown to George Kittle wasn’t an extraordinarily difficult throw, but he moved up and to the right away from pressure and found the tight end wide open in the end zone. 
  • He fit a pass with a linebacker in tight on an angle route to Deebo Samuel near the goal line in the second quarter. 
  • A few throws later, Purdy had perfect trajectory on a deep dig to Brandon Aiyuk. The ball was inches over the outstretched arms of an underneath linebacker. 

Low-Caliber Throws/Plays:

  • Late in the first quarter, Purdy threw behind Brandon Aiyuk on a deep dig that was defended by Stephon Gilmore

Summary: While the competition was stronger than in previous weeks, it was another contest in which Purdy was provided ample wide-open receivers and clean looks to his targets in Kyle Shanahan’s system. 

Grade: B+
Season Grade: B

High-Caliber Throws/Plays: 

  • Stroud threw with perfect placement and accuracy to Robert Woods late in the second against tight coverage that fell incomplete. 
  • Stroud’s touchdown to give the Texans to the lead with under two minutes was a gorgeous toss over the top of two safeties. Perfect trajectory and velocity. 

Low-Caliber Throws/Plays:

  • Stroud missed Tank Dell while rolling right in the second quarter. 
  • He threw wide to Nico Collins on an underneath whip route in the third quarter. 
  • In the fourth, he didn’t locate Jessie Bates III on a deep over that was nearly intercepted. 

Summary: Stroud looked more like a rookie on the road in Atlanta than he had the past two weeks. Overall, he wasn’t overwhelmed, and it wasn’t a disastrous performance. Plus, he made a tremendous throw to put the Texans ahead late in the game.  

Grade: B-
Season Grade: B-

High-Caliber Throws/Plays: 

  • Richardson ripped a rocket through a minuscule window on an in-breaker early in the second. 
  • On 3rd-and-16 a few plays later, Richardson connected with Josh Downs deep down the left sideline between two defenders in coverage. 

Low-Caliber Throws/Plays:

  • May have been a miscommunication, but Richardson missed wide on a deep comeback early in the game. 

Summary: Richardson didn’t get to the end of the first half after landing hard on his throwing shoulder in the second quarter. There wasn’t much to take from his early efforts in this game against the Titans, but there was more good than bad.   

Grade: B+
Season Grade: C+

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