NFL Roundtable: Mac Jones has been the NFL's best rookie QB

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TwinSpires Staff

October 4th, 2021

Each week we sit down with TwinSpires columnists Ashley AndersonJames Scully, and Scott Shapiro to discuss the latest news from around the NFL. Today they weigh in on Arizona's red-hot start, the return of Richard Sherman and Josh Gordon, and the emergence of Mac Jones.

The Cardinals are 4-0 for the first time since 2012. Is Arizona a legitimate Super Bowl contender?

Ashley: Their win over the Los Angeles Rams, who I was most impressed by ahead of Week 4, certainly changed my opinion about Arizona. The defense rendered Cooper Kupp ineffective and dismantled the Rams’ super-charged offense, while dual threat Kyler Murray and the Cardinals run game put on an impressive display. I’m curious to see how they handle Cleveland on the road and Green Bay at home in Week 8, but for now, I have little reason to doubt the Cardinals. Of the two undefeated teams remaining, Arizona has the best chance of a deep run in the playoffs, but I’m not ready to back them as a legitimate Super Bowl contender yet.

James: Yes, Arizona has emerged as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Kyler Murray is in the midst of a special season, dicing up the Los Angeles Rams defense in Week 4, and Arizona leads the NFL in scoring. After making significant upgrades to all three phases during the offseason, the Cardinals appear to be a major player in the NFC title chase.

Scott: The Cardinals have been impressive through four games, especially in Week 4, when they ended an eight-game losing skid against the Rams, but I am still not convinced they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The offense at this point is dynamic enough behind Kyler Murray to be considered championship caliber, but the defense has too many holes and more importantly head coach Kliff Kingsbury has yet to coach a playoff game and makes too many questionable decisions. Perhaps Arizona will continue to play this well over the next few games and I will change my mind, but for now I continue to believe they are a year or two away. 

Richard Sherman and Josh Gordon are back in the NFL. Which player will have the bigger impact this season?

Ashley: Gordon will make a bigger impact. Sherman didn’t have much time to get ready against the Patriots, and New England exposed him. While he recovered a fumble in Sunday’s win, he also had a penalty called for pass interference and, at one point in the game, let Mac Jones complete all seven of his passes for 74 yards when Sherman was the nearest defender. Gordon will compete for passes in a loaded receiving corps in Kansas City, but early reports indicate the 30-year-old is in surprisingly good shape — despite last playing an NFL game in December 2019 — and will quickly become an intriguing deep-ball target for Patrick Mahomes.

James: Josh Gordon will make a bigger impact. The 30-year-old has more left in the tank than Richard Sherman, and Kansas City is the perfect spot given the team's need at receiver. A reliable pass catcher, Gordon has avoided the typical wear-and-tear due to multiple suspensions, and if he can stay on the field, he may turn out to be an important piece for Kansas City.

Scott: Wide receiver Josh Gordon may be a nice complementary piece for the Kansas City offense, but there is no doubt Richard Sherman will have a bigger impact this season if he remains healthy. The former Seahawk and Niner certainly is not what he used to be when he was a mainstay on the "Legion of Boom" in Seattle, but he is still a solid cover corner. Given the injuries to Tampa’s secondary, Sherman will have a chance to shine in the coming weeks for the defending champs.

True or false: Mac Jones has been the best rookie QB this season

Ashley: True. I was reluctant to embrace Jones as the Patriots’ quarterback of the future, but he has demonstrated the most poise of the rookie quarterback class, thus far. While he’s in a much better situation than someone like Justin Fields, Jones stepped up in primetime, in the most hyped regular-season game in recent memory, and kept his team neck-and-neck with Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tamp Bay Buccaneers. Jones has the eighth best completion percentage in the league (70%), more passing yards than any other rookie, and the highest quarterback rating of his QB class. I think it’s time I start cutting my team’s first-round draft pick some slack!  

James: True, but the race for leading rookie quarterback is far from over. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson exit encouraging performances in Week 4, and Justin Fields and Trey Lance could still emerge. After a steady, but not spectacular, start to the season, Jones must keep progressing to maintain top honors in a deep rookie class.

Scott: True, but that is not saying much through four weeks. Sure, Jones has done a solid job of managing the Patriots' offense early in his career, especially on Sunday night on primetime against Tampa Bay, but this is more an indictment on the play of the other first-year signal callers. First overall selection Trevor Lawrence has shown signs of brilliance, but has made far too many questionable decisions, while Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance have shown that they have a long way to go before being above average QBs in the NFL.