The Rise of the Second Year Quarterback
The previous two MVPs have been Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. They are both quarterbacks awarded the MVP honor in their second season. This has happened before, back in 1984 Dan Marino won MVP in his sophomore season. Also, Kurt Warner earned his first MVP nod in 1999 which was his second season. Second season jumps are becoming more popular with teams handing over the keys to their young quarterbacks. In recent years quarterbacks like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and DeShaun Watson. What could this mean for current quarterbacks entering their second season in 2020? Let’s break it down.
Kyler Murray - Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray was selected with the first pick in the 2019 NFL draft out of Oklahoma. He was awarded the Heisman award in 2018 for his spectacular play, despite being an undersized quarterback at 5’10” the Cardinals rolled the dice and picked Murray with the number one section. Even though they picked Josh Rosen in the previous draft to play quarterback the team decided to move on from Rosen because of poor play and a 3-10 record as a starter. Shocking to some for the move but, Arizona felt confident with Murray and didn’t waste any time putting him under center week one.
In 2019, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals improved slightly to a 5-10-1 record. Murray played strong in weeks five, six, and seven leading the Cardinals to three straight victories in close wins. Especially, when he threw for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Falcons. Later in the year in week fifteen, the Cardinals upset the highly favored Seahawks in Seattle in a 27-13 victory. With help from his newly acquired halfback Kenyan Drake in a trade with Miami. The shocking win opened a lot of NFL fans’ eyes to the potential of Murray’s Cardinals. As the win against Seattle opened the door for the 49ers to win the division and get home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Cardinals made some noise winning two of the last three games of the season. Showing the league a sneak peek into what Murray can really become.
As Kyler Murray continues to grow as a quarterback in the league, he continues to be looked upon by peers. Longtime Arizona wide receiver and future Hall of Famer, Larry Fitzgerald has high praise for his young quarterback saying "I think that's going to give us a great advantage, to play fast from the first preseason game all the way to the start of the regular season and giving him the keys to the car and letting him is going to be great for us." In an interview with Inside Training Camp Live. His head coach Kliff Kingsbury pointed out that he’s gained muscle saying “He’s obviously put on some mass; you can tell,” in a press conference. Murray continues to work and build his game. He can be a real threat to a lot of defenses with his arm or on his feet.
Murray ran for 544 yards and 4 touchdowns with a 5.85 yards per carry average. Along with 3,722 passing yards and 20 touchdown passes and an 87.4 quarterback rating. His efforts earned him the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2019. Watch out for Kyler Murray in 2020 and years to come, he’s a special talent, especially with his size. The Cardinals made some great additions recently to help Murray by acquiring DeAndre Hopkins from Houston. One of the best receivers in the game as well as Kenyan Drake at running back, who showed up big for Arizona late last season. The Cardinals should be fun to watch in 2020 as they compete in one of the best divisions in the league.
Daniel Jones - Quarterback, New York Giants
With the sixth pick of the 2019 NFL draft, the New York Giants selected Daniel Jones out of Duke University. A big surprise to most because he was selected much sooner than expected, raising a lot of questions to why the Giants picked Jones at number six. Jones was picked as an Eli Manning successor, this was the earliest the Giants have picked a quarterback in the draft since Eli Manning in 2004. A fan favorite in New York, Jones had big shoes to fill with replacing the two time Super Bowl champion. It was only a matter of time before the Giants threw Jones under center after an impressive preseason performance. After a week two loss to the Buffalo Bills the Giants decided to start Jones for week three.
In week three the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the New York Giants. Tampa started out the first half very strong with a 10-28 lead as Jones struggled off and on, opening with a field goal, touchdown, then punt, he fumbled and a punt again. But Jones and company turned things around to outscore the Bucs 22-3 in the second half. In which he threw for two touchdown passes in the third quarter. As he led the Giants on a game-winning drive with less than two minutes in the game. With a seven-yard rushing touchdown scored by Jones to win the Giants the first win of the season. The energy from that carried over into the following game against Redskins in which they blew out Washington 24-3 at home. In week 13 Jones hurt his ankle and missed two back to back games. Jones returned strongly to defeat the Redskins again in week 15 this time in Washington. Where, Jones exploded for 352 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, and a 123.1 passer rating. In a 41-35 shootout victory with fellow draftee Dwayne Haskins Jr. until he got injured and replaced by Case Keenum. Jones finished the season with a 3-10 record starting in all but one of them. The end of his rookie season totals were 3,027 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions with an 87.7 passer rating.
The Giants season did not see much success but they continue to shift pieces to equip Daniel Jones with a roster to win some ball games. With the hiring of a new head coach Joe Judge. The Giants have plenty of young talent on the offensive side of the ball including Saquon Barkley, a top running back in the NFL. As well as Evan Engram at Tight End looking to come back and have a healthy season. Also, second-year receiver Darius Slayton who had a stand out season and consistent receiver play for New York from both Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate III. The Giants are also looking into continually improving their offensive line. Jones has weapons to make some noise in the NFC East, with the number one spot open for grabs. A point of emphasis for Jones to improve on fumbles. He tallied up 18 total fumbles, which is the most by any quarterback in the NFL. But his 24 touchdowns is very impressive for a rookie quarterback. He had the most touchdowns for a rookie quarterback in the 2019 season.
Already, Daniel Jones is showing signs of potential dominance with his passing and unexpected playmaking ability on his feet. Learning from Eli Manning would help any quarterback. Lucky for him, he was able to be in that position to learn a lot from a former great quarterback. Jones is turning heads in practice for this upcoming season and his quarterback coach had something to say about it “I did some work with him when he was coming out in the draft when I was at a different place, and [his arm] looked good,”. Followed by “It looks even stronger now. I don’t know if that’s a testament to his work in the offseason and what he’s been doing.” A fresh start for the Giants this upcoming season with Jones well established into the team’s offense entering his first complete season as a starter. Expect the win column and touchdown number to increase this season. Especially if he can remain healthy for the full 16 games for the G Men.
Dwayne Haskins Jr. - Quarterback, Washington Football Team
In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected Dwyane Haskins Jr. with the 15th pick out of Ohio State. Following an impressive career in college in which he pulled away with a Rose Bowl victory in which he passed for three touchdowns in that game. Haskins turned lots of heads with his phenomenal play in college. After quarterback Alex Smith went down with a gruesome injury the season before. Washington fell to a 7-9 record missing the playoffs. After beginning the season with a promising 6-3 start. Uncertain of a return from Alex Smith the Redskins front office looked poised to pick a quarterback in the draft. Washington decided to sit Haskins until week four against the New York Giants. Replacing the struggling Case Keenum meaning Haskins would get his first chance to play in his NFL career.
In Haskins’ first game he struggled, throwing three interceptions in a 3-24 loss to the Giants. Haskins also saw a little bit of playing time against Minnesota in week eight. But in week nine the Redskins decided to give the young quarterback his first start against Buffalo. Haskins saw his first victory in week 11 in a close win against Detroit at home. He would follow that same success into the week following with another win this time against Carolina. Haskins continued to start for the Redskins until week 16, where suffered an ankle injury after throwing for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Which sidelined him for week 17, putting his rookie season to an end. As a starter Haskins and company finished with a 2-5 record. Totaling for 1,365 passing yards, seven passing touchdowns, and a 76.1 passer rating in nine games.
At this moment Washington is in a rebuild, looking to establish a solid young core in DC. With the drama between former head coach Jay Gruden and Washington players behind them, the team is entering a new phase. Beyond just a name change. One piece being Chase Young, the second pick in the draft looking to make a difference for the Washington defense. As well as the hiring of new head coach Ron Rivera, where he saw much success with Cam Newton in Carolina for many years. Washington suffered a big loss in losing running back Derris Guice due to off the field reasons. Which means Haskins has full control of this offense. Thankfully, Washington has veteran, future hall of fame running back Adrian Peterson for carries in the backfield. Ultimately, Haskins has time to grow and improve as he gains experience under center.
So far this offseason Haskins has worked to improve his game. For starters, he has lost 22 pounds to improve mobility and agility. Haskins has also been picking up the playbook quickly. One of his quarterback trainers, Bryson Spinner has noticed he has grown in maturity and confidence in his game. As well as leadership, Haskins has the potential to create a great culture in DC and turn the franchise around for the better. With Haskins improving in the second half of last season, expect more to follow next season. There may not be a complete 180 turn around in Washington next season, but those are steps being made to later major success. If Haskins can stay healthy all of next season he can begin to gain some more respect around the league. With on his play on the field and with his leadership as he obtains the keys in his hands in Washington.
Drew Lock - Quarterback, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos selected Drew Lock with the 42nd pick in the second round out of Mizzou. In college Lock led Missouri to two bowl games in his last two seasons at Mizzou. With leading the South Eastern Conference in multiple passing categories in those two seasons. Therefore, landing a spot with the Denver Broncos. In need of filling an absence of consistent winning at the quarterback position. Denver has been trying to find the right fit at quarterback since the retirement of Peyton Manning back in 2016. After picking offensive guard Dalton Risner with the 41st pick, Denver traded up to the 42nd pick. Stoked that he was still available the Broncos decided to choose Drew Lock their quarterback of the future. In the preseason, Lock suffered a thumb injury sidelining him for eight weeks. When week 13 rolled around Lock was locked in and ready to go for a matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
In Drew Lock’s first start the Broncos pulled away with nail biter on a last-second field goal by Brandon McManus. Lock had an impressive performance with two passing touchdowns, 134 passing yards, and only one interception. Leading the Broncos on a game-winning drive to win his first official start in the NFL. That success followed in the next game against the highly favored Houston Texans. Denver beat out the Texans in Houston with a 38-24 victory. Thanks to Lock’s incredible play in which he threw for three touchdowns, 309 yards, and finished with a %81 completion percentage. To go along with a great 136.0 passer rating. Lock finished his rookie season with a 4-1 record, only falling to the eventual Super Bowl Champions Kansas City Cheifs at Arrowhead. Tied with hall of fame quarterback John Elway for the most rookie wins in a season. Where Elway took ten games to reach that feat, Lock achieved the record in only five games.
The offense in Denver was revived when Drew Lock was that the helm. Uncommon in recent years, Denver looked like a real threat with Lock behind center. Bring a lot of attention and hype to Denver for this upcoming 2020 season. Rightfully so, with additions at the wide receiver position Denver drafted two wide receivers Jerry Jeudy with the 15th pick and K.J. Hamler at pick 46 in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Broncos continue to surround Lock with young weapons to add on the offense. Denver already has a talent with Phillip Lindsay in the backfield, now partnered with former Charger Melvin Gordon. As well as great targets in Courtland Sutton and second-year tight end Noah Fant. All of these weapons for Lock are 27 and younger, as one of the youngest offenses in the league. Denver’s defense is also looking strong with Bradley Chubb returning from injury. As well as additions in Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye. The Broncos are position to make a push into the playoffs this season. A lot is going to be expected of this team and they are poised to reach some success this season. The time is now in Denver and only time will tell what Lock does for the Broncos.
As Drew Lock prepares for the upcoming season the team continues to grow in confidence in him. So far he has been performing well in training camp according to coach Vic Fangio saying “Drew’s got good talent with the throwing the ball,”. “He can throw the ball to all parts of the field equally well, meaning short, intermediate, and deep. I like his scrambling ability which is obvious. I think he’s got a pretty good command of the offense even though it’s a new offense. There is some carryover from last year’s offense. He’s in a much better spot than he was last year at this time.” The rookie receiver also said “He’s a great leader. He’s a guy that leads by example.” Broncos fans should be excited about their young team. Lock looks ready to hit the ground running taking off from where he left off last season. Lock has got a lot of NFL fans waiting to see what he can really become in Denver. He is in a great spot to win ball games.
Gardner Minshew - Quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected quarterback Gardner Minshew out of Washington State with the 178th pick in the NFL Draft. In college, Minshew led the FBS in multiple passing categories. Leading Washington State to a victory against Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl to wrap up the 2018 season. Minshew was chosen to back up the newly signed former Eagles Super Bowl Champion quarterback Nick Foles. In week one Foles started for Jacksonville against the Kansas City Cheifs but unexpectedly went down with a shoulder injury early in the game. The rookie quarterback was put in to replace Foles, giving Minshew his first bit of action already in week one.
In the matchup with the Chiefs, Minshew threw for 275 yards, two touchdown passes with a %88 percent completion percentage highest of any player making his debut in NFL history (minimum 15 pass attempts) in a 40-26 loss. Despite the loss his performance was still very impressive especially, for a sixth-rounder not expected to play. A couple of weeks later in week three Minshew and the Jaguars managed to beat the in-division rival Tennessee Titans on a Thursday night game. Where he passed for 206 yards and two touchdowns, earning the first win of his career. Minshew proceeded to also defeat the Broncos in Denver the following week. He started all the through week nine in replacement of the injured Foles. In those eight starts, he went 4-4 and was replaced by a healthy Nick Foles in week ten. Later in the year in week thirteen, Minshew was put back in at quarterback for the Jags to relieve the struggling Foles. Head coach Doug Marrone selected Mishew to start at quarterback for the remainder of the season. Finishing the season with a 6-8 record as a starter for Jacksonville, while throwing for 3,271 passing yards, 21 touchdown passes, and six interceptions in 14 games.
Jacksonville ended their short stent with Nick Foles as he was traded to Chicago for a fourth-round draft pick. Meaning the Jaguars are going with Gardner Minshew as their quarterback of the future. At the age of 24, Minshew has plenty of years ahead of him. Similar to Washington the Jaguars are in the midst of a rebuild. Building young talent on both sides of the ball. Minshew has some weapons on offense in Leonard Fournette in the backfield. Also, young receivers like D.J. Clark who took a major step last season, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook. On defense, the Jags parted ways with long time defensive end Calais Campbell as Jacksonville looks to the younger side in defenders like Josh Allen and Myles Jack. A mark of a new era in Jacksonville as the “Sacksonville” phase is behind them. The Jaguars could be an interesting team in the AFC South in a division that has talent but is up for the taking. Houston seems to be taking a step back with losing DeAndre Hopkins and drama surrounding head coach Bill O’Brien. Jacksonville and Minshew can really be an impact in a couple of years as the team grows and matures with time.
Gardner Minshew developed into a fan favorite early in Jacksonville with his unique appearance and quarterback play. As Minshew enters his second season he knows what he needs to improve on and build from. One of those being cut down on his fumbles as he had 13 fumbles last season. As he gets more familiar with the offense and playbook, now having the keys to the offense for himself. Minshew is confident in his team saying “We have a lot of young guys, a lot of energy on this team and I think we've got some really good leaders. Definitely not going to be weighed down by expectations one way or the other." The Jaguars and Minshew alike are very excited to see what can come from this team. He can build a new culture and atmosphere down in Jacksonville. "I feel good about all the work we put in," Minshew said. "Hopefully that shows up in the fall."
The second year of a starting quarterback is huge. Some improve and make that big step to become a franchise quarterback, others fall. Regardless, there is a lot to be learned from a quarterback in his second year. Will one of the quarterbacks listed keep the second year MVP trend going? Maybe a standout year by Murray or Lock with a playoff push? We will see this upcoming season, it should be fun to see how these quarterbacks pan out for this season will show a lot about the rest of their season.
Home of the Braves: Part One
A series on how "America's Team" became the team to forget.