Are Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer ready to start?

Updated: August 16, 2017

Three of the better quarterback performances of Week 1 of the preseason were turned in by first-round draft picks Deshaun Watson of Houston, Mitchell Trubisky of Chicago and Patrick Mahomes II of Kansas City. Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer, a second-round selection, was also impressive in his debut. Here’s a closer look at each rookie signal-caller and whether he should be given consideration to start:

Jump to: Trubisky | Mahomes | Kizer

Houston Texans reporter Sarah Barshop on Watson:

Just the usual thing with a rookie quarterback, which is a tendency to make mistakes. Mahomes tries to force the ball into coverage at times, which might be something a quarterback can get away with in college but not the NFL. He had a three-interception practice early in camp.

Barring injury, when do you think your rookie QB will become the starter?

Not until 2018. The Chiefs are committed to Smith as their starter, and it’s difficult to picture anything that could realistically happen other than injury to change that. But next season the Chiefs could save about $17 million in cap space by releasing Smith, who then would be in the final season of his contract.

What is the head coach saying about your rookie QB this week?

“It’s not because of [Tyler Bray‘s] performance in the game. I thought he actually did very well … and Patrick did a nice job, too. It gives [Mahomes] an opportunity to step up and work with that second group and see what he can do there. It’s not something [Tyler] didn’t do. [Tyler] is playing well. But Patrick has also done a nice job. In order to step up with that group, Pat would have had to [make] progress.” — Andy Reid on promoting Mahomes to No. 2 quarterback this week.

Cleveland Browns reporter Pat McManamon on Kizer:

Should your rookie QB be given strong consideration to start?

Absolutely. Kizer threw for 184 yards and a game-winning touchdown in one half of play in the preseason opener. By his coach’s admission, Kizer took strides forward from the team’s intrasquad scrimmage. Kizer’s arm strength is eye-opening, but he has to learn to play the NFL game. Kizer might not be there yet to be the starter — he has yet to face a first-team defense — but coach Hue Jackson recognizes that reality and is giving Kizer more first-team reps.

What has been most impressive about your rookie QB?

His attitude. Kizer has been nothing but a professional to this point. He has accepted his role, accepts where he is and simply works to get better. At the same time, he has a competitive fire a team wants in a quarterback. When Brock Osweiler was announced as the starter against the Saints, Cody Kessler called it part of the process. Kizer bristled, saying he’s a competitor and wants to play. But, he never second-guessed his coach or questioned the decision. He simply went out and played better.

What’s the biggest concern with your rookie QB at this point?

The leap from the college spread system that is focused on pace and calling plays quickly to an NFL game that requires pre- and post-snap reads and protections and hot reads and all the other things that a quarterback has to decide in seconds is not easy. Jackson said there are “hidden” things Kizer must improve. The first is calling the play in the huddle, something he never did at Notre Dame and is learning in Cleveland. The second is the complex progressions and reads that the average fan or media member does not see. That growth might happen in practice but it might best happen in games.

Barring injury, when do you think your rookie QB will become the starter?

The safe guess is Kizer starts after the trip to London and the bye week Nov. 12 in Detroit. The bold guess is the season opener because neither Osweiler nor Kessler has seized the opportunity to win the starting job. But if Kizer keeps improving, it might be impossible to keep him off the field. That being said, he’s yet to face a first-team defense, so the best situation for when he starts is Week 5. That would allow him to play his first game against the Jets, a game at home that should be winnable.

What is the head coach saying about your rookie QB this week?

That it’s training camp and he’s still learning. Quarterbacks coach David Lee, though, was more pointed; he flat-out said Kizer is not ready, that more time is needed on fundamentals, reads, progressions and calling plays. Jackson’s actions, though, made a slightly different statement as he gave Kizer more reps with the starters. Where Kizer takes himself from this point is basically up to him. The opportunity to win the job is there, though the climb is uphill.

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