Rookies are permitted to be rookies. Fundamentally, I think we all understand this, particularly as it relates to quarterbacks. But it’s something we forget at times too, especially with the recent riches dumped upon us by Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton in their rookie years. They weren’t normal, and they were instead unique and exceptional.

Geno Smith is normal, presenting us with frequent contrasts between a quarterback who gets it, and firmly grasps fundamentals and the speed of the game, and then he makes a poor and crushing decision. Sometimes, that juxtaposition comes on back-to-back plays, and often the poor end comes at critical junctures. He is, after all, a rookie quarterback, and that was abundantly evident last night.

Following the Jets’ 13-10 loss to New England during a game with so much slop I’m still wiping it from my eyes after it was flung from my TV screen, we’ll remember Smith’s mistakes (see: interceptions, three of them). They’re what brought the game to a conclusion, and sealed a sort of merciful finality. Two of them landed in the hands of Aqib Talib, and all three came on wayward passes. The one that bounced off of Santonio Holmes and to Alfonzo Dennard was especially crushing, as it erased a successful drive that likely would have resulted in points.

Those were the times when Smith displayed his rookie-ness, succumbing to the glaring reality that he was starting only his second NFL game in New England against a head coach that eats pieces of rookie quarterback for breakfast, and during a game when the heavens were wide open for one half. We’ll criticize Smith for those mistakes, and rightfully so, as they happened and they deserve a critical eye. But as we do that, we’ll pretend that a rookie who’s still adjusting to the speed of the game always has complete control over when that period of acclimation inevitably results in a misstep that’s a natural part of the process. He doesn’t, and no rookie quarterback before Smith has either. Overall, there was actually more smart, fundamental quarterback play from Smith than bumbling rookie-ness, though to an extent he suffered from the same doom as his counterpart last night: his receiver’s hands that were steeped in butter.

On one two-play sequence early in the third quarter we saw the direct juxtaposition of the rookie who gets it, and the rookie who needs to develop. First, he waited, stood, and then waited some more in the pocket before falling into the grasp of Tommy Kelly. His NFL timing and pocket sense still needs to be groomed, as does Smith’s mental alarm.

But the kid can identify a running lane, and know when it’s time to use it. I suppose natural speed helps too. On the next play, he ran for 16 yards, his longest run of the game. That prolonged a drive that also included a precision pass to Holmes along the sideline, and another demonstration of simple yet crucial fundamentals: Smith scanned the field just outside of New England’s red zone, saw nothing deep, and was perfectly content to dump off to his check-down option Bilal Powell, who didn’t have a defender within 15 yards. Three plays later, Powell concluded the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

It’s stupid early, but Smith has shown enough basic and fundamental instincts to fuel the belief that the good (or great eventually?) Smith will surface far more often than the rookie.

On the other side of the ball, it was Julian Edelman all night, and then more Julian Edelman. He was targeted 18 times (12 in just the first half), which was nearly half of Tom Brady’s 39 attempts (46.1 percent for those of you who enjoy exact digits). Clearly for whatever time Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola remain out, Edelman is a fantasy PPR rockstar. But what’s a little disturbing about this version of the Patriots’ offense that’s attached to Edelman with a magnet is the lack of deep throwing, mostly because asking a receiver to catch a deep ball is a monumental task. The throws to Edelman resulted in equal amounts of dinking and dunking, as he averaged six yards per catch. Six.

Few good things happened when balls weren’t thrown to Edelman, with five drops spread between Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins (four by Dobson) by my count, though that may be conservative. What’s even more disturbing for Thompkins, the preseason darling, is his inability to turn high volume opportunities into anything at all. Through two games he’s been targeted 21 times, and he has just six catches. Not good, and by contrast Edelman has caught 20 of his 27 targets. Combined, Dobson and Thompkins have nine catches.

Maybe we should just call them the New England BradEdelmans? Yeah, we’ll work on that.

More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

Hey, what time are we on the air? I really gotta piss

I think your mic might be on, Brad Nessler. Yeah, your mic is definitely on…

(Our hats tip to you, Awful Announcing)

Has anyone told you that the Eagles have a really fast offense?

No, this isn’t new or shocking information. But to see it quantified still makes my eyelids open and close rapidly, especially with Chip Kelly’s new Philadelphia offense moving at a pace only a few ticks slower than his Oregon insanity, even in its infancy. If Michael Vick can stay healthy (yes, the if-iest if that ever if-ed), the ceiling for this offense is exceedingly high.

But is his offense sustainable?

That’s a good question, and the sort of question that someone should ask the man himself. Say, Tim McManus, can you take care of that for us?

I asked Kelly today whether that was ever an issue at Oregon, and if the extra four regular-season games in the NFL presents a challenge in that respect.

“No, I think our teams were always the freshest teams that played by and large,” Kelly responded. “We have a weekly schedule that we follow almost religiously in terms of when to work, when to recover and what not. So I think we have a plan in place that we put in place in April that is built for the long haul.”

I believe Kelly, but maybe because I just want to believe him, as his offense is just so much damn fun. Ultimately, I think elite athletes will be able to handle the pacing just fine if their preparation is at the appropriate level. But in the end, the success of Kelly’s uber uptempo offense will come back to something that’s entirely out of his control, and not at all even tied to conditioning and endurance. Again, Vick’s health is vital, and simple logic tells us that if he runs more plays, he also has more opportunities to bust.

Also filed under not surprising but still, well, woah

You’re aware that the NFL is the king of all television. Every fall on every Sunday, the league steals your eyeballs for about 12 hours, and then gives them back briefly Monday morning. The league’s dominance over the sports landscape specifically becomes even more apparent each year a little later in the fall when primetime football on Sunday or Monday night goes head-to-head with the MLB playoffs, and regular-season football wins nearly every time.

But damn, the ratings from the first NFL Sunday of this season are still pretty fun. Of the top 10 programs, eight of them were either NFL games or NFL-related content. ‘Merica!

Today in why Jay Cutler is the best


Peyton Manning doesn’t throw long much, but when he does he prefers to throw touchdowns

They’re few in number, but there are people in this world who still want to discuss Peyton Manning’s arm strength, and his apparent lack of it even though he looked just fine thanks for a full season last year when he averaged 8.0 yards per completion after multiple neck surgeries, the first time he had reached or exceeded that mark since 2005.

But the larger point here is that maybe this year if we’re looking at him with a purely objective eye, we won’t be able to make a definitive conclusion either way most weeks regarding Manning’s arm strength. Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry charted his throws last Thursday, and found that Manning was rarely asked to chuck a pass that travelled more than 15 yards. But when he did, good things usually happened. He tossed only seven passes that sailed +15 yards, and four of them resulted in touchdowns.

Is this the new Manning? We can only hope, because Wes Welker’s production will remain inflated, while Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas will still be targeted deep. So basically, everyone will be happy.

DeAngelo Hall is the NFL’s crazy cat lady