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Rookie QB's Face Tougher Blitzes and Schemes

Charles E. Sutton | , WI Staff Writer | 9/4/2012, 10:02 a.m.

Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, and Brandon Weedon are members of what former Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian referred to as the most talented crop of rookie passers since 1983's "Year of the Quarterback."

Which of these five newcomers of 2012 are headed for the Hall of Fame? And who might end up as busts of a different type?

Only time will tell.

Not a single time in the Super Bowl era have five rookie quarterbacks started their teams' opening games of the regular season. No more than two rookie quarterbacks have started a season opener since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

"From a physical standpoint, this group is at least as good and the most talented group of quarterbacks since the Class of 1983," says Polian, now an ESPN analyst. "That's not to say these five will all make it. Now, we'll see what they do as they grow into the position."

History hasn't treated rookie starters well. They have had winning overall records in only two of the last 10 seasons. They are a combined 153-219 in that span.

So, we might want to lower the expectations a bit, particularly in Indianapolis and Washington, where the draft's top two selections, Luck of the Colts and Griffin of the Redskins, face daunting challenges.

The Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton passed for a rookie-record 4,051 yards which led him to offensive rookie of the year honors last season, breaking Peyton Manning's 1998 record of 3,739. And rookie Andy Dalton led the 9-7 Cincinnati Bengals to a wild-card playoff berth.

"They'll all have a big learning curve," Polian said. "Everybody's excited about these kids now. When defenses start game-planning, it'll be a different story."

Russell Wilson has been the real sensation, who, at 5-11, 206 pounds, was thought to be too small to be an NFL quarterback. He was recently named the starter for the Seattle Seahawks.

"This is what we had hoped to see," Coach Pete Carroll said. "He was very comfortable in the pocket."

But will Wilson and his fellow rookies remain comfortable against regular season blitzing?

"They're much more prepared to throw the football and more adept at reading coverages," Polian said. "What they're not comfortable with and not equipped to handle is the sophistication of NFL defenses. As the season progresses, we'll see more of these rookie quarterbacks confused by defenses."