Winston, Garoppolo, Wentz have big openers
They stood bravely in the pocket, stared down defenders, and made precise throws.
And sometimes they froze, or fumbled, or were picked.
Through decisions good and decisions bad on Sunday's first full day of NFL action, the young quarterbacks displayed their wares.
Jameis Winston looked terrific in Tampa Bay's victory at Atlanta. Jimmy Garoppolo did a pretty fine Tom Brady imitation in the clutch in a prime-time Patriots win at Arizona.
Carson Wentz showed plenty of zip on his throws and vigor in the huddle as Philadelphia beat Cleveland. Derek Carr led a sensational Raiders rally in New Orleans — capped by a 2-point conversion pass with 47 seconds remaining.
Brock Osweiler, in his fifth pro season but really a relative novice after sitting behind Peyton Manning for most of his stint in Denver, threw for two scores as Houston downed Chicago.
Things went less positively for Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles and Dak Prescott.
The second-year QB demonstrated all the reasons he went atop the 2015 draft. Beginning in the second quarter, he was magnificent, throwing for four touchdowns and 281 yards, showing touch on some throws, power on others.
Many people in Tampa expect Winston to make a huge leap this season. This was quite a start.
"It's not often that you have young guys like him with that kind of poise at such an important position with all the eyes on him," Bucs center Joe Hawley said. "He really shows a lot of poise for such a young player."
The third-year passer demonstrated why the Patriots aren't exactly quivering without the suspended Tom Terrific. Garoppolo had only nine incompletions in 33 passes and engineered a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter that was Bradyesque.
"If you have confidence in your teammates and they have confidence in you, it's easy to stay poised, I guess," Garoppolo said.
For one hot Sunday in September, the City of Brotherly Love could be renamed Carson City. Yes, the second overall draft pick in April — No. 1 Jared Goff might not even be active for the Rams on Monday night — was that impressive.
We know it was against the beleaguered (already) Browns, but still, Wentz showed the Eagles might know what they're doing by anointing him so early, with only one half of an exhibition game's work on his resume.
"He has a maturity about him that even if it's not crunch time, he's always treating it like it is," said receiver Jordan Matthews, who had seven catches for 114 yards and one of two Wentz TD throws. "So then when you come out into a game, he just goes and plays and it's easy for him."
The Big Easy was challenging for Carr only because the third-year QB was up against Saints star Drew Brees, who smoked Oakland for 423 yards and three touchdowns. Carr wore the final smile, though, rallying the Raiders from a 24-10 third-quarter hole. Much is projected for Carr and his team this season, and squeezing through in New Orleans has to be a huge lift.
Just as much is expected from Osweiler, to the tune of a four-year, $72 million contract from Houston. He earned some of it with two TD passes and a solid performance against Chicago. Backed by a strong defense, Osweiler doesn't have to be, well, Peyton Manning in his prime. He merely needs to be better than recent Texans quarterbacks, and he was Sunday.
"There were no nerves there because I knew what kind of football team I had behind me," he said.
The good news is that the strong Vikings D had only two sacks of Tennessee's franchise QB, who went down 38 times in 12 games last season. Not so good: Mariota threw a pick-6 and also fumbled for another Minnesota TD.
"The turnovers obviously were catastrophic," coach Mike Mularkey said.
Still, barring injury, Mariota rightfully will get to work his way through such missteps.
Bortles should not be too disappointed in the opening loss to Green Bay. He went 24 of 39 for 320 yards with one TD and one interception against one of the NFC favorites. His efficiency was similar to Aaron Rodgers', with one massive difference: Rodgers got the Packers into the end zone three times, once on a run and twice on his throws.
Bortles might always be a big numbers guy who will make some mistakes on the way to those stats. Ben Roethlisberger has been like that, and Bortles would likely accept a similar career.
For now, on a team some have pegged as a sleeper, such defeats really hurt.
"Obviously, I'm irritated," Bortles said.
This one was there for the taking against the Giants. Prescott couldn't get the ball to star wideout Dez Bryant (one catch, 8 yards) and the Cowboys wound up with four field goals by Dan Bailey. Yet it was others, particularly veterans, making errors around Prescott, who was good enough to give Dallas hope it can stop the Tony Romo-less loss trend that has seen it go 1-12 without Romo since the first of his two broken collarbones in Week 2 of 2015.
"I really liked his poise, his composure, his decision making throughout," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "He handled different situations that came up over the course of the game very well (and) came back from adversity when things weren't going well."
Things might not go well for a while for Prescott's Cowboys, but Romo didn't build Dallas in a day, either.