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RGIII Has Early Lead in Battle of Rookie QBs

Expect to hear about RGIII vs. Luck for a long time

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 30: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts watches the action during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 30, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    We haven't talked about this much since the season started -- primarily because the inevitable Luck vs. RGIII comparisons took a back seat to actual football -- but the careers of quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will forever be intertwined. It's because humans love to sort and classify things: It brings some semblance of order to a chaotic world.

    And it's why we talk about the 1983 draft class that included John Elway and Dan Marino; the 1998 draft class of Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf; the 2004 class of Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers; and when we need a laugh, JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn from the class of 2007.

    It'll be some time before we can truly compare the accomplishments of Luck, the Colts' first-overall selection, and Griffin, taken one pick later. But six games into the season offers a good jumping-off point for discussions. First, the measurables:

    Luck: 118 of 221 (53.4%), 1,488 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs, 13 sacks, 103 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD

    RGIII: 113 of 161 (70.2%), 1,343 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs, 12 sacks, 379 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs

    The post-draft, preseason talking points usually went something like this: Luck, with his NFL pedigree (his dad was a quarterback in the league), smarts and flawless mechanics would be the better QB over the long term. RGIII's athleticism -- along with the fact that he was going to a much better team -- would have more short-term success.

    So far, the latter's true but we'll have to wait on the former. In the meantime, in a piece for ESPN Insider, Ben Alamar delves deeper into the differences between the two rookies. Specifically, he concludes that both Luck and Griffin are performing at high levels for first-year players but that Griffin is developing more quickly, in part, because (via ESPN.com Big East blogger Dan Graziano):

    * Griffin gets the ball out of his hands faster.
    * Griffin bears less responsibility for the sacks he takes.
    * Griffin is more efficient in his downfield throws, even though he attempts fewer of them than Luck.

    Details from Alamar:

    The stats show Luck takes longer to get rid of the ball than Griffin and throws the ball down the field a lot more than Griffin. This suggests Luck is pressing too much and not recognizing when to check down as quickly as Griffin is. Griffin, in part, is doing a better job of quickly recognizing when he has a good opportunity to go deep and when he needs to get rid of the ball. This gives Griffin the current edge as both players strive to fulfill the promise of the draft slots.

    Still, both rookies are performing at an extremely high level, and all signs point to both of them continuing to progress toward the levels of the Mannings and Bradys of the league. Griffin is the early leader out of the gate, but both will get there eventually. And when they do, we'll be comparing which elite QB is better.

    Also worth noting: Coach Mike Shanahan has a west-coast offense background and he's tailored this offense around Baylor's read-option. So Griffin is both familiar and comfortable with the scheme, one that favors quick decisions.

    On the other hand, Luck is learning a new offense under coordinator Bruce Arians, who came to Indy from Pittsburgh where he called plays for Roethlisberger and the Steelers for five years. Arians favors a down-the-field philosophy that leads to big plays but lends itself to a ton of sacks. This could also have something to do with the differences in RGIII and Luck.

    Ultimately -- and Alamar makes this clear -- both QBs are playing more like grizzled vets than fresh-faced kids, and when it's over we could be looking at the successors to Brady-Manning. Colts are used this but it's a nice change for Redskins fans who have had to endure a lot (Shuler, Frerotte, Banks, Brunell, McNabb, Grossman, etc...) to get to this point.