While one rookie got off to quite a hot start in the first preseason game, another did quite the opposite. Pittsburgh Steelers first-round draft pick T.J. Watt recorded two sacks early on in the game, while quarterback Joshua Dobbs, starting the game, threw two interceptions early on.
Things got better from there in the game—in fact, one of his best throws in the whole game ended up being dropped by his intended target—but one consistent issue that he had throughout the game was that his accuracy wavered closer to the line of scrimmage.
Dave Bryan gave this consideration in an article last week looking back at Dobbs’ performance, showcasing the location of the ball relative to his intended target, it the images made it pretty obvious that he had issues delivering the ball to his receivers, particularly within five and 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, in an optimal spot of the catch radius.
Of course, it couldn’t have been easy for the rookie. The third guy on the depth chart, he was suddenly tasked with starting the game in the first playing time of his entire career, and he was also pretty short-handed, without his top two running backs and about four of his top five wide receiver targets. Not to mention two of his starting linemen.
Hopefully with some of the first-game jitters behind him, Dobbs will be able to settle down in this game more quickly. It is a golden opportunity for him to perform today with the likes of Martavis Bryant and Sammie Coates, even if he is without Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. He should be getting James Conner back as well.
I know there are many who are looking on the rookie to take a step ahead of Landry Jones, who is missing the first two preseason games with an abdominal injury. While the fifth-year veteran returned to practice last week, he did not throw, only taking reps during team drills on running downs.
With Jones missing this time, Dobbs has been the beneficiary of getting a highly significant amount of quality playing time. It goes without saying that the coaching staff is looking to see growth from the fourth-round pick from the first game to this one.
One interesting thing that I noticed from the first game is that, especially early on, the Steelers had Dobbs playing under center a lot, and I wonder how much that had to do with the wide receivers. Most of those plays resulted in handoffs, and much of it came with two tight ends on the field.
He also used play-action on a quarter of his dropbacks, and that included both of his deep completions of 44 and 28 yards to Cobi Hamilton, the latter for a touchdown. He of course had another touchdown to Xavier Grimble negated by penalty.