Inside the Numbers: Rookie QBs Ahead for Jets in LA's Justin Herbert, Miami's Tua Tagovailoa

They've Started Well as Pros but the Green & White Have a Solid Track Record vs. 1st-Year Signal-Callers


The Jets' next best chances to post a victory this season come in their next two games when they are set to face a rare back-to-back challenge: two rookie starting quarterbacks in the Chargers' Justin Herbert followed by the Dolphins' Tua Tagovailoa.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, looking more closely at Herbert this week before Sunday's matchup in L.A., said Thursday that his defense's task won't be easy.

"He's like a lot of these young gunslingers," Williams said. "He's got a good, strong, deep arm that we've got to be very respectful of, and he grows week by week by week, too. He's not a person that you would say all of a sudden, he's just a rookie. He's got some very good play time right now and we as a staff have watched every single clip of every play he's played, multiple times, and our players have done a very good job, too."

Herbert has thrown 19 touchdown passes to six interceptions for the LAC to the tune of a 102.8 passer rating, No. 10 among all QBs after 10 weeks. His average drive figures of 6.2 plays for 35.7 yards are both in the top half of the league. Qualities that are still coming along are his 3-and-out drive rate (20.8%, 25th) and his and the Chargers' records — they're 2-7 overall and 1-7 since he took the reins from Tyrod Taylor in Week 2.

The Jets got a hint of Tagovailoa in the last drive of their Week 6 game at Miami in his rookie debut. Tua has started the Dolphins' last three games, against the Rams and Cards and vs. Herbert's 'Bolts. His strengths have been a 104.8 rating (on only 77 attempts), protecting the ball (his offense's 8.6% turnover drive rate is ninth in the NFL) and in meshing with the defense for a 3-0 record. Not as strong are his drive stats — his 4.7 plays and 22.0 yards each drive unofficially are both 35th and last among qualifying QBs.

The Jets have met rookie starters in consecutive games only three times in franchise history, with their best outcome coming in last year's second half when they topped the Giants' Daniel Jones and Washington's Dwayne Haskins in Games 9-10. Here are those three sets of rookie confrontations:

Table inside Article
Year, Games 1st QB, Opponent Jets W/L 2nd QB, Opponent Jets W/L
1990, 14-15 Jeff George, vs IND L 29-21 Tommy Hodson, vs NE W 42-7
2012, 8-9 Ryan Tannehill, vs MIA L 30-9 Russell Wilson, @ SEA L 28-7
2019, 9-10 Daniel Jones, vs NYG W 34-27 Dwayne Haskins, @ WAS W 34-17

Taking the rookies one at a time, though, the Green & White have fared well over the years. They are 46-28-2 (.618) all-time against teams starting rookie QBs, who compiled a 62.6 passer rating in those games. And since 2007 Game 12 at Miami, when they pounded rookie John Beck and the 'Fins, 40-13, the Jets are 15-5 vs. rookie starters.

Last year, coordinator Gregg Williams and his defense struggled against Gardner Minshew at Jacksonville, then reeled off three rook wins in a seven-game span, over Jones, Haskins and the Steelers' Devlin Hodges.

The Jets will need similar game plans and performances to hold off this year's precocious QBs and post that much-desired first win of the season. First up is Herbert. "Now," Williams said, "we've got to go out and play the way we're supposed to play."

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