In not even three months, the NFL’s 2019 regular season will be kicked off when the world champions... [checks notes] ...sorry, the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers meet on opening night. For the reigning champs, the New England Patriots, the season will begin three days later when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a highly-anticipated Sunday Night matchup — one that will also see the team unveil its sixth Super Bowl banner.
Among the biggest stories heading into the game will certainly also be the matchup between the quarterbacks: on the one side, Tom Brady, the greatest ever; on the other, Ben Roethlisberger, a terrific passer in his own right. In fact, Roethlisberger is the most accomplished quarterback that the Patriots will face over the course of the 2019 regular season. He is far from the only intriguing passer on New England’s schedule, though.
All in all, the club is scheduled to face eleven former first-round quarterbacks — among them, potentially, the last nine passers who heard their names called on day one of the draft. Let’s quickly go through them to find out what awaits New England’s defense and one of the best secondaries in all of football this upcoming season.
As noted above, Roethlisberger is the most accomplished passer on the Patriots’ 2019 schedule — but Eli Manning is not far behind him. The MVP of Super Bowls 42 and 46, both against New England, brings plenty of experienced into the two teams’ week six meeting but has been in a visible decline for quite some time now. As things currently stand, Manning projects to be one of the worst quarterbacks the Patriots will face this year. The same can likely be said about Andy Dalton, although he has been better than Manning. At the end of the day, however, he also is a comparatively mediocre passer.
The reigning MVP
Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs, week 14)
There’s no denying that Patrick Mahomes is a pretty good quarterback. The most valuable player of the 2018 regular season was outstanding in just his first year as a full-time starter, and will be a sizable challenge for the Patriots’ secondary once again — a secondary that faced him twice last year and at times was unable to slow him and the Chiefs’ high-flying offense down. Mahomes’ development this season will be interesting to watch, especially when going against a team that beat him in both encounters in 2018.
The fellow young guns
Mahomes entered the NFL in 2017, the same year as Deshaun Watson. Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott came into the league one year before them. What unites especially Wentz and Prescott is their experience: both have three years of starting experience under their respective belts, with Watson (and Mahomes) having appeared in noticeably fewer games. They all have proven their abilities through their first few seasons in the league, though, and are among the most promising young passers in the NFL — despite not being on the same level as Mahomes, let alone Tom Brady.
The second-year quarterbacks
Josh Rosen (Miami Dolphins, weeks 2 & 17); Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills, weeks 4 & 16); Sam Darnold (New York Jets, weeks 3 & 7); Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns, week 8); Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens, week 9)
Five quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, and all five of them are on New England’s schedule this year. Considering that the second year is when players generally make the biggest jumps in their development, the meetings between the Patriots and the five passers will be fun to watch — and could go either way, depending on the direction each of them is moving towards.
Baker Mayfield has shown the most so far in his career, with Darnold and Jackson also having somewhat solid stretches of play. Rosen, who was traded from the Arizona Cardinals to Miami this offseason, and Allen were mostly disappointing during their rookie campaigns, on the other hand. For them, just like for the other three fellow first-round passers, the 2019 season will be crucial in their development. If they can make the famed second-year jump, their teams’ investments might prove to be successful ones after all.
Dwayne Haskins (Washington Redskins, week 5)
Washington spent the fifteenth overall selection in this year’s draft to get Haskins, and it looks like he will have a legitimate shot at earning the starting role this summer. This would make him the lone rookie on the Patriots’ schedule this year — unless, of course, sixth overall selection Daniel Jones can unseat the aforementioned Eli Manning, something that does not seem unrealistic given Manning’s recent performances. Either way, the Patriots have had considerable success going against first-year passers in the past. 2019 should be more of the same.
No matter what happens with Jones and Manning, or the development of Rosen, Darnold and company, the 2019 season will see the Patriots go against the NFL’s youth movement at the quarterback position — all while veteran players such as Roethlisberger and Dalton also make brief appearances on the world champions’ schedule. This mix between established passers and young guns certainly will be fun to watch, and a good test for New England’s defensive backfield.