Josh Rosen’s first start in the NFL wasn’t a win. His statistics would lead you to believe it was an underwhelming day for the Arizona Cardinals rookie. Completing 15 of 27 passes for 180 yards with a touchdown and no interception isn’t a terrible outing, but it’s not impressive either, considering the numbers other passers are putting up.
It wasn’t enough to beat the Seattle Seahawks, who won, 20-17, to drop the Cardinals to 0-4 on the year. They’re the only winless team and dead last in the NFL in points scored and yards gained.
At UCLA, Rosen dealt with dropped passes and an offensive line that often kept him under pressure. It’s part of the reason why the team is a winless mess since Rosen’s departure.
The Cardinals are giving Rosen more of the same. He dealt with dropped passes and was pressured on 14 of his 30 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. But a closer look at Week 4 shows just how good Rosen looked in spite of all that.
On the seven times the Seattle defense dialed up a blitz for the rookie, Rosen completed six passes. The only time he didn’t get a completion against a Seahawks blitz was on the first of his three dropped passes on the day — from Larry Fitzgerald, no less.
He was good enough against blitzes that the Seahawks eventually stopped trying to send extra rushers.
“I thought he played well. I thought he gave us every opportunity for us to win that football game,” Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said Monday. “Very poised, a great leader, put the ball where it needed to be. ... I loved the way he just commanded the offense and the way we went down the field sometimes.”
Still, the Seahawks were best against Rosen when they were able to pressure the young passer. On the 11 times he dealt with pressure from Seattle pass rushers, he completed five passes for 54 yards. Sometimes when he was under duress, Rosen’s footwork was off and his accuracy suffered as a consequence. Still, the majority of his production for the day came when he was kept clean in the pocket.
But he didn’t look overwhelmed, shaken, or in over his head at any point in time. It’s safe to say he passed the poise test in his debut.
For a quarterback who only threw for 180 yards, Rosen threw some dimes against the Seattle secondary. Especially when he was given time to throw, like he was on the first touchdown pass of his career.
And he would’ve had two touchdown passes, if this beautiful throw to Chad Williams down the left sideline was ruled in bounds.
That incomplete pass and a deep ball to Christian Kirk that was dropped cut into what could’ve been a day closer to 250 yards.
Wait, here’s one more that did count.
Just the threat of big plays that Rosen clearly brings should make things easier for David Johnson, who has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry behind the shaky offensive line.
However, the Cardinals have retooling to do on offense before they’ll be anywhere near their 2015 or 2016 production, but they definitely have a quarterback who can sling it.
Surrounding cast: 4.4
Uhh ... yikes.
There was the Fitzgerald drop that cost the Cardinals a first down, and the Kirk drop that cost them a 30-yard gain, and this laughably bad one in the flat to Ricky Seals-Jones.
But no drop was more brutal than a throw to J.J. Nelson in the second quarter that would’ve gone for about 50 yards if he managed to haul it in.
Fitzgerald’s drop came on a drive that ended with a punt, Kirk’s came on a field goal drive, and the Cardinals punted two plays after Seal-Jones’ drop. At least Nelson’s miscue — which didn’t officially count because of an illegal hands to the face penalty on the defense — was on a drive that ended with a David Johnson rushing touchdown.
Every quarterback has to deal with drops, but Baker Mayfield and Carson Wentz are the only two starters who have had a higher percentage of their passes dropped this season than Rosen. And that’s not even counting the Nelson drop.
Don’t forget about the Cardinals offensive line that is arguably the worst in the NFL. With Rosen pressured on 20 of his 39 dropbacks so far in 2018, he’s the only starting quarterback who has been pressured over 50 percent of the time he steps back to pass.
Arizona has work to do, but finding a franchise quarterback is the hardest part of rebuilding an offense. At least the Cardinals have reason to feel really optimistic that they found that with their first-round rookie.