Most people would say that Josh Rosen has had a rough start to his rookie season by just looking at his statistics. Which is a somewhat fair to assume, because he has clearly not had the ideal start to his career. But like I have mentioned in my other Quarterback film reviews. Stats are only a small fraction of the evaluation. Analyzing the tape is the best way to find out how well a player is playing. With that being said, I am writing this article to paint the clearest picture of Rosen’s performances through his film. So, I am asking all the box score scouts to just bear with me, and I believe our feelings about the “Rosen One” will be mutual by the time you finish reading this.
I believe these 2 plays demonstrate why Rosen was the most pro ready Quarterback in the 2018 class. Let’s kick this thing off by taking a look at this 33-yard completion he had against the Vikings.
The Vikings were in a two deep safety look, and the outside corners were lined up like they were in man coverage. This pre-snap look didn’t really indicate much in terms what coverage they were in. It’s also important to know Minnesota is known to disguise their coverages pre-snap. Especially against young QBs. In order to identify the coverage correctly, Rosen had to make his reads post snap. Which is asking a lot of a rookie Quarterback.
After he snapped the ball, the first place he looked was on the middle of the field to see if the safeties changed their alignment. And on this play, they didn’t. So, this confirmed that the Vikings were in a cover 2 zone. Also, by keeping his eyes in the middle, Rosen held the safety Harrison Smith (red circle) in center field. Smith should’ve been moving towards the sideline, but he was reading Rosen’s eyes. Which is why he stayed put and left the left half of the field vacated. Rosen located that soft spot and waited for his receiver to get there.
Yet his protection started to break down. Now most young QBs drop their eyes (in other words, look at the pressure) and try to escape the pocket in these pressure situations (doing this usually gets them into trouble). However, Rosen handled the heat like a 10-year vet. He did not get flustered, and just slid away from the interior rush while staying in the pocket. He also kept his eyes down the field, and his shoulders and feet perpendicular to the line of scrimmage (which kept his throwing mechanics intact).
He finished this play by making a beautiful throw down the field, that was right in his receiver’s bread basket. Rosen displayed poise, pocket presence, quick mental processing, accuracy, and arm strength in this play. These are traits that NFL Quarterbacks must have.
The next play I want to look at, is Rosen’s recent game winning touchdown against the 49ers.
The 49ers were in a Tampa 2 defense, which is just another way of saying cover 2. The Cardinals on the other hand, ran a pretty complex play for their rookie QB. (Bear with me through all of this) The Receiver all the way on the left was running a dig route, the Slot Receiver on the left was running an out route, the Running Back was running a little curl route (check down), the Right Slot receiver ran a little zig route (I couldn’t illustrate this route on Power Point, it’s basically like an out route), and the Receiver all the way on the right ran a curl route. Now San Francisco’s pass rush should’ve got home, this was effective coverage to stop these route concepts. However, the Cardinals’ offensive line did a great job in protection, giving Rosen enough time to make this play
As you can see here, the softest spot in a cover 2 defense is right in between the two high Safeties. The only Receiver that was going to enter that spot, was Christian Kirk. Who was all the way on the left, running a dig route.
At this very moment in the play, it was evident Rosen had processed this coverage. You can see that he began his throwing motion before Kirk got to that soft spot, because Rosen knew that Kirk would eventually get there. In other words, rather throwing it directly at Kirk, he threw it at the spot he was supposed to be at.
This is called throwing with anticipation. Rosen anticipated where his receiver was going to be, which is what QBs must do to contest tight windows. And as you can see here, it resulted in a touchdown.
It’s no secret that I am a fan of the “Rosen One.” But I am not writing this article to show all his positives, and gloss over his mistakes. Ultimately, I want to depict a clear picture of how he is performing. This isn’t an attempt to persuade readers that he can do no wrong. Analyzing his mistakes is absolutely necessary to get a thorough evaluation. So, with that being said, let’s look at this interception he threw against the Broncos.
The Broncos were in an exotic defensive formation, that made it difficult to tell what coverage they were in. Looks like these are used to confuse QBs. They were bringing as many rushers as they showed. However, they blitzed the off the ball LB (orange arrow) who looked like he was going to drop back in coverage. While having the end man on the left side of the line of scrimmage (Von Miller) look like he was going to rush. When he was covering the Running Back David Johnson (in man coverage).
The Cardinals were running rub concepts, which is just another way of saying pick play (receiver 1 gets in the way of the defender covering receiver 2, which ultimately gets receiver 2 open). This concept works particularly well against man coverage.
Rosen had a better idea of what the coverage was when he sent Christian Kirk on a dummy motion. Meaning Kirk moved towards Rosen and then back to where he originally was lined up (arcing black arrow). These motions are used to help Quarterbacks indicate the coverage. If a defender follows the man in motion. The QB knows it’s man coverage. If the no one follows the man in motion, he knows it’s zone. In this case Corner Back Bradley Roby (red circle) followed Kirk. Which indicated that it was man to man. Meaning that these rub routes most likely would work. Especially on the right side of the field, because there were less defenders in coverage.
However, something changed in the defense that Rosen should’ve recognized. Corner Back Chris Harris (black circle) got out of his press man coverage and went to an off-coverage technique. Meaning that the rub receiver Larry Fitzgerald would not be able to pick him, and the slant route would not be open.
Rosen failed to make that read and threw the ball to the slant route on the right side. While missing an open Christian Kirk on the left side (red circle).
Chris Harris telegraphed this route concept and intercepted the ball for six. Now in all fairness, the receiver JJ Nelson completely stopped running his route (black receiver). You can see that his back was facing Rosen. Meaning he wasn’t even looking for the ball. However, Rosen must recognize the change in the defense pre-snap. Especially when attempting to throw at one of the best Corners in the league. Even if Nelson continued to run his route, Harris still had way too much cushion to make a play on the ball. So, this interception is ultimately on Rosen.
I showed you an example of Rosen throwing with anticipation in “The Good.” So let’s look at a play where he failed to anticipate.
The 49ers were in a cover 3 defense. Like the game winning touchdown play, this was also zone coverage. The Cardinals were in trips formation. Meaning they lined up three receivers on the same side. They ran a simple curl flat concept. Where the closest Receiver to the ball (on the right side) ran a flat route, and the two other Receivers ran curl routes.
At this moment, Rosen should’ve thrown (or started to throw) the ball through this highlighted window. This window was pretty tight, so in order to make this throw. Rosen had to throw the ball as Kirk broke off his route (as he was stopping and turning for the ball).
But he hesitated and gave the Safety time to read his eyes. At this point he should’ve looked elsewhere, but his eyes were stuck on this read. And he decided to pull the trigger (late) anyway.
So, the throw resulted in an interception. That is why throwing with anticipation is so important. Windows close a lot faster in the NFL, and like I had mentioned before in my other Quarterback reviews. In the pros, hesitation leads to interceptions.
I am going to try to phrase this without sounding like I am absolving Rosen of all blame. However, the worst thing that I kept seeing repeatedly while watching his tape, was his supporting cast. Now please don’t think that I am blaming all his mistakes on his teammates because I am not. It’s just that all the mistakes that I have seen him make are pretty typical from rookies. They really aren’t that concerning because they usually work themselves out over time. But this supporting cast is limited and has been letting him down for the most part.
The amount of passes the Cardinals’ receivers dropped against Seattle was astonishing. I understand that this isn’t the greatest group of pass catchers, but they were dropping passes that were hitting them in the hands. Costing the Cardinals big plays. Wide Receiver is a huge need for this team, especially with Larry Fitzgerald nearing retirement.
Next, his protection has been very shaky. Rosen is a pocket passer who can avoid the rush by manipulating the pocket but isn’t going to beat you with his feet outside of structure. His play style heavily relies on his protection, and the Cardinals’ offensive line is arguably the worst in the league. Improving this unit should be Arizona’s number one priority this off season. I like their right guard Justin Pugh, and rookie center Mason Cole has been okay (not great). But they must upgrade both tackle spots and left guard.
Lastly, the Cardinals’ coaching has been extremely underwhelming. Naming what’s left of Sam Bradford as the starter at the beginning of the season (when Rosen was clearly the better QB), putting Rosen in for the first time against the Bears in a game winning situation, and hiring Mike McCoy to call plays (who has been fired from his last two jobs) has really made me doubtful of head coach Steve Wilks.
I know that he is a rookie head coach, but those are three major decisions that he really botched. Yet, the offensive play calling is really what has hurt Rosen. There was no creativity when McCoy was calling the plays, and he couldn’t figure out how to get David Johnson the ball. Hopefully new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich can build on his solid performance (calling plays) against the 49ers. Because McCoy was not getting it done. I know this might seem drastic, but the Cardinals might want to consider moving on from this coaching staff. Young offensive minds are in demand right now, and with all the recent success that they have been having with young Quarterbacks. It is easy to see why.
If I were a Cardinals fan, I would be excited. Because I firmly believe that the “Red Birds” have the right guy under center. It is truly mind boggling that Rosen fell to the 10th pick in the draft, with all of the teams that needed a Quarterback. Anyway, I am still somewhat concerned with the Cardinals’ front office. They clearly did not prepare this team with adequate talent this year, and General Manager Steve Keim’s recent track record hasn’t been great. So, I wouldn’t say I am as hopeful as I would like to be about the direction of this team. The one thing I will say, is that the blueprint to help young Quarterbacks succeed in today’s NFL is out there. Now it’s time for this front office to execute it. The question is, will they?