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Arizona Cardinals thankful for Josh Rosen this year

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — A year ago at this time, the Arizona Cardinals were 4-6. They went into Thanksgiving on the heels of a loss to Houston and, while things didn’t feel quite as dire as they do right now, it was pretty clear their season was going to end before the playoffs.

One year later, there’s chaos. They’ve already fired their new offensive coordinator, Patrick Peterson apparently wanted to be traded last month, the offensive line is injured and struggling and they just lost to the hapless Oakland Raiders – in State Farm Stadium, no less.

Despite all that, however, the Cardinals and their fans have one clear reason to be thankful: they have Josh Rosen.

If you’re not totally on board with that notion, just remember Blaine Gabbert was the quarterback 365 days ago.

Sure, Oakland somehow won that game on Sunday, despite looking completely out of sync while their coach and quarterback routinely waived their arms and yelled at each other on the sidelines. And yes, the embarrassment of that loss seems to have sapped any remaining good feelings Arizona fans had about the 2018 season. If you can’t beat that team, how can you feel good going into a game against the 7-3 Chargers?

But maybe we should be thanking the Raiders too – after all, they’re the team that let the Cards jump five spots and draft Rosen, in exchange for a third and fifth round pick. If Jon Gruden and Derek Carr can’t get on the same page here at some point, they’re going to wish they had just held onto that pick and taken Rosen themselves. Because that’s the biggest piece to have when you’re hitting the reset button: a franchise quarterback of the future to build around. And Arizona’s confident Rosen is already becoming that guy.

“The thing I love about Josh is just the competitive edge that he has,” Patrick Peterson pointed out, after practice on Thanksgiving. “There’s not that many quarterbacks that are that vocal and that determined to get the best out of their teammates. And he’s definitely one of them.”

“I mean, I’ve never really been around a rookie quarterback,” he added. “So this is my first time really experiencing this, but it’s always good when you see a young guy come in and take his job as serious as he does.”

Rosen definitely takes it seriously. But he also brings enough levity to the table to keep the guys around him loose. And he has that rare quality that the good quarterbacks have – the ability to forget a mistake in the moment and quickly bounce back without losing any confidence. That was on display Sunday, when he responded with three touchdowns after tossing two early interceptions.

“I mean, he’s a good football player,” Byron Leftwich said. “To say what it is… I don’t know, the kid came into this thing – like I said, he’s 21 going on 32 sometimes – this is a calm kid, he’s a real smart kid. He has an understanding of the game. We’re just trying to put more into him so you can have the three touchdowns and maybe not the two interceptions.”

“But the kid never gets rattled,” he went on. “He’s always there for the next play. That’s what you like about this kid – no matter what just happened, he’s there for the next play. And that’s what you need in this league because sometimes – like the second interception – sometimes you can’t control what happens out there on the football field. A lot of guys, in those situations, they’ll hold their head down. You saw this kid, this kid kept fighting, put us in position to win the football game. It’s just unfortunate it didn’t work out.”

For the record, Leftwich also noted that he doesn’t know when he’ll stop referring to Rosen as “the kid”. But it definitely won’t be anytime this season.

Of course, confidence is only part of the equation. If you have a strong belief in yourself without the talent to actually back it up at some point, it just becomes irrational confidence. That doesn’t typically lead to wins. But Leftwich is adamant that Rosen is already making huge strides behind the scenes that might not be showing up in the box score just yet. And his teammates are taking notice.

“He’s got elite arm strength and he’s got unbelievable confidence in where he can place the football,” Larry Fitzgerald explained. “I mean, you saw that on the throw before mine, on the bench route to Christian [Kirk]. I mean, he put that ball where only Christian can make a play. The guy was breaking on it, but he just couldn’t get there. Christian was able to make the play, very acrobatic, get his feet down. And the same thing on the next play to me. He just gives guys balls that they can make a play with.”

Beyond all that, Peterson is just impressed by Rosen’s general approach to football.

“I like his attitude towards the game for sure,” he said.

So despite slogging through one of the most difficult seasons in recent memory, the Cardinals still have something to be thankful for. A few things, really. But having the foundation of a quarterback to build from is at the top of the list. Now they just need to make sure they build around him the right way.

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