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Cardinals not concerned about Josh Rosen’s low completion percentage

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen, right, breaks free for a long run during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

TEMPE, Ariz. — There was Josh Rosen, rolling out on 3rd-and-23 in the fourth-quarter. He bought enough time to drop a lofting ball into the hands of a diving Larry Fitzgerald for a first down.

The most nervous moment Sunday at Lambeau Field for the Cardinals’ rookie quarterback came on a 33-yard scramble that ended with him stumbling and fumbling the ball out of bounds.

“I was so close to getting that credibility and then it just fell out of my arms like the ball,” Rosen joked.

His highlights Sunday in a win over the Green Bay Packers both set up scores in the final 20 minutes of the game. It’s been a theme this year: Rosen has looked at his best when it counts.

But concerns about his rhythm and accuracy linger with Arizona struggling to get going earlier in games.

Overall, Rosen is second-to-last among qualifying NFL quarterbacks by completing 54 percent of his passes. He’s thrown 10 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and is last in yards per attempt (6.12).

The Cardinals’ decision-makers don’t see worrying signs. They see the context around a rookie quarterback.

“The word I used for his performance this past week is what I used for the team, and usually that’s a direct correlation of how your quarterback plays. And that was ‘gritty,'” Cardinals GM Steve Keim told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“Moreso than anything for a young quarterback with his eyes — to be able to see things — that’s where I think he can grow the most because he has missed some wide open receivers from a vision standpoint,” Keim added. “I think when you get to the inaccuracies, I don’t see a lot of it for a rookie quarterback. There are some throws that are off. Usually they’re a little high, which to me I attribute to their footwork and guys can get lazy in their sets and the mechanics of it.”

Rosen attributes his low completion percentage to a few things.

The Cardinals have been going heavy with protections, meaning they’re often times only deploying two receivers. His misses have mostly come with high throws, whether it’s taking shots down the field or working the quick-game.

High throws, he said, are usually the best kind of miss.

“I mean, we’re throwing the ball a little less than we were earlier in the year,” Rosen said. “The shots are a lot deeper, so sort of high-risk, high-reward kind of things. Sometimes you’re going for the chunk plays. It’s a little bit of the offense, little bit of I can play better, should play better.

“I’d like to get in rhythm earlier,” he added. “Maybe (I am doing it) just to try to keep it more interesting. I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you.”

Cardinals offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will take this conundrum even further.

It’s important to remember the revolving bodies along the offensive line and the run game, both of which have seen an uptick in production of late.

Then consider Arizona has first- and second-year receivers earning snaps alongside veteran Larry Fitzgerald. That issue is expected to only worsen after leading receiver Christian Kirk was lost for the year with a broken foot against the Packers.

Combine all that, and Rosen is often taking a lost down over lost yardage on top of it.

“You guys see (the missed throws), I see the balls that we throw away,” Leftwich said. “You’d be amazed about how many balls we count that’s just throw-aways because he’s doing the right thing. I know the numbers, I see them, but I also know what I’m asking him (to do) play-in,-play-out and the situations he in as a whole. He’s been in some tough situations where he just has to get rid of the ball.

“But it’s just having a full understanding of why that number is that number.”

And when it comes to crunch-time, the Cardinals will take Rosen finding ways to win unscripted plays.

EXTRA POINTS

– While joining Doug & Wolf on Friday, Keim said he told offensive tackle D.J. Humphries that “availability is everything.” This, after Humphries hit the injured reserve list earlier in the week due to a knee injury for the second year in a row.

“From a skillset standpoint you like some of the things that D.J. does,” Keim said. “Moving forward, just based on how healthy he has been in the past, there is no doubt we have to provide depth at that position.”

– Keim, on the injuries and struggles of the offensive line heading into a Week 14 game against the Detroit Lions: “If you told me back in August that we were starting this week with a rookie left tackle, rookie left guard and rookie center, I think you’d probably wonder who’s going home in a body bag. That’s not the case.”

– The general manager on Kirk’s performance this year before his season-ending foot injury: “I think if we have more success for a team, to me he certainly would have been in the conversation for offensive rookie of the year. He’s been able to play inside and outside for us. He’s a detailed route-runner, he’s showed great quickness.

“I think one thing that he’s done is he’s shown more vertical speed than I think anybody thought he had. His ability — like the other day when he ran that out-and-up with a little head-nod against another first-round pick in Green Bay at the corner spot. His ability to run after the catch to me is also very, very intriguing with all the jailbreaks and quick screens.”

Doug & Wolf

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