Cardinals plan to use heavy doses of Rosen, Kirk early in preseason
GLENDALE, Ariz. — From quarterback to special teams, the Arizona Cardinals want to use the first few preseason games to find out what they have in their rookie class.
A Saturday preseason opener against the Los Angeles Chargers at University of Phoenix Stadium should feature heavy doses of their first two 2018 draft picks, quarterback Josh Rosen and receiver/return man Christian Kirk.
“I don’t want to get into numbers because I don’t want to come in next week and have you guys hold me to those numbers,” Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks said Wednesday when asked how many snaps Rosen could see Saturday. “We want him to play quite a bit and get him in the flow of the game.”
Of course, that means it’s unknown how deep into the game it’ll take for Rosen to step behind rookie starting center Mason Cole, Arizona’s third-round draft pick.
Rosen said he’s progressed each day over the last few weeks. He’s playing more reactionary football with his first NFL action a few days out.
“I feel a lot more comfortable and fluid with (the playbook),” Rosen said Wednesday. “At the line of scrimmage, I’m focusing more and more on what the defense is trying to do to me rather than making sure I get the right snap count and in the right protection.
He called this the “most tangible way” he’s progressed.
“The other ways, a lot of it is kind of the little things on how to use a double-cadence to buy yourself time and get someone offsides and just little sort of tricks of the trade that I didn’t know when I was in college,” Rosen said.
Meanwhile, Kirk will have butterflies to overcome playing in front of a home crowd that knows him well after he broke more than a handful of state record at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale.
He received plenty of first-team reps on Wednesday and was listed on the depth chart released before the San Diego game as the first man up as a punt returner.
“Probably a week ago he was stretching and fans were here and I was like, ‘Man, it’s a little surreal for you isn’t it?'” Wilks said. “You know, he can look around and see some of his high school buddies in the stands.
“It’s great. It’s a blessing. I’m sure he’s just all in the moment.”
Cardinals special teams coach Jeff Rodgers said Kirk’s special teams work at Texas A&M had a bit to do with Arizona’s decision to select him 47th overall this summer.
Now, it appears he’ll get a good shot at securing a key role during the preseason.
“He studies — seems to be — on his assignments. He’s got good hands,” Rodgers added. “Ball security is real important to us so that’s been a positive so far. But like I said, when you get into games, sometimes stuff changes. You just want to confirm the things you’re seeing in practice.”
Rosen on the differences in making mistakes in the NFL versus college: “Everyone talks about the speed of the NFL. I think a great pass in high school is a great pass in college is a great pass in the NFL. The only difference is the kind of off pass a little bit, it’s a pick. A lot of it is you can’t second-guess yourself and you have to be very decisive.
“When you catch yourself in the middle of a play kind of second-guessing a read a little bit, you just have to move on. You can’t try and fit it in. You have to keep moving through your progression. Once you feel yourself … buffering a little bit, you have to keep pushing on because the bad mistakes are worse in the NFL.