The future is now for the Cardinals’ offense
TEMPE, Ariz. — This is what a youth movement looks like.
Sure, the headlines this week are focused on quarterback Josh Rosen making his first NFL start. And rightfully so.
In a season that hasn’t offered much in the way of optimism for Arizona Cardinals fans, there’s at least some hope when watching the guy touted as the franchise quarterback of the future.
Thing is, there are always growing pains with a rookie signal caller. That’s to be expected. And in Rosen’s case, he’s stepping into an offense where he’s not the only player lacking experience. Far from it.
In fact, there’s a very real possibility we see a play or two on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks where Rosen (first-round pick) takes a snap from fellow rookie center Mason Cole (third round), fakes a handoff to rookie running back Chase Edmonds (fourth round) and fires a pass to rookie receiver Christian Kirk (second round).
That’s not normal. Not in Week 4.
“I think, number one, they’re learning,” Steve Wilks said. “They’re getting ahead of the curve, particularly in their rookie year. A lot of guys sit back and they come back their second year.
“Mason is doing a tremendous job, unfortunately what happened early with A.Q. [Shipley]. The same thing with Chase, and all of a sudden you see Christian emerging and doing some great things. And all of a sudden now Josh has his opportunity to step in.”
Regardless of how quickly any or all of the rookies learn the ins and outs of the NFL game, the future is now for Arizona. If these four gain valuable experience that helps them in 2019 and beyond, there’s suddenly some tangible value to the rest of this currently disappointing season after an 0-3 start.
And if they can jump-start the offense and win a few more games right now, even better.
“It’s really awesome,” Rosen said. “I’ve got special relationships with all of them. Mason and I are getting on the same page with protections. I’m going to lean on him, he’s a really smart guy. Christian’s an awesome receiver too, and I’m trying to get certain things down with him. And Chase is awesome in the backfield. I think he’s smarter than all of us, and he’s the one that’s fixing a lot of protections. He’s a great player as well.”
Of course, the key here is general manager Steve Keim and his people making impactful draft picks. Everyone applauded the move to give up very little, jump to No. 10 in the draft and select Rosen. Whether it ultimately works out the way they hope or not, that was almost universally hailed as a savvy move. And there’s a chance Arizona really did get a franchise quarterback out of it.
The Cardinals could desperately use an all-around great draft class though. At the moment, there’s noticeable optimism around the organization about the team’s first four 2018 draft picks, who all happened to play on the offensive side of the ball.
“We were pretty excited coming out of that draft, seeing what we got,” offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. “Steve Keim and the rest of the personnel department did a great job of evaluating not just those guys, but everybody in college. We were just fortunate.
“It was one of those years where, as an offensive staff, you’re going ‘OK good, keep going. Let’s go, one more. We’ll keep going.’ Coaches, you know, we want as many players as we can get. So you always look at that draft. So it was good.”
For his part, Rosen agrees that this could be an impressive group, and he’s not surprised so many of his first-year counterparts are already playing significant roles.
“I think we’ve got a really good draft class,” he said. “I think that’s kind of where sports in general are heading. I think a lot of younger guys are playing, at the high school level, at the college level, in the NFL. So we’re taking our opportunity and running as far and as fast as we can with it.”
Edmonds agreed, saying that’s simply life in the NFL now.
“I don’t know man, I feel like in today’s league, nowadays, I feel like rookies are more and more expected to just perform right away,” the running back said.
That’s especially true in Arizona’s case.
Yes, this is still a team that will probably have to lean heavily on its defense in 2018. Obviously, the Cardinals have established star power with David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. But a huge chunk of the offense isn’t just new to the desert, it’s new to the league.
Still, the attention will fall largely on Rosen. That’s the nature of the position and a byproduct of the hype that surrounded the UCLA product on draft night.
While it’s not ideal to be relying on a rookie four games into his head coaching career, Wilks is intrigued by the upside.
“I’m very excited,” he acknowledged. “That’s why I didn’t hesitate the other night as far as putting (Rosen) in. He’s shown the ability to be able to come in and command the huddle. Again, he’s smart. The accuracy, the arm strength is there. I can’t wait to see him play this week.”
He won’t get an argument from the fans on that one.