As Cardinals worry about protecting Rosen, QB worries about others
TEMPE, Ariz. — Planning for a one-win Raiders team this week or the now-nine-win Chiefs squad last, the Cardinals must game-plan with the same priority in mind: protecting rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.
Physically, they haven’t.
Down two starting guards after the injury to right guard Justin Pugh, Arizona’s offensive line allowed five sacks and 13 hits on the first-round pick in a Sunday loss to Kansas City.
Only Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has faced more pressure this season than Rosen, according to ESPN, and Arizona finds itself walking the fine line of putting their franchise QB through the ringer without risking his long-term health.
What helps them when stepping too far over that line?
“I like Rosen because he’s tough,” said Raiders coach Jon Gruden on Wednesday.
It’s not just this year that’s challenged Rosen, who in nine games is already two offensive coordinators deep into his career.
UCLA’s offensive coordinators changed like a game of musical chairs while Rosen was in college. He won titles in high school and as a Bruin played for losing teams in 2016 and 2017, often times behind injury-hit offensive lines. Rosen has also fought off injuries himself, most of which stemmed from taking too many hits.
In all that, he’s been through quite a few ups and downs before.
“It’s about consistency. You kind of want to be a rock for other guys who may be looking for something, some sort of steadying force, I guess you could say,” Rosen said.
“I think I’ve learned a lot in that. It’s how you react which affects others’ performance.”
Arizona head coach Steve Wilks said that’s allowed Rosen to take on more of a leadership role, even as he’s working through growing pains himself in completing 56 percent of his passes for six touchdowns to eight interceptions.
“He’s gotten to the point now to where — I don’t really want to use the word calling guys out — but he’ll set the tone out there and he doesn’t mind getting on guys when needed,” Wilks said.
The rookie is carrying himself with that confidence that had the Cardinals enamored with him in the draft.
“It’s not even just like … good and bad body language. It’s all about feeling a situation out,” Rosen said. “If you’re that same guy every single day, when you change a little bit one way or the other, for a purpose, (teammates will) be like, ‘Woh, he’s a little different today.'”
Oakland can feel Rosen’s and Arizona’s pain through a 2-9 start. It has a veteran quarterback in Derek Carr completing a career-high 72 percent of his passes behind a banged up offensive line that is arguably worse off than Arizona’s.
And from that standpoint, the risk of developing a young quarterback behind poor protection becomes more concerning if you listen to Gruden, who before returning to the coaching ranks this year dabbled in ESPN film rooms with NFL quarterback prospects.
“I’m sure they’re going through the same thing we’re going through trying to get Derek Carr going in his fourth system in five years,” Gruden said before listing off the number of different starters along the Raiders’ offensive line.
“I’m not going to sit here and worry about Arizona’s problems. We’ve had our own. It makes it tough whether you have a rookie quarterback, a veteran quarterback or a Hall of Fame quarterback. It’s tough, especially when you’re in the first year in a system.”
But Wilks believes the Cardinals have been smart with their rookie.
He likes what Rosen has experienced, from his debut in the heart of a close second half against the Bears, facing a blitz-heavy Vikings squad on the road, leading a rally against the 49ers and then showing fight at Arrowhead Stadium this past week.
But how much failure and how much physical beating can — or should — a young quarterback take before that experience threatens their future?
There is some risk from a mental aspect, according to Gruden.
“I think it can give him a lot of different, I think, interpretations of how to handle situations,” Gruden said. “Some coaches might say check to a running play, some coaches might say check to a passing play, some coaches might say don’t check at all — just throw a hot adjustment in to the flat. There’s just a lot of ways of doing business.”
LENDING A HELPING HAND
Rosen wasn’t just talking about helping prop up his teammates on Wednesday.
He opened his media availability requesting people to take action to help victims of the California wildfires that have taken the lives of more than 40 people.
“If anyone here wants to help, go to my Instagram. Donate. It’s really bad and a lot of people need help,” he said.
Rosen said he hasn’t been directly affected but friends and family in the Los Angeles area have taken in victims of the fire.
“I don’t really like the prayers for them,” he said. “It’s about them. It’s about diverting actual resources. It’s not trying to make it about us.”