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Development hell: A Week 15 check-in on our developmental players

We once again check in on the six developmental players we’re following. Did any of them play well against the Falcons?

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons
Cardinals rookie QB Josh Rosen celebrating a David Johnson rushing TD against the Falcons. Rosen hasn’t thrown a TD pass since Week 13.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

About the only positive thing to come out of Sunday’s beatdown in Atlanta is that it got us closer to the end of the season and the #1 pick. Most of the developmental players we’re monitoring played poorly (some more than others), which underscores the fact that this coaching staff shouldn’t be brought back in 2019. These players just aren’t developing under Wilks and Co. Identifying the right head coach and supporting staff to develop these players—and whoever we pick in the draft—will be the number one goal of the organization in the offseason. No matter whom the GM may be.

So let’s check in on the six players we’ve been monitoring, starting with the most important of the bunch:

QB Josh Rosen

Question: “Is Rosen a franchise QB?”

Week 15 Progress: Rosen had perhaps his worst game of the season on Sunday, going 13/22 for 132 yards and 2 INTs, including his fourth pick-six of the season. His QBR, a microscopic 3.7, was his second-lowest of the season after the 3.0 he put up in the 45-10 Thursday night debacle against the Broncos—you know, the game that got Mike McCoy fired. This one didn’t get anyone fired—yet—but it did get Rosen benched for the first time in his NFL career. Given the score, the beating he was taking (6 sacks, several more hits), and his abysmal performance, the move made sense. There was a time when it could be argued that Rosen was the second-best of the rookie QBs, but after Sunday’s game, there’s no debate he’s had the worst season of the five. There’s no way he’s hitting the goals of 60% completions, 6.5 YPA, and positive TD:INT ratio. Regardless of what happens in the final two games, the Cardinals will go into 2019 not knowing whether Rosen is a franchise QB. Truly disheartening.

What to Watch in Week 16: In the aftermath of the Falcons game, the question was whether to even play Rosen the final two games. I’m usually loathe to give up meaningful reps, but it’s hard to say there’d be much value in putting Rosen out there behind that O-line to take another 6 sacks or throw more confidence-shattering pick-sixes. Nevertheless, Rosen will be out there against Aaron Donald and the Rams this weekend. I suspect Rosen’s leash will be short—if we fall behind, say, 20-3 at the half, I doubt he’d play in the second half. However, the Rams offense has struggled mightily the past few weeks, and unless the Redbirds’ defense rolls over again (a distinct possibility), this game might be closer than you’d think. But if Rosen plays the full game, expect another Ryan Lindley-esque stat line.

Trending: Down ↓

WRs Trent Sherfield, Jalen Tolliver, and Chad Williams

Question: “Can any of these WRs earn a roster spot for next season?”

Week 15 Progress: Chad Williams got another DNP, Jalen Tolliver played 43 snaps yet was only targeted once (he didn’t catch it), and Trent Sherfield only caught 3 balls (on 5 targets) for 15 yards. Yes, one of those receptions was a 7-yard TD (the first of his career) from Mike Glennon, but he was only open due to a defensive lapse from the Falcons. Overall, this group severely disappointed against a subpar secondary. This offense’s problems are myriad (poor schemes/playcalling, inaccurate QB, terrible O-line), but the talent drop-off after Larry Fitzgerald at WR is perhaps the most precipitous it’s been since he’s been in the league.

What to Watch in Week 16: The Rams’ secondary looked beatable for most of the season, but it has improved dramatically with Aqib Talib back in the lineup. Sherfield and Tolliver will probably see plenty of snaps again, but I wouldn’t expect much production from them, even if Daddy Longneck sees time under center. Williams is a lost cause. I’d expect to see each of these guys in training camp next season, but, especially if there’s a new regime in town, I seriously doubt any of the three will be in contention for a roster spot in 2019.

Trending: Down ↓

T Korey Cunningham

Question: “Can Cunningham play well enough to be an option at RT next season?”

Week 15 Progress: Cunningham played as poorly as anyone on the Cardinals against the Falcons, giving up several hurries and at least two sacks—one of which was of the strip-sack variety. He was routinely bulled and/or beaten off the edge, looking every bit the 7th-rounder he is and nothing like the diamond in the rough he appeared to be his first few starts. Oh, and he had two more holding penalties, one of which led to a punt, the other which led to a deep throw that was picked off. This was easily Cunningham’s worst game as a pro.

What to Watch in Week 16: The Rams have a middling sack total (34, #19 in the league), and most of them come from Aaron Donald up the middle (16.5 sacks), but that doesn’t mean this is a good matchup for Cunningham. The Rams have several linebackers who can bring pressure off the edge (Cory Littleton, Samson Ebukam, and Dante Fowler Jr.), so Cunningham will have his work cut out for him to keep Rosen (or Glennon) upright and the yellow off the field. But even with another poor performance, the Cardinals have likely seen enough out of him that he’ll figure into the picture somewhere at tackle next season—although ideally not as a starter.

Trending: Down ↓

LG Colby Gossett

Question: “Can Gossett play well enough to be an option at guard next season?”

Week 15 Progress: We added Gossett to this list after DT Robert Nkemdiche went on the IR with a torn ACL. Gossett, 23 and recently signed off the Vikings practice squad, played well in his first start with the Cardinals against the Lions. But, like the rest of the offensive line, Gossett did not have a good game against the Falcons. He gave up at least one sack, had a false start, and generally looked overwhelmed, especially against stunts/twists—although he didn’t hold up much better against bull rushes. This is what it looks like when you stock your O-line with late-round picks/practice squad guys.

What to Watch in Week 16: The Donald man cometh. Gossett will likely square off against the NFL sack leader and possible MVP candidate several times this weekend. I don’t hold my breath that it will go particularly well. Donald hasn’t had a sack in the last two weeks against the Bears and Eagles, but those teams have much stronger interior offensive lines. This will be a major test for Gossett—and whether he passes might have a lot of bearing on whether or not he’ll be back in 2019.

Trending: Down ↓

LB Haason Reddick

Question: “Will Reddick be a starter next season?”

Week 15 Progress: Looking at the stat sheet for the Cardinals defense, Reddick’s name stands out. He had 5 solo tackles (1 for loss), a sack, a QB hit, and a pass defended. The sack was interesting as it came on a play when he was lined up outside the tackle (which makes sense given he was a DE in college). And the pass defended was key as it happened on 3rd and goal to keep the Falcons to a FG back when it was still a close game. But, as one of only two linebackers on the field at any given time, he takes a lot of blame for the horrendous display of rushing defense (215 yards given up at a 8.0 YPC). Indeed, he was victimized on several long runs by either overpursuing or taking poor angles, allowing him to be easily blocked out of the play by Atlanta’s guards. He also struggled in pass coverage again. I’m not sure Reddick will ever be a competent ILB—at least in Al Holcomb’s 4-3 scheme.

What to Watch in Week 16: The Rams and their #7 rushing offense comes knocking. When we played them back in Week 2, we actually had our best game against the run, holding Todd Gurley and Co. to 90 yards on the ground at a 2.7 YPC—although Gurley did score 3 TDs. However, Reddick barely played in that game, and Gurley’s status is up in the air for this weekend’s game. But regardless of who is carrying the ball for the Rams, I don’t expect them to meet much resistance from the Redbirds. So Reddick will have to make an impact as a pass rusher and in coverage. Jared Goff has been struggling lately—can Reddick add to those struggles? I’d bet more on a bounce-back game from Goff than an impact game from Reddick.

Trending: Steady ↔

K Zane Gonzalez

Question: “Will Gonzalez be our kicker next season?”

Week 15 Progress: It’s hard to evaluate a kicker when his team doesn’t attempt any FGs. But Gonzalez made both his XPs and had touchbacks on 2 out of 3 kickoffs. So while he wasn’t given an opportunity to shine, he also didn’t give us any cause for concern either. We’ll take it.

What to Watch in Week 16: Gonzalez will be kicking in the comforts of State Farm Stadium for the final time this season. The Rams’ defense has been leakier than expected for most of the year, so Gonzalez should have a few kicking opportunities. Missing anything from within 40 yards, including XPs, is obviously a big no-no, but it’s just as important that he shows accuracy from distance. He’s already 0-1 from 50+ in a Cardinals uniform. You’d love to see him nail one this weekend.

Trending: Steady ↔

Final Thoughts

These guys all played well enough at home against the Lions, but they almost uniformly played worse on the road against the Falcons. That’s hardly surprising for young players under a (likely) lame-duck head coach. Can these youngsters get back on track back at the friendly confines? This is the last chance for these players—and the whole team—to make a good impression on the home fans. Let’s hope they have a solid showing, even if the result is another loss.

Where are you at with these young players, Redbirds fans? Did you see anything positive out there against the Falcons? Or have you already moved on from last week’s miserable game? Drop us a line in the comments.