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Rosen regressing: Checking in on our developmental players after Week 16

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Week 16 was another blowout loss for the Cardinals. Did our developmental players at least show any signs of progress?

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals
LB Haason Reddick has been one of the few bright spots on defense of late.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Well, at least we didn’t give up 40 again. Week 16’s 31-9 loss to the Rams wasn’t even as close as the lopsided score would indicate. Even worse, most of the developmental players we’ve been keeping an eye on played poorly. This season just can’t end soon enough. Fortunately, there’s only one more game before we clean house and start to rebuild for 2019. But first, we’ll once again check in on the players we’re monitoring, starting with our rookie QB.

QB Josh Rosen

Question: “Is Rosen a franchise QB?”

Week 16 Progress: As I mentioned on Monday, Rosen threw for a season-low yardage total and YPA. Yes, he took care of the ball and made some plays with his legs, but I rewatched the tape, and he didn’t make a single throw that a practice squad QB couldn’t make. It’s not a coincidence or a fluke of gameflow that Mike Glennon has handily outperformed him for two weeks in a row. Glennon is plainly the better quarterback right now. Rosen isn’t just not developing under Wilks and Leftwich, but he actually appears to be regressing, even given the obvious talent deficiencies around him. This has been a wasted year for our 1st-round pick. The only way to salvage it is to put an offensive-minded coaching staff in place around him this offseason. But Rosen himself has utterly failed to answer this question in 2018.

What to Watch in Week 17: Ideally, Glennon would be playing and Rosen could see what a competent QB wearing a Cardinals uniform looks like for the first time this season. But signs are pointing toward Rosen starting in Seattle. The Seahawks have nothing to play for, so they might rest players, which would give Rosen a chance to pad his stats a bit and perhaps earn a modicum of confidence to take into the offseason.

Trending: Down ↓

WRs Trent Sherfield, Jalen Tolliver, and Chad Williams

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

Week 16 Progress: Sherfield played the majority of the offensive snaps (45/53) and had a solid game, snagging all six of his targets for 62 yards to lead the team. Tolliver played 23 snaps and caught one of three targets for 15 yards. Perhaps surprisingly, Williams, playing for the first time in weeks, outsnapped Tolliver, playing 29 snaps, but he only caught one of four targets for seven yards. All in all, it was not a bad performance from these guys in such a low-yield offense.

What to Watch in Week 17: The trip to Seattle will be the last chance for these guys to impress until camp opens next summer. The Seahawks might be resting players, but the backups will be hungry, too. But assuming our QBs throw for more than 150 yards (a dicey proposition with the Cardinals in 2018), these guys, especially Sherfield, could put up some decent numbers. Even though we’ll undoubtedly bring in several wideouts this offseason, I could see Sherfield competing for the WR4 spot next season. I don’t think Tolliver or Williams have a chance to make the team, but others are holding out hope.

Trending: Steady ↔

T Korey Cunningham

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

Week 16 Progress: Although the O-line as a whole had a terrible game, Cunningham at least kept his stat sheet clean, not giving up a sack or taking a penalty. That doesn’t mean he blocked well (he largely didn’t), but Cardinals fans will take small victories when they can get them. Unfortunately, Cunningham hurt his foot in the 4th quarter and was subsequently placed on IR to make room for the newly (re)acquired D.J. Swearinger.

What to Watch in Week 17: Cunningham’s season is over, but he has played well enough that he should be in the picture at tackle next season. Something will have gone wrong this offseason if he enters camp as a starter, but we could do worse at swing tackle. If we can get a decent stopgap RT (better than Andre Smith, please), Cunningham could re-enter the starting picture after a year of development in 2020. I like the sound of that.

Trending: Steady ↔

LG Colby Gossett

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

Week 16 Progress: Gossett was roughed up by Aaron Donald on Sunday, giving up multiple sacks, taking two penalties (a false start and a hold), and surrendering several more hurries/hits. He was going against the likely DPOY, but he didn’t look like he belonged out there. He might as well have been waving a red cape for Donald all game.

What to Watch in Week 17: Gossett will be back at LG in Seattle, but I think it’s safe to say he won’t figure into the equation at starting guard next season. But he has gained some starting experience and should have some value as a backup in 2019. And looking at last week through rose-colored glasses, he was bad enough that we might be able to stash him on the practice squad if we need to. Small victories, right?

Trending: Down ↓

LB Haason Reddick

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

Week 16 Progress: Reddick stuffed the stat sheet once again in Week 16, racking up 9 tackles (6 solo, 1 for loss), as well as a sack and a pass defended. I agree with Walter that he looks most comfortable at OLB—he had several hurries and the sack when lined up on the line of scrimmage. He just doesn’t have the instincts to play MLB—he overpursues and tends to get blocked out of plays in the running game, and he’s somewhat of a liability in coverage (although he did better in that facet on Sunday). Reddick would benefit greatly if we brought in a 3-4 D-coordinator.

What to Watch in Week 17: Reddick versus Russell Wilson would’ve been an entertaining matchup, but who knows how much Wilson will play. But Seattle backup Brett Hundley is notably slower than Wilson, so Reddick could feast if he’s allowed to rush more. Regardless, Reddick has shown enough these past few weeks that the team should be confident that he can contribute in 2019.

Trending: Up ↑

K Zane Gonzalez

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

Week 16 Progress: Gonzalez had his chances last weekend and failed to take advantage—he badly shanked an XP and missed from 54 yards out. You want your kicker to be automatic on XPs and make at least 50% of kicks from 50+, and Gonzalez has failed on both those counts as a Cardinal. At least he had touchbacks on all three of his kickoffs.

What to Watch in Week 17: The Seattle weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 40s and a chance of rain. So, not ideal kicking conditions. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Gonzalez missed another kick. Even if he doesn’t, it looks like we’ll go into the offseason with a new kicker on our wish list. But, please, stop with the Matt McCrane hype. If he were an NFL-caliber kicker, he’d have an NFL job right now. But he doesn’t because he’s not. Simple as that.

Trending: Down ↓

Final Thoughts

Between the losing and the lame-duck coaching staff, we’re not seeing much progress out of these young players. Rosen seems to be regressing, and our plug-in O-lineman are playing like the replacement-level players they are. Ditto our depth receivers. And Zane Gonzalez, unfortunately, does not seem to have solved our multi-year kicking woes. At least Haason Reddick seems to have taken a step forward these past few weeks. Again, small victories.

Let us know your thoughts on these players in the comments. And feel free to mention any other youngsters that have caught your eye out there. We’ll check in on these players one more time next week. And then… the offseason awaits!