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Rosen’s debut: How did it stack up against the other rookie QBs?

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Rookie Josh Rosen had his preseason debut on Saturday night. How did it compare to the other QBs from the 2018 draft class?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals
Josh Rosen pre-snap against the Chargers on Saturday
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night’s first preseason game was exciting for a lot of reasons—David Johnson breaking off big runs, Chase Edmonds body surfing into the end zone, that wild 4th quarter. And, oh yeah, we got the win. But I think most fans tuned in for one reason: to see #10 overall pick QB Josh Rosen’s first NFL action.

But before the Redbirds picked Rosen, they were connected to each of the other 2018 rookie QBs at some point during the draft process. So it’s only natural that he’ll be compared to Baker Mayfield (#1 to the Cleveland Browns), Sam Darnold (#3, New York Jets), Josh Allen (#7, Buffalo Bills), and Lamar Jackson (#32, Baltimore Ravens) for the rest of his career.

With that in mind, it’s worth seeing how Rosen’s debut compared to his fellow rookie QBs. So let’s briefly check in with Mayfield and the rest before delving into the tape on Rosen. How did our “Golden” rookie stack up?

Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns

Stat Line: 11/20, 212 yards, 2 TD/0 INT, 3 carries for 13 yards, 1 sack taken

Quick Thoughts: There’s no denying it—Mayfield looked good. I mean, really good. Like every rookie QB, he made some questionable throws, but he didn’t turn the ball over, kept plays alive with his feet, and tossed two TDs. The first one to the TE in the back of the end zone (1:36 in the video linked below) was especially impressive. It is worth keeping in mind that he got to play with more first-teamers than Rosen did, however. Check Mayfield’s tape here.

Sam Darnold – New York Jets

Stat Line: 13/18, 96 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 2 carries for 8 yards, 1 sack taken

Quick Thoughts: The Jets looked like they were running a pretty limited offense, but Darnold was accurate on the short throws and kept the chains moving. He moved around in and out of the pocket pretty well, as seen on his TD pass (1:46 in the video)—a nifty throw on the run to the WR as he escapes the pocket to the right. Like Mayfield, Darnold got a lot more playing time than Rosen, playing deep into the fourth quarter. Check Darnold’s tape here.

Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills

Stat Line: 9/19, 116 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 3 carries for 29 yards, 1 sack taken

Quick Thoughts: It took all of one throw to see why the Bills traded up to take Allen—a deep bomb off a play-fake that went an easy 60 yards in the air. Of course, the throw also took the WR out of bounds, a quick reminder that accuracy is going to be an issue with Allen. He had an up-and-down debut, mixing several *Ron Wolfley voice* “WOW!” throws (see 4:33 on the tape) with an equal amount of overthrows. He had a couple nice runs too. Rosen sure could have used some of that escapability on Saturday. Check Allen’s tape here.

Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens

Stat Line: 7/18, 119 yards, 0 TD/0 INT, 5 carries for 21 yards and 1 TD, 2 sacks taken

Quick Thoughts: Jackson made some plays with his legs (including a neat TD run at 0:50 on the tape) but showed a scattershot arm and panic in the face of pressure. He did have two big gainers on the day, but the first (on his first pass) probably should have been intercepted, and the second was on a screen. Jackson is an exciting talent for sure, but it looks like he needs a year behind Joe Flacco to develop as a passer. But he was selected 22 picks after Rosen, so that’s perhaps to be expected. Check Jackson’s tape here.

Josh RosenArizona Cardinals

Stat Line: 6/13, 41 yards, 0 TD/0 INT, 0 carries for 0 yards, 0 sacks taken

Quickish Thoughts: Let’s face it—Rosen’s most impressive stat was probably the 0 sacks taken. He was under fire for most of his brief appearance Saturday night, taking several hits and having to throw it away a few times. You can’t really analyze Rosen’s performance without acknowledging that his O-line did him no favors, especially Daniel Munyer, who had more trouble hiking than Aron Ralston. (Is anyone else deeply concerned about our O-line depth?)

Yet Rosen withstood the pressure and took what was available. If I had to sum up his performance in one word, it would be “poise.” Just look at his first throw—he gets slammed by the blitzing LB but still completes the pass. Then on his best throw of the night (0:17 on the tape), the pocket collapses but he sidesteps the rush and delivers a bullet down the middle to Gabe Holmes. (After another terrible snap as well.)

His receivers didn’t help him much either. He had a couple near misses with Greg Little (1:11 and 2:54), as well as one with (no surprise) J.J. Nelson (3:12). On the first incompletion to Little, a nice high-point throw from his own end zone, Little isn’t able to come down with the ball after contact from the DB. (A play Fitz almost certainly would’ve made.) On the second, a slick back-shoulder number, Little just isn’t able to keep his feet down in bounds. That’s a timing thing that more reps should be able to fix. On the Nelson play, J.J. gets his hands on the ball but can’t bring it in. Another bad snap likely messed with the timing, however.

So there’s actually a lot to like here beneath the surface. (Except for that near pick-six—the DB read his eyes the whole way. Just a brutal throw.) I have a feeling Rosen will look a lot better from here on out as he gets some reps with the starters, and hopefully he gets more than 13 attempts next week. You have to wonder if Wilks regrets not playing him more, especially with a short practice week before traveling to New Orleans for Friday’s game.

Final Thoughts

After checking the tape, this is how I’d rank the preseason debuts by this year’s 1st-round rookie QBs:

  1. Baker Mayfield
  2. Sam Darnold
  3. Josh Allen
  4. Lamar Jackson
  5. Josh Rosen

Cardinals fans might not like seeing Rosen’s name at the bottom of this list, but he’s the only QB that didn’t get his team into the end zone. And a 3.2 YPA is never a good look, regardless of O-line or WR issues—which the other QBs all dealt with to varying degrees. He’ll need to find a bit more rhythm—and get a bit more help—against the Saints to show the rest of the league why the Cardinals are happy they drafted him at #10.

So what are your thoughts on Rosen’s not-so-golden debut, Cardinals fans? How does he stack up against his draftmates? Do you think Wilks should have played him more? What do you hope to see the rookie work on against the Saints this week?