Last week, we compared the preseason debuts of the 2018 first-round rookie QBs. To say that Josh Rosen’s debut was not-so-golden would be putting it mildly—his performance lagged behind the other four QBs (due to reasons mostly, but not all, beyond his control). However, after coach Steve Wilks promised Rosen would get more time with the first-team offense, Cardinals fans were feeling confident he’d have a stronger showing in the second preseason game. So, how did he do?
As you probably know by now, Rosen was much more golden against the Saints. But how did his performance stack up against Mayfield, Darnold, and the rest? Did he climb up the rookie QB rankings a bit? Let’s check the tape and the stats and find out.
Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns
Stat Line: 7/13, 75 yards, 0 TD/0 INT, 4 carries for 9 yards, 1 sack taken
Quick Thoughts: Like Rosen last week, Mayfield mostly played with the second unit—hence the mediocre stat line. Facing a four-man rush most of the night, he had far fewer big plays, but he made a couple nice throws when the protection held up (see 1:44 on the tape) and generally avoided negative plays. With Tyrod (Tuh-rod?) Taylor likely to start under center for Cleveland in Week 1, Mayfield will have plenty of time to study NFL coverages. Check Mayfield’s tape here.
Trending: Steady ↔
Sam Darnold – New York Jets
Stat Line: 8/11, 62 yards, 0 TD/1 INT, 0 carries for 0 yards, 2 sacks taken
Quick Thoughts: To my eyes, Darnold took a bit of a step back in his second game. He faced a lot more blitzes than Mayfield and did not respond well to the pressure, getting panicky in the pocket, taking a couple sacks, and throwing a bad pick in plus territory (2:30 on the tape). I thought Rosen handled stronger pressure much better last week. Still, Darnold had a couple decent throws in the short passing game, but that seems to be all the Jets are letting him do after two weeks of tape. That offense might be hard to watch all year regardless of who’s under center. Check Darnold’s tape here.
Trending: Down ↓
Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills
Stat Line: 9/13, 60 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 3 carries for 18 yards, 1 sack taken
Quick Thoughts: I wasn’t at all high on Allen during the draft process and was glad when Buffalo traded in front of the Redbirds to draft him. That said, he’s been pretty impressive so far this preseason. He didn’t have as many opportunities to show off his arm strength this week, but he looked in control of the offense, took care of the football, and moved really well—he continues to remind me of Ben Roethlisberger (ugh) in this way. Case in point: 1:59 on the tape. He eludes a big rush, steps up in the pocket, and finds the WR in the back of the end zone. A heck of a play. Allen looks much better than I thought he would at this point. Check Allen’s tape here.
Trending: Up ↑
Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens
Stat Line: 7/15, 49 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 4 carries for 26 yards, 1 sack taken
Quick Thoughts: Jackson’s playmaking potential is clear—check out his TD pass on a play-fake rollout at 3:09 and several nice runs, both designed and scrambles. But the 2016 Heisman winner is still well behind the other four first-round picks as a passer. Although he has plenty of arm strength, several of his intermediate and deep passes were wobbly, and he was wildly inaccurate on throws more than a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Joe Flacco doesn’t have to worry about his job security anytime soon. Check Jackson’s tape here.
Trending: Down ↓
Josh Rosen – Arizona Cardinals
Stat Line: 10/16, 107 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 0 carries for 0 yards, 0 sacks taken
Quickish Thoughts: What a difference a week—and better talent around him—makes. Rosen looked much more confident against the Saints, benefitting from much better protection (and snaps) and suffering fewer drops from the WR corps. He looked every bit the first-round talent he is. On his best throws, as Kyle Posey pointed out, he avoided pressure, went through his progressions, and delivered strikes. He looked like he belonged, which was heartening for Cardinals fans to see.
Last week, I talked about Rosen’s poise, and that theme continued in New Orleans. Just look at his second throw (0:14 on the tape): it gets batted in the air and he has the presence of mind to bat the ball down, rather than trying to catch it in the face of a huge rush. When the protection broke down on a few other plays, he was either able to dump it off to the RB or throw it away cleanly. He had no sacks or picks for a second week in a row—you know Wilks is loving that.
That said, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Going through the tape a few times, I noticed Rosen has a tendency to lock onto a receiver (Christian Kirk especially) and take the first available throw. Some of this is likely due to Mike McCoy’s quick-read offense, but like I mentioned above, Rosen is at his best when he’s going through his progressions and finding holes in the defense, not just slinging 5-yard out routes. As long as he’s getting the ball out quickly, it’s not a major problem, but if he holds on to the ball too long, that’s where bad throws and potential turnovers can happen—see 3:59 on the tape. He had another similar brutal throw last week—lucky for Rosen, neither were picked. But he won’t be so fortunate if he tries to make the same throws in the regular season against elite NFL DBs. Let’s hope McCoy and QB coach Byron Leftwich put in some time in the film room with Rosen on this, especially since he probably won’t play a ton versus Dallas next week.
With another week’s worth of stats/tape to go on, here’s how I see the rookie QBs standing after two games:
- Baker Mayfield ↔
- Josh Allen ↑
- Josh Rosen ↑
- Sam Darnold ↓
- Lamar Jackson ↓
After a strong performance against the Saints, Rosen jumps his former Pac-12 foe Darnold and former Heisman winner Jackson, but is still behind Mayfield and, surprisingly, Allen. It will be interesting to see how much playing time these guys get in the third preseason game—when the starters typically play into the second half. Mayfield, Rosen, and Jackson are behind clearly established starters, while Allen and Darnold seem to be in the running for the Week 1 starting gig. Rosen could rise or fall a spot in these rankings even if he doesn’t play much versus the Cowboys.
So what did you think about Rosen’s performance against the Saints, Redbirds fans? Where do you think he ranks against the other rookie QBs? Can he keep the momentum going against the Cowboys? Let’s talk rookie QBs in the comments!