Four words disarmed the Arizona Cardinals.
“Hey, guys, I’m Josh.”
That’s what first-round pick Josh Rosen told the No. 1 offense when he ducked into the huddle for the first time. He needed no introduction. Everyone in the city knew about the California kid with the strong arm and the stronger opinions, the unbridled No. 10 pick from UCLA who could chafe as well as he could strafe.
So the simple act of humbly introducing himself — the opposite of, “Don’t you know who I am?” — amounted to his first touchdown with his new teammates. It didn’t fit his brash billing.
“That was cool as hell,” said tackle D.J. Humphries, who still laughs about the moment a couple months later. “From a rookie quarterback, I thought that was awesome.”
There was some calculation on Rosen’s part. He might be sleepy-eyed but he’s not wide-eyed, and he still has the edge that drove him to say on draft day that the three quarterbacks chosen before him were “mistakes.”
“It was kind of an ice-breaker,” he said this week of his huddle hello. “Like the first day of kindergarten. Guys chuckled a little bit.”
Unlike the other Cardinals rookies, who are in a separate locker room, Rosen has his stall with the veterans, and right next to starter Sam Bradford. First-year coach Steve Wilks wanted them together so the quarterback of the future can learn from the quarterback of the present.
Rosen has the luxury of time and to learn at the elbow of a former No. 1 pick. How much time is the question, as Bradford hasn’t started a full 16 games since his 2012 season in St. Louis.
“People forget how good he is,” Rosen said of Bradford. “He’s unbelievably quick and decisive with everything that he does. The ball just doesn’t touch the ground.”
Although he has praised Rosen’s touch and accuracy, Wilks said the rookie needs to continue to work on his decision-making in the pocket. That’s a standard critique of a quarterback stepping up from college.
“I’m thinking a lot out there,” Rosen said. “You just need repetitions out there. Keep repping over and over again, and then you start to focus more on the physical side. You’re not thinking so much. That’s kind of daily process and staying in the playbook as much as I can.”
His digital tablet is seldom out of reach.
“The sooner I can master the playbook and master situations and step into the huddle with as much confidence, and run plays as quickly and efficiently as I can,” Rosen said, “that exudes [confidence] more than anything. We’re all professional football players. We’re all going to make some pretty awesome plays. We all have a lot of talent. It’s just, how consistently can you be that guy?”
As it stands, Rosen and Mike Glennon are competing for the backup job. But the situation is temporary. The Cardinals didn’t trade up five spots in the first round for anything short of the player they see as their franchise quarterback.
“He's a good kid,” Bradford said of Rosen. “He's eager to learn, he wants to learn. He wants to be great. I think he's got the right attitude and the right mindset for this position and this league. I'm going to continue to do everything I can to help and make him the player that he's capable of being.”
Former Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who retired in January after 14 NFL seasons, thinks Rosen is best prepared for immediate success among the quarterbacks selected in this class.
“I have a feeling he’s going to have fewer bumps in the road because he already plays like an NFL quarterback,” Palmer said. “He already throws the ball with anticipation. He already throws NFL-style reads, works through progressions in that way. I just don’t think you’ll see as many bad games from him.
“Say every first-round pick has a couple of bad games — 20 of 46 for 210 yards with three picks and a touchdown — I just don’t think he’s going to do that. Because I don’t think it’s such a big adjustment for him. Just from the huddle to the line of scrimmage, that’s the biggest adjustment for these young guys. He’s going to get to the line of scrimmage and already kind of have the right thoughts in his head, whereas these other guys are really just trying to figure things out.”
Rosen has ruffled feathers with some politically charged Instagram posts, pointed criticism of the NCAA, and — in a benign comment that nonetheless had some eyes rolling — by saying he wants to win more Super Bowls than Tom Brady.
Palmer said the outspoken Rosen is more suited for playing in Arizona, as opposed to a more scrutinized market, because he won’t be in as bright a spotlight.
“I don’t think he’s shied away from saying controversial things,” Palmer said. “When you say controversial things in New York and you have a bad game, you can’t hide from it. It’s everywhere. He’s in a nice little kind of nest there in Arizona where he can say some controversial things, or speak his mind the way he has in the past, and he won’t be crucified for it after a bad game.”
This much is clear: The Cardinals love him.