Barry Jackson

One issue that doesn’t bode well for Rosen’s future. But one area he was among NFL’s best

Chatter on new Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen:

In producing the NFL’s worst passer rating last season (66.7), Rosen fell well below the NFL average in nearly every area, with the important caveat that he was a rookie and his supporting cast was deficient.

But this was most disconcerting in trying to determine what he can become: His 80.9 passer rating from a clean pocket ranked 37th among qualifying signal-callers. Among quarterbacks who threw at least 150 passes (Rosen threw 393), only Josh Allen (79.8) was worse.

Every really good starting quarterback had a rating between 94 and 134 in that category last season.

And as Pro Football Focus’ Cam Mellor noted recently: “Unfortunately, we’ve seen in the past that our grades from a clean pocket are one of the most consistent metrics on a year-to-year basis in terms of future success, or in this case, failure.”

In other words, if you’re well below average when you’re not facing pressure, the odds historically are against you becoming a quality NFL starting quarterback. It’s not impossible. But the odds are against it.

Rosen, incidentally, completed just 62 percent of his passes with a clean pocket. Among starting quarterbacks, only Lamar Jackson was worse. In Rosen’s defense, 11 of his clean pocket passes were dropped.

Meanwhile, Rosen’s abysmal 38.1 passer rating under pressure was just 1.2 points above the passer rating given to a spike and worst among all quarterbacks who played in more than four games.

Ryan Tannehill, by comparison, had a 73.5 passer rating under pressure last season.

Keep in mind that 40.4% of Rosen’s dropbacks were under pressure, the fifth-highest figure in the league.

Rosen was 54 for 130 with one touchdown and six picks when facing pressure.

Among quarterbacks who played a minimum of 25 snaps in a specific week in 2018, Rosen had four of the league’s 40 lowest-graded outings according to PFF’s grading system. Tannehill and Blake Bortles also achieved that ignominious feat, with each of those producing four of the league’s worst 40 single game performances at quarterback.

This from Pro Football Focus’ Mellor: Rosen managed a grade higher than 66 in only one of his 11 starts last season, a Week 4 game against Seattle.

Mellor writes: “It should be noted that this game did take place with Earl Thomas in the lineup for the Seahawks and a basically healthy unit, so there is some good to glean from Rosen’s first year.

“He didn’t light up the stat sheet either in that game, however, so looking at the general box score wouldn’t quite cut it. Rosen completed 15-of-27 passes for just 180 yards, but it was his general safe nature with the football that kept the Cardinals in the game with the perennial NFC West power…

“However, this further explains our pre-draft evaluation of Rosen in which we stated he was extremely volatile and his future team would have to ride the highs with the lows, and that’s just what his potential suitor will have to do if the Cardinals were to trade him.”

Here’s the good news on Rosen: He has a big arm. He can escape pressure. And he was really good in the red zone last season.

On 38 red-zone dropbacks, Allen completed 16-of-38 attempts for 146 yards, seven touchdowns, and zero interceptions, with three of those incompletions coming from dropped passes, per PFF.

Rosen’s red-zone big-time throw percentage of 7.9 percent tied for the third-best mark among quarterbacks this year, while he was one of three quarterbacks (along with Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan) to make at least 30 red-zone attempts without throwing a single turnover-worthy pass.

The mildly good news: He wasn’t dismal on deep throws. His 80 passer rating on balls thrown in the air at least 20 yards ranked 22nd – below average but not deplorable. That’s ahead of Stafford, Tannehill, Carson Wentz, Cam Newton and Joe Flacco, among others. He had four touchdowns and two interceptions on those throws.

Here’s more good news, sort of: Only five quarterbacks in PFF’s grading history who played at least 350 snaps had a worse rookie grade than Rosen. But two of those became clearly above-average starting quarterbacks: Stafford and Jared Goff. The others: Bruce Gradkowski, Blake Bortles and Blaine Gabbert. So there is historical precedent that a quarterback this bad could turn into something good.

An AFC executive close with Dolphins people said Adam Gase wasn’t a big fan of Rosen and that incumbent general manager Chris Grier “liked” Rosen in last year’s draft but did not “love” him. But that was in the context of trading into the top 10 to get or picking him at 11th if he fell.

ESPN’s Todd McShay, speaking about Rosen before last year’s draft, said he had reliable knowledge that “Rosen can be difficult at times, question authority at times. Does he love the game? Does he need the game? You don’t want to draft Jay Cutler. All the scouts in the building, there’s concern about who he is as a teammate. I get a lot of Jay Cutler type reports [on him]. But then you put on the tape, especially USC-UCLA game and very clearly Josh Rosen is more polished [than Sam Darnold]. “

Rosen, incidentally, passed for 9,341 yards, 59 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in 30 career games at UCLA.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper, earlier this offseason: “I’m surprised to see so many folks down on the former UCLA star this offseason. He is super talented and didn’t get a ton of help in Year 1. There’s no doubt he struggled, though, and he looked out of his depth far too often. Still, are the Cardinals really going to trade him after one year of evaluating him on a terrible team? We knew he needed some time to develop, and he’s still just 22.”

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, speaking last year about Rosen in his role as NFL Net’s draft expert: “Josh Rosen is the best pure passer I’ve seen in several years. He’s accurate short, intermediate and deep. I’m worried about his durability.”

According to a source in direct contact with a couple of Arizona players, Rosen was liked by teammates, contrary to some speculation elsewhere, but was playing behind a poor line and probably wasn’t ready.

Former NFL Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith, now an NFL Net analyst, ripped Rosen for unfollowing the Cardinals on Instagram: “When things don’t go your way, you’re going to cry in the corner. They’re going to ship your [butt] off somewhere else and you’re going to be their problem. Be a man.”

One final thought: Almost as a rule, you should give a starting job to a player who earns it. But if the Dolphins invest starting quarterback snaps in Ryan Fitzpatrick - instead of using the season to determine if Rosen can be an above-average starter - it would be criminally negligent, and run counter to everything the front office is trying to do with rebuilding.

This move doesn’t seem to jeopardize the Dolphins’ odds of landing the top pick in the draft because they are bereft of NFL starting talent at defensive end, right tackle and elsewhere.

Here’s my Friday night piece with what analysts had to say about Miami’s selection of Wisconsin offensive lineman Michael Deiter in the third round.

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