One of the most popular narratives about the Dolphins, among national analysts, was the thought conveyed by Fox’s Howie Long at halftime of Sunday’s Dolphins-Redskins game.
Josh Rosen, as Long became the latest to assert, has been “set up to fail” in both Arizona last season and Miami this season.
Former two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner, now with NFL Network, chimed in on Twitter:
“No matter what u think of Josh Rosen performance to this point in NFL - to make any evals or place any blame on him after yesterday is ridiculous!! Has no chance with the things going around him - no easy throws, pressures almost every snap, concepts not getting guys open, etc.”
To which Pro Football Talk managing editor Michael David Smith justifiably responded: “If it’s impossible for a quarterback to do anything in the Dolphins offense, how did Ryan Fitzpatrick take over and promptly lead two touchdown drives?”
To which Warner responded: “First let me say Fitz is better - 2nd most of throws were checkdowns vs soft coverages (although made great 30 yard throw to covered [Mike] Gesicki) and guys made plays and got first downs for him! Scheme [different] in that situation.”
Yes, it’s difficult to get a full evaluation on Rosen because he doesn’t have nearly enough talent around him.
But here’s the big caveat: Even when he is given time to throw, Rosen is still among the NFL’s least-productive quarterbacks in his first two seasons. And that’s what’s particularly alarming in trying to project what he could become.
Some points to consider:
▪ According to Pro Football Focus, Rosen had just a 23.2 passer rating when he was not under pressure Sunday. Among his 19 no-pressure passes were two interceptions and two balls that were batted down.
What’s more, Rosen - for the season - has just a 61.6 passer rating with a clean pocket (no pressure). That’s worst among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 10 passes. Last season, his 80.9 passer rating with a clean pocket was better than only Josh Allen’s (79.8) among quarterbacks who appeared in at least eight games.
In his career, Rosen has 11 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions with a clean pocket, which isn’t nearly good enough.
As a point of perspective, the best quarterbacks are usually well above 100 in passer rating with a clean pocket. Russell Wilson is at 128.7 this season. Dak Prescott (who has had more passes dropped by receivers than Rosen has) is at 126, Pat Mahomes 121, Kirk Cousins 120, Deshaun Watson 113.
Now Rosen has had eight drops this season and 11 last season, so that skews the numbers to an extent. But even if he had as many passes dropped as is typical for NFL quarterbacks, he would still rank in the bottom quarter of NFL passers with a clean pocket.
▪ Rosen, through his career, has performed much worse when facing a heavy pass rush than most others (one TD pass, eight picks).
This season, his passer rating is 30.1 when under pressure (13 for 33 for 162 yards and two picks, with 16 sacks); only Baker Mayfield and Mitchell Trubisky have lower under-pressure ratings among quarterbacks who have appeared in at least two games.
Last season, he had a 38.1 rating when under pressure, worst for anyone who played at least eight games.
Keep in mind that eight NFL quarterbacks have passer ratings between 86 and 92 when under pressure this season (Cousins, Mahomes, Carson Wentz, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Watson, Derek Carr and Carolina’s Kyle Allen). And Russell Wilson is at 116.6 despite being sacked 16 times.
And speaking of Kyle Allen, he’s an example of a young quarterback who has been very good when facing pressure (three TDs, no picks, 88.6 rating) and when he’s in a clean pocket (112.5 rating).
Yes, Allen has more talent around him, but the disparity in performance between Allen (who went undrafted out of Houston in 2018) and Rosen (a first-round pick in 2018) is discouraging from Rosen’s perspective, considering Rosen has more experience and was considered the far better NFL prospect just 18 months ago.
Overall, Rosen ranks last among qualified passers in completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, passer rating (52).
Can any definitive judgments be formed this early in his career? No.
But to suggest that he cannot be evaluated at all because of what’s around him is also a flawed notion, because even when conditions around him are optimal, he’s still under-performing.
Even though the Dolphins hope/intend for their quarterback of the future to be the player they select with their first draft pick (Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa would be the heavy front-runner), Dolphins fans should hope for Rosen to improve dramatically because then:
1) He could be a cheap backup for the next two seasons.
2) He could at least step in as a stopgap starter if the Dolphins’ rookie quarterback isn’t deemed ready to start opening week next season.
3) He could become trade bait at some point in 2020 or 2021 if he improves substantially.
4) The young man deserves a break. He’s cerebral, a hard worker and hasn’t exactly been placed under the best circumstances to start his career.
That’s why I would keep playing Rosen and give him more time to grow, even if the argument can be made that Ryan Fitzpatrick might give them a better chance to win.
At some point, though, Rosen must begin overcoming those less-than-ideal circumstances to a greater extent than we’ve seen, to validate trading a second- and fifth-rounder for him.
Here are my Monday Dolphins nuggets, including a reduction in playing time for several veterans.
And here’s my Monday UM 6-pack.