The most substantial piece of information announced by Coach Steve Wilks at the Arizona Cardinals rookie minicamp last week, was the announcement that Sam Bradford would serve as starting quarterback
While the move was an expected one, the question remains how long Bradford will remain in the team’s starting lineup. Bradford’s resume speaks for itself. He is a serviceable starter, that for brief moments can ascend into the realm of elite quarterback play.
Bradford’s two year tenure with the Minnesota Vikings serves as an accurate microcosm for his career.
In 2016, Bradford set the NFL record in completion percentage, and led the team to a an undefeated record through the first quarter of the season. But ultimately, the Vikings finished 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. In large part due to their inability to aerially push the ball downfield.
In 2017, Bradford continued his routine dance with the injury bug, as the well-traveled veteran started only two games, and showed limited mobility and general skittishness when he found his way on the field.
Still Bradford can win games, and the Cardinals don’t necessarily need a superstar quarterback to have a successful 2018 campaign.
The Cardinals are built to compete right now. On defense, Arizona boasts the league’s most prolific sack artist, as well as a true shutdown corner. Enter a defensive-minded head coach and a motivated Markus Golden returning from injury and the Cardinal’s may find themselves with a top ten NFL defense.
On offense, Arizona should greatly benefit from the return of running back David Johnson. Additionally, the team added dynamic weapons, in wide receiver Christian Kirk and running back Chase Edmunds, through the draft.
So what does Bradford need to do in order for the Cardinals to be successful? Simple. Manage the game.
But the facts remain there are a number of ways in which Rosen could find himself on the field sooner rather than later. If Arizona struggles out of the gate, and Bradford struggles with turnovers or plays overly conservative, Cardinals fans could begin clamoring for a quarterback change. Even more likely is an injury to Bradford, who has missed significant time in five of his eight career seasons in the NFL.
To make matters more intriguing: Rosen is without a doubt the most pro-ready passer in this year’s draft class.
Even with limited reps throughout the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp, Rosen showed off the skill-set that made him the tenth overall selection in April’s draft. Rosen’s footwork is polished and consistent, his rhythm as a passer was evident even when throwing against air, and Rosen’s quick release screams franchise-caliber passer.
A change from Rosen to Bradford wouldn’t mean drastic changes to the offensive gameplan. Yes, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy may simplify terminology and pre-snap reads for the first year quarterback. But Rosen, lauded for his intelligence, will fit perfectly in a McCoy offense designed around short and intermediate rhythm passing.
The bottom line remains, if Arizona struggles out of the gate, Rosen represents a similar player to Bradford while also bringing an unknown upside. Rosen could prove to play more like fellow Cardinal Mike Glennon, than Bradford. But Rosen could also prove to be a pure-pocket passer with Matt Ryan upside.
Regardless, if Rosen gets protection, he should be able to find Arizona’s weapons. Rosen was given the keys at UCLA last season, and with limited talent around him, he impressed. With a revamped running game and an interesting receiving corps highlighted by Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, and the intriguing J.J. Nelson, Rosen would have a unique mix of talent at his disposal.
Still, I agree with Steve Wilks’ sentiment. Bradford should be the starter. This team is more ready to win than most pundits are willing to admit, and Bradford is certainly a capable veteran. All I am saying is Wilks will want to win now. The best way for a first year head coach to gain loyalty from an NFL fan base is instant success.
If Bradford fails to lead the Cardinals to wins early on, he may find himself in a reserve role, fair or not. Even more likely, is the chance that Bradford will not make it through an entire season. The optics of going from Bradford to Glennon, won’t play well in Phoenix.
All things considered, I’m not clamoring for a quarterback controversy in the Cardinals’ locker room. I just doubt Rosen will be carrying a clipboard for much of the 2018 season.