Assessing Redskins quarterback options: Is Josh Rosen a franchise QB?
By Ian Cummings
Scouting Josh Rosen’s college tape
Last year, I had Josh Rosen as my top-rated quarterback prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft. Of course, processes change over time. Last year, I didn’t have as much time to watch tape, and while I did watch some, evaluation skills can always be improved.
This offseason, I’m still learning. But nonetheless, I decided to dive back into Rosen’s college tape, to see if he was as impressive as I remembered him to be. The conclusion of this study might underwhelm you: He was.
Rosen is the ideal prototypical pocket passer. His mechanics are very solid and fluid, and he has good poise in the pocket. He’s not fazed in the slightest by a closing pocket, and he has impressive balance when the rush grazes him. He can stay on his feet and extend plays. He generally has a good feel for pressure, but can get caught up in his progressions at times.
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Rosen actively seeks to step into his throws, so that he can drive the ball downfield with the utmost velocity. Order of operations with footwork is very important for quarterbacks, and Rosen understands that. His tennis background likely plays a role.
Rosen’s footwork allows him to manipulate pocket lanes with good feel and excellent situational awareness. A pocket passer should work to keep the pocket viable as long as possible, and Rosen does that. He keeps his eyes downfield under pressure, always trying to get something out of any given play. He has an underrated ability to throw on the run, and he keeps his eyes upfield when going off-script, using pump fakes to confuse defenders. He’s able to execute rollouts, throwing on the run with accuracy. Rosen’s propensity to keep plays alive can lead to opportunities for defenses, but ultimately, his aggressive mindset maximizes his potential as a pocket passer.
In the pocket, Rosen is a fast processor. He doesn’t panic, and his eyes travel across the field quickly as he goes through his progressions with ease. He sells the play action well with diligent fakes, and knows how to manipulate the defense with his eyes, though he can occasionally stare down quick routes, selling out his intended destination (Many young quarterbacks have this issue). His control wanes when he takes inevitable risks. When forcing passes, he can disregard certain defenders, leading to turnover opportunities. He does throw the ball away, but he can be more consistent, in terms of knowing when there’s nothing there.
Still, if there’s any quarterback who’s allowed to take risks, it’s Josh Rosen. Every throw is calculated, with a method behind it, and a talented arm as its source. Rosen has the arm talent to combine velocity with precision, and his overall precision to all three levels of the field is impressive. His arm is fairly elastic, and he has the ability to cultivate velocity and tight spin with ease. His precise ball placement allows for run-after-catch opportunities in open field, and in contested situations, and he can fit the ball into very tight windows, throwing with anticipation and manipulating leverage to throw his receivers open. Even on deep passes, he can fit the ball into a bread basket.
That said, there are times when Rosen’s accuracy wanes slightly, or his aggressive mindset can get him into trouble. He’s generally aware of his check downs, but he often tries to glean as much value as he can from a play. His ball placement is generally accurate, but can be inconsistent when pressured, and some of his forced throws will go high. Rosen will also occasionally grow too confident in his arm, and force the ball into congested situations. While this can lead to spectacular throws, it can also lead to drive-killing interceptions.
Rosen will also occasionally overthrow dump-offs with his live arm, and conversely, he has a tendency to throw low to curl and comeback routes. While this can help mitigate a defensive back’s impact on the ball, it also makes for a harder catch by the receiver. He can also throw a bit behind receivers crossing left to right, and miscommunication with receivers was a problem at times in college (Though his receivers dropped a lot of passes, so it’s hard to tell whose fault it was).
Rosen’s aggressive mindset as a passer is polarizing. He occasionally makes very bad decisions trying to maximize broken plays, but he clearly displays the situational awareness one desires from an aggressive pocket passer. He recognizes blitzes and gets the ball out quick. He puts enough pace on short passes to allow receivers run-after-catch opportunities. He faked a spike against Texas A&M, using his situational awareness to deceive the defense (He also brought back UCLA from a 34-point deficit in that game). He can run the read option in the red zone, and he gives his receivers good cushion on fade throws.
Yes, Rosen is aggressive. But it’s easier to refine and build off of an aggressive mentality in the NFL, than mold a conservative passer into a gunslinger. While Rosen takes risks with his arm, he has the arm talent to maximize those risks, and every action has an underlying reason behind it. Whereas some young quarterbacks can simply throw the ball up, Rosen has a plan on every down, and when the plan breaks, he has the ability to succeed outside of structure with arm talent, flexibility, and laser focus.
If I had to compare Rosen to a pocket passer in the 2019 class, Dwayne Haskins comes to mind. Both are, by definition, pocket passers. Both are smart. But while Haskins is generally conservative, minimizing opportunities downfield and taking what’s given, Rosen is aggressive, and sees the whole field much better, thus boosting his upside. Haskins’ mechanics can be inconsistent. Rosen’s mechanics are very polished. Haskins and Rosen both leave something to be desired as athletes, but Rosen gets the edge there, and has a better skill set, in terms of succeeding outside of structure. Rosen’s arm is stronger and more elastic, and while Haskins is very accurate on short passes, Rosen has much more consistent accuracy in the intermediate and deep ranges, and the velocity to drive the ball into tighter windows. Haskins can be a starter in the right situation, but when compared to Rosen, it’s not really a competition.
As a prospect, based on his college film, Josh Rosen is an adequately mobile pocket passer who has the desired gunslinger mentality that teams seek from pocket passers. He simply doesn’t miss open receivers, and his precision to all three levels of the field, afforded to him by fluid mechanics and a versatile arm, is very impressive. Rosen’s short and intermediate throws are crisp, and his deep passes are relatively consistent, with an impressive blend of pace and touch. Just one year removed from college, Rosen’s tape as a prospect still matters. And his tape as a prospect was very, very good.
Josh Rosen vs. Colorado (2017)
Josh Rosen vs. Arizona State (2017)
Josh Rosen vs. Texas A&M (2017)