When Josh Allen came into town with the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 with one start under his belt, the Minnesota Vikings were expected to swallow up the seventh overall pick like they’d done with young quarterbacks Brett Hundley, Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer in 2017.
Instead, using a plethora of high-percentage passes, Allen played a mistake-free first half, staking the Bills to a 27-0 lead they never relinquished, earning himself his first NFL win.
Another rookie by the same first name plays at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday in Josh Rosen, coming off his second start — and first win — against the San Francisco 49ers.
“He’s got a big-time arm, very smart, knows where to go with the football,” said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, “and uses his legs to move on occasion. He throws a really good deep ball.”
The Vikings had one-and-a-half games of regular season tape on Allen. Rosen has started two games and finished another, giving Minnesota a little more with which to work.
Rosen is 1-1 in his starts, though a late interception cost the Cardinals a chance to win against the Chicago Bears in his first appearance when he entered in the fourth quarter for the injured Sam Bradford.
The former UCLA Bruins quarterback has started his NFL career 29 of 59 for 386 yards, two touchdowns and one interception from his debut.
The game tape tells a mixed tale.
On one hand, Rosen has been plagued by drops from his receivers. Pro Football Focus has pegged the Cardinals with six drops over the last two weeks, and there are several more borderline plays that pass-catchers failed to make, including several from the normally-reliable Larry Fitzgerald Jr. At least two potential touchdown passes to Fitzgerald and J.J. Nelson, respectively, got wiped off the board by drops.
The Cardinals lost to the Seattle Seahawks on a field goal as time expired but could have won the game with some more plays from their receivers early on.
On the other hand, Rosen has had a tendency to overthrow pass catchers, particularly last Sunday against the 49ers where he had no fewer than seven overthrows. After starting the game with a 75-yard touchdown pass on his first throw, Rosen finished 9 of 24 for 95 yards, and the Cardinals only generated 220 yards of offense despite winning the game 28-18.
“[Rosen] wasn’t quite accurate last week,” said Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks, “and he would tell you that.”
Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards thinks the key to forcing those overthrows is pressure from the defensive line.
“I think if you look at situations where he has overthrown, it’s usually due to pressure at his feet or wherever, and he’s had to force the ball out,” Edwards said, “so we’ve got to do a good job in the rush lanes up front to hopefully get him in some of those situations to where the ball can float out.”
Even though the Cardinals lost in Week 4 and won in Week 5, Rosen played much better in the loss that was sullied by Arizona’s drops. He was stuck at 58 passing yards midway through the fourth quarter when he probably should have been closer to 150.
But there’s reason to believe that Rosen can be flustered. His completion percentage was just 38.1 percent under pressure in Weeks 4-5 according to Pro Football Focus. His best work has come on throws deep downfield, including the 75-yard bomb to rookie Christian Kirk against San Francisco. All the more reason for the Vikings to put Rosen under duress.
But Rosen’s mobility will make that tougher, at least compared to Bradford, the former Vikings quarterback who he replaced.
“He’s a lot more active moving in the pocket,” said Edwards, “a lot more bootleg in their play-action stuff, getting him on the move, so there are some changes.”