Cardinals’ Rosen undergoes tough first year on the job

TEMPE, Ariz. — When Arizona plays at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, rookie Josh Rosen will make his eighth start at quarterback for the Cardinals. It’s been a bumpy, up-and-down ride so far.

“I think he has been pretty good,” coach Steve Wilks said. “I’d like for him to be a little bit more consistent. We all would, and he would probably tell you the same thing. The biggest thing is that we’ve got to make sure we limit the takeaways.”

Arizona is 2-5 with Rosen the starter.

“I don’t think that’s good by anyone’s standard,” the 21-year-old quarterback said.

Rosen’s statistics aren’t impressive. He’s completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,416 yards and nine touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. In his last six games, he’s thrown for seven TDs and was intercepted eight times. In Arizona’s 23-21 home loss to Oakland last Sunday, Rosen threw for a career-best three touchdowns but was intercepted twice. Both interceptions led to Raiders touchdowns. Rosen completed only nine of 20 passes in the game for 136 yards, 59 of them on one play.

“Some of them are happenstance, `’ Wilks said of the interceptions, “but some of them could be just a lack of wanting to take the check down. He’s trying to force things in there sometimes.”

Asked what he needs to improve, Rosen said “turnovers is a big thing, but just everything, being 100 percent of your checks, 100 percent of your reads. Just constant improvement in as many possible areas.”

Rosen, by nature, is an aggressive player and he acknowledges having to mitigate that with the willingness to check down and play things safe.

“There are certain kind of defensive positions where you can try and fit it in,” he said. “So, if there’s a zone dropping linebacker, there’s no way you’re going to get it around him, but if it’s man coverage and the guy is kind of on his hip, that’s something where you can give a guy a shot. …

“But there are certain ones where I don’t care how good you are, you’re not going to get it complete. Depends on the play, the situation and defense.”

Rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk said people need to realize how much Rosen is being asked to do.

“He’s got a lot on his plate. I think people forget about that,” Kirk said. “But he does a great job in embracing it and I think every week he’s just learning to take what the defenses gives him. He’s a competitor. He wants to win. So at times he’ll put a ball out there that’s 50-50. Sometimes it doesn’t go our way. But that’s just him being a competitor.”

Seven games into the season, the Cardinals fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich.

It’s the fifth offensive coordinator in four seasons for Rosen, going back to his early days at UCLA. Rosen praises what Leftwich has done for him.

“There’s a lot of stuff within the offense that I didn’t know,” Rosen said. “It’s an NFL offense. There are always going to be little things here and there. A lot more little tips on leverage and where guys are, which tells you what coverage you’re going to get. So, there’s a lot of disguise, but you’re not allowed to disguise too good or otherwise you’re going to be out of position. There are little tips and tells that I’ve been learning and picking up on.”

GONZALEZ IS BACK: Zane Gonzalez, the former All-American kicker at Arizona State who played just a little over one season with the Cleveland Browns, is back in Arizona on the Cardinals practice squad.

He’s seen as insurance for Phil Dawson, who has had some injury problems, as well as perhaps a kicker for the future for the Cardinals.

Gonzalez is just glad to get the chance after being cut by the Browns two months ago. He said he’s finally recovered from a recurring groin injury and didn’t want to talk about his Cleveland experience on Wednesday.

“That’s the past. I don’t think about it anymore,” he said. “I went back, I watched the tape. There’s obviously a lot of issues with injury, amongst other things. I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to go out there and make excuses. I took it on the chin for what it was and moved on. I think I earned a lot of respect from people back in Cleveland for that.”