Davis: Given protection, Josh Rosen shows promise in second start for Dolphins


(Video: Josh Rosen discusses why the second half didn't go as well as the first; action photo of Rosen by Steve Mitchell for USA Today)

MIAMI GARDENS – It must have been surreal for Josh Rosen. For a while Sunday, he actually had time to look for a receiver and throw without someone nasty in his face trying to crush him.

That was a rarity for him last year as a rookie with the Arizona Cardinals and previously this season with the Dolphins.

As to how the young quarterback might fare with reasonable protection, the indication was, pretty well.

That was particularly evident in the first half of the 30-10 loss to the Chargers when Rosen had a passer rating of 126.8 while completing 12 of 16 for 159 yards and a touchdown.

The sterling moment was the 34-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker that gave the Dolphins their first lead of the season at 7-3. The pocket was clean and he put the ball on the mark to Parker, who had slipped behind the coverage.

Some questionable decision-making would later mar the overall impression of Rosen somewhat. He finished the day with 180 yards and rating of 88.9.

More Maven: Dolphins have been outscored 81-0 in second half games

Plan still to draft QB

But Rosen shows the instincts and ability to make strong and accurate throws down field that haven’t been seen in a Dolphins quarterback in years. It verifies that he is a real quarterback, not a converted wide receiver.

He isn’t the quarterback, though.

Not the one they are ultimately looking for. That guy is still in college playing for Alabama. It is difficult to foresee whatever Rosen might do the rest of this written-off season that would alter the objective of drafting Tua Tagovailoa.

That is, if they end up in position to draft him.

Here’s the worry for the tanking strategy: Rosen may not be their long-term answer, but he could prove too good for the objective of attaining the first overall pick in 2020.

Fortunately – for that line of thinking – the Dolphins’ defense is plenty bad enough. Defenseless Miami came into Sunday with a passer rating against of 139.1 (158.3 is the highest rating possible) over the first three games. Philip Rivers’ 131.9 PR on Sunday is par for what we’ve seen and can expect to continue.

Likewise, the second-half cave-ins of an overmatched team are showing no sign of ending. Being outscored 81-0 in the second half through four games is the most astounding of all the lopsided stats that have marked this inexplicable start to the season.

Revamped line surprises

There were encouraging signs earlier. The makeshift offensive line that was surprisingly competent in the first half, became less so as the game wore on.

But then, so was Rosen, who had a couple of notable unforced errors in the second half.

He wasn’t under pressure when he threw a sideline pass intended for Preston Williams, who wasn’t open, that was easy picking for Michael Davis in the fourth quarter.

“I just kind of hesitated a little bit. Just a couple of adjustments they made. I just made a real dumb decision,” he said.

Earlier, the heat was on when Rosen was nearly trapped for a safety. He did an admirable job of scrambling out of the end zone. Then, running to his right, he made another poor choice in taking the sack at the 1 when he could have simply tossed it out of bounds.

But there was also plenty to like in Rosen’s second start for the Dolphins and reason to believe he will get better.

“I’ve just got to not almost get a safety on the 1-yard line and understand the bigger scope of the game, the field position and just make smart plays,” Rosen said. “Then, the quick little screen out to my left, I should have just thrown it in the dirt instead of trying to run like an idiot playing high school football. [It was] just a lot of little things here and there, but I think we’ll improve and be better [after the bye week].”

Winnable games on schedule

The Dolphins are not the only team lost in the NFL shadows. Through the early games Sunday, they were just one of seven teams without a win this season.

Following its bye week, Miami will play host to one of them when the Redskins visit Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 13.

Of the other currently winless teams, the Dolphins play the Steelers, Bengals and Jets (twice). And there are some other suspects on the remaining schedule as well (Colts, Giants, Eagles).

So as monumentally bad as the Dolphins have been – now outscored 163-26 – putting together an oh-fer season through 16 games seems unlikely.

So the vision of next year and who may be playing quarterback in Miami isn’t clear at all.

The paradox of this season is that long-suffering Dolphins fans who have accepted the rebuilding strategy may find themselves rooting against a second-year quarterback the team just traded a second-round draft pick to acquire in the interest of elevating next year’s first-round possibilities.

As for Rosen, he may not be Miami’s quarterback of the future, but he is in position to have a hand in determining who may or may not be.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

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