Every week on Wednesdays after practice, the Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen speaks to the media at the podium prior to coach Steve Wilks. Rosen does his duty immediately coming off the field but in a twist, removes his cleats. Because he’s outside already, he just comes to the podium not with a pair of slides but in his socks.
(Quick aside, the dad in me flinches when I see someone wearing socks outside, but that’s a rant for another day.)
After a two-hour practice, Rosen has not surprisingly worked up a sweat, which includes those socks. And after he was done talking this week, and Wilks eventually got to the podium, placed his bottle of water on the ground and noticed he was stepping into the outline of Rosen’s feet, which remained on the cement.
“See these footprints?” Wilks said with a small smile. “I’m standing in the presence of greatness here.”
OK. Maybe Rosen isn’t quite about greatness yet. But that’s the direction the Cardinals would like to point him in, and this game Sunday feels like one in which the rookie can excel. The Raiders struggle on defense, they have produced little pressure on the QB, and with the Cards working David Johnson and the running game more into the mix successfully, a lot sets up for Rosen to be successful against the Raiders.
I do expect him to be wearing some sort of footwear in the post-game press conference.
-- The Raiders are the linchpin to Rosen as the Cardinals’ quarterback. If the Raiders aren’t good with swapping first-rounders with the Cardinals – allowing the Cards to go from 15 to 10 in exchange for a third-round and fifth-round picks – then the Cards probably don’t get their franchise QB. But the Raiders will get a front-row seat for Rosen, and meanwhile, the player the Raiders took with 15 overall, tackle Kolten Miller, will get a steady dose of red-hot pass rusher Chandler Jones.
That would seem to be a nice matchup for the Cardinals.
“Every time I sit back and say we may have a favorable matchup here, we may have a favorable matchup there, at the end of the day it seems like it ends up biting me,” defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said with a weary smile.
That’s OK. The rest of us will say it. Jones v. Miller favors the Cardinals. The draft day trade, in the end, seems to favor the Cards, the way Rosen is going. It’ll be interesting to see if, in 10 or 15 years, the story will resonate as strongly as the Raiders-helping-Fitz-to-Arizona linchpin.
-- Because of the way the schedule is structured, it’s eight years between AFC team visits, which is why this is the first time the Raiders have come to State Farm Stadium for a regular-season game since 2010. I remember the game vividly. The Cardinals were outplayed, but hung on for an improbable 24-23 win when kicker Sebastian Janikowski improbably missed a 32-yard field goal on the final play. That was also the game one of my favorite guys, LaRod Stephens-Howling, returned the opening kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. The best part of that was, at the time, the Cardinals were running a sponsored promotion where a fan won a house if the opening kick was returned for a touchdown.
The name of the guy who won the house? Wait for it … David Johnson. The Hyphen, meanwhile, is now a running backs coach at Robert Morris University.
-- Speaking of (the other) David Johnson, it feels like this is the game he gets his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season.
-- This is why Jones has been so good for the Cardinals. He played pretty well in Kansas City. He didn’t see it that way. “I want everything to be perfect,” he said. “I feel I could’ve played better in the run game. I’m not sure if I had a tackle. I just know I had two sacks, and that’s not good enough.”
For the record, the Cardinals coaches gave Jones four tackles and two assists on film review. But we get the point.
-- Bené Benwikere has been a pleasant find for the Cardinals this season, and they will be helped that he is versatile enough to drop in to Budda Baker's role. But not having Baker with the knee injury is not ideal. It may not show up this week, but we will have to see how long Baker is down, and road trips to the Chargers and Packers the next two weeks would be better if Baker is available.
-- It feels like D.J. Humphries will be able to play Sunday. If not, rookie Korey Cunningham will get his shot. The original starting offensive line hasn't played as well as the Cardinals wanted, but you cannot deny that improvements get more difficult as they delve into the deep backups. Cunningham, in a perfect world, was going to "redshirt" behind tackles Humphries, Andre Smith and John Wetzel. That plan is on the ropes.
-- Raiders coach Jon Gruden talked highly of former Cardinal Frostee Rucker. “We’re fortunate to have Frostee Rucker, not only for his leadership, but for his playmaking. He’s been one of our best players,” Gruden said. I haven’t talked to Rucker in a while, but I would guess when he signed there he wasn’t even planning on being one of the Raiders’ best defensive linemen. And that’s not because he couldn’t perform, but instead because he was expecting to have Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin as teammates.
-- Speaking of Mack, the Cardinals felt his wrath already anyway. He all but single-handedly dealt Sam Bradford his Cardinals’ deathblow. When he was asked earlier this week about the Raiders, Rosen smiled.
“I’m happy we got Khalil Mack out of the way,” he said.
See you Sunday.