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Josh Rosen Focuses On Fewer Interceptions

Rookie quarterback among league leaders with 10 on the season

QB Josh Rosen throws a pass against the Raiders
QB Josh Rosen throws a pass against the Raiders

In the old NFL, the best quarterbacks were gunslingers.

Brett Favre dazzled with his ridiculous arm strength, happy to throw deep balls -- and caution -- to the wind. The Hall of Famer finished his illustrious career with 508 passing touchdowns, but also, 336 interceptions.

That type of risk-to-reward ratio no longer flies in the NFL. The touchdown percentage of 5.0 is on pace to shatter the record of 4.6 percent in 2015, and the interception rate of 2.4 is also on pace to be the second lowest ever.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees symbolizes the rising domination of the passing game. He has thrown 25 touchdowns this season and only one interception. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers also has just one pick this year in 385 pass attempts.

Cardinals rookie Josh Rosen has played well in spurts, but he's not at that level. He had two interceptions against the Raiders on Sunday and has 10 on the season, compared to nine touchdowns.

"I've thrown that many picks (as Rodgers and Brees), but with a '0' on the end of it," Rosen said. "That's why they are who they are, and we're all trying to get there."

Rosen is the second-youngest quarterback in the NFL with only seven starts under his belt, so the growing pains are understandable. However, if he is to become an elite quarterback, the picks must plummet.

Coach Steve Wilks likes the aggressiveness baked into Rosen's game, but would also like his young quarterback to take the checkdown options when a deep pass is too risky.

"I think it's really just making the right decision and not trying to press and force the ball in there when it doesn't need to be," Wilks said. "On several ones, you can see that the (running) back may have been open in the flat."

The Cardinals play the Chargers on Sunday, and they will face a quarterback in Philip Rivers who has followed the NFL's recent trend. He has a career-best 112.1 passer rating with 23 touchdowns against only six interceptions. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said ball security is something his staff has emphasized.

"Philip has definitely bought in," Lynn said. "He's never wanted to throw interceptions, but here we want to play smart football and take care of the football. For the most part we've been doing that all year."

Rivers has long been an aggressive quarterback and has found the happy medium. Rosen is searching for it. He is learning to limit his tight window throws depending on the coverage.

"If there's a zone-dropping linebacker, there is no way you're going to get it around him," Rosen said. "If it's man coverage and the guy is on his hip, that is something you can give a guy a shot. When certain guys are in certain positions – like if a fast guy is hip and hip with someone deep -- you can chuck it, but there's certain ones where I don't care how good you are, you're not going to get it complete. So it depends on the play and the position of the defense."

Rosen is pragmatic about the turnovers. Some interceptions are not the quarterback's fault. Other times a pass that should be picked falls harmlessly to the turf.

"Sometimes they fall in your favor," Rosen said. 'I'm completely going off of no evidence whatsoever, but … however many picks someone has, there is probably a three-pick swing either way on luck."

Rosen's interception woes are not unique for a rookie signal-caller. Rosen, the Jets' Sam Darnold and the Bills' Josh Allen make up half of the top six quarterbacks in interception rate. The Browns' Baker Mayfield has been better but still has seven interceptions in eight games.

"He is going to go through those ups and downs as a rookie," Wilks said. "We understand and know that. You want to try to eliminate those, of course. Those interceptions put you behind the eight ball."

Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders from Sunday's matchup with the Raiders