Mason Cole is, literally, one of the closest people to Josh Rosen.
The Cardinals center is often a few feet away from his quarterback at practice, listening to him in the huddle and snapping the ball to him moments later.
As Rosen prepares for his first career NFL start on Sunday against the Seahawks, Cole has witnessed no appreciable difference in his disposition.
“He’s born for this moment,” Cole said. “That’s just the personality he has.”
The Cardinals are 0-3 and their offense has been stagnant from the get-go, averaging only 6.7 points and 190.3 yards per game. If Rosen excels immediately, it would be a huge shot in the arm for a team still trying to get coach Steve Wilks his first win.
It could be a lot of pressure on an individual player, but no one seems worried about Rosen.
“Nothing really fazes him,” Wilks said. “Considering the stage, sometimes guys don’t have that quality. Doing our research during the draft, that’s one of the things that kept coming up – how confident this guy is, how he plays with poise. Hit the reset button and get ready for the next play. At that position, that’s what you need.”
Rosen replaced veteran Sam Bradford at the end of last week’s 16-14 loss to the Bears, but couldn’t lead the team to a victory in tough circumstances.
He begins with a clean slate against the Seahawks, hoping to show why the Cardinals traded up to select him No. 10 overall in April’s draft. Rosen was only in for two possessions against Chicago, but he said a valuable lesson came from it.
“Regardless of how much everyone is getting paid around you, it’s still football,” Rosen said. “Just wearing different jerseys, and that was probably the most relieving thing (about) getting on the field, just completing a ball and sort of understanding it’s still the same game I’ve been playing since the third grade.”
This matchup against the Seahawks feels different from the heavyweight fights of recent past. Both teams are under .500 and in a state of transition.
The Seahawks (1-2) still have star safety Earl Thomas in the secondary and elite linebacker Bobby Wagner roaming the middle of the field, but cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Michael Bennett are among the high-profile departures.
Even with a bevy of new faces, coach Pete Carroll doesn’t think things have changed that much.
“I know people keep asking that,” Carroll said. “We’ve been working with our guys since April, so we’ve dug in with our guys for a long time now. It doesn’t feel that much different. We are less experienced than we’ve been, and there’s no question about that. We had guys that we’ve been to battle with for a long time, so that’s different, but we’ve been together long enough.”
Quarterback Russell Wilson is still around to lead the offense, and a Cardinals defense that looked much better last week will need to keep him in check. The pass rush is a big part of that, and there are some encouraging signs there. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is off to a nice start and defensive end Markus Golden should see more snaps in his second game back from last year’s torn ACL.
In the end, the focus will be almost entirely on Rosen. In the hours after the draft, he brashly stated that the three teams who chose quarterbacks before him made mistakes.
The Browns’ Baker Mayfield, the Jets’ Sam Darnold and the Bills’ Josh Allen will also start for their teams in Week 4, and while Rosen’s assertion won’t be proven right or wrong for years, the competition can officially begin.
“We’ll see how it all turns out, but right now, I’m just really excited to be playing this week,” Rosen said. “Hopefully I can back up all of what I said.”
Images of key players for this week's opponent, the Seattle Seahawks