DAVIE, Fla. — The Josh Rosen era is upon us — for however long it might last — and his evaluation goes beyond wins and losses.
It’s clear the Miami Dolphins (0-3) won’t win many (any?) games in 2019, but Rosen has shown tiny glimpses of what he will provide to the team for at least these next 13 games: Increased offensive aggression.
For a team that has scored only 16 points and one offensive touchdown in three games, big-play aggression can add some excitement to a winless season thus far.
“It’s all about taking calculated risks. You never want to chuck up a pick,” Rosen said. “But in certain situations, you definitely want to push it down the field. I thought I did a pretty good job in terms of aggression.”
The Dolphins have an aggression goal they set every week. It is based on how they want to tempo a game, how many deep shots they want to take and how their playcalling keeps defenses guessing. Even though the Dolphins lost their Week 3 game at Dallas, 31-6, Rosen and the team hit their aggression goal mark.
Despite completing less than 50 percent of his passes and failing to score an offensive touchdown, Rosen put together the Dolphins’ best quarterback performance this season against the Cowboys. He came out early with big downfield shots in the first quarter. It started with a 40-yard deep ball to DeVante Parker, who made an acrobatic catch to bring it in, then a creative flea flicker call by offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea, which led Rosen to hit Preston Williams for a 24-yard reception.
Rosen didn’t hesitate to feed his rookie receiver chances, shown by Williams’ team-high 12 targets on Sunday.
“Good mentality, strong arm and a playmaker,” Williams said of Rosen. “It’s great to see Josh come in and do his thing. I’m excited for what’s next. … We’re going to start scoring touchdowns real soon.”
Dolphins players said they noticed Rosen’s increased aggression and encouraged it. Running back Kenyan Drake said Rosen has the “respect of everyone in the huddle,” and “once he gets going, he’s a ball player.” Running back Kalen Ballage said Rosen “wasn’t fazed” by the road atmosphere or pressure surrounding his first start for the Dolphins. They all noticed Rosen didn’t play scared.
“When he throws those 50-50 balls down there, it helps us tremendously because if one of those hits, we are 40-50 yards down the field with the defense on their heels,” left tackle Jesse Davis said. “We want him to continue throwing those.”
Both of those first-quarter plays led to scoring opportunities — a missed field goal attempt and then a short made field goal when the Dolphins stalled out in the red zone. The latter sequence showed another example of Rosen’s aggression. When coach Brian Flores called for the field goal team on fourth-and-goal from the Dallas 3, Rosen looked toward the sideline somewhat disheartened, trying to make a plea for Flores to go for it. Flores loved Rosen’s competitiveness but decided it wasn’t the right call at that time, and Jason Sanders nailed the 22-yard field goal.
“I didn’t want to step off the field. I’m a quarterback and very competitive,” Rosen said. “If I had a little more say, I would have loved to ‘Peyton-Manning’ed’ it and waved them off and call the play, but we’re not there, yet.”
Rosen laughed as he made the Manning reference. You can see the young quarterback’s confidence even when little has gone smoothly so far in his NFL career. He has become more comfortable taking a leadership role, including delivering words of encouragement to disappointed teammates following blowout losses.
“Sometimes when the game is getting a little out of hand, you want to reign everybody’s focus and be like ‘let’s just play good football that we are proud of. This is still a game. Let’s have fun. Smile,'” Rosen said. “If you grab someone’s shoulder pads and they’re pissed off and you make them smile before they leave, it always works a little bit.”
Next up is a game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) and it will be another chance for Rosen to use his aggression to spark the Dolphins’ stagnant offense.