Neither stat line from Week 1 of the NFL preseason will leave a lasting impression between the two young first round quarterbacks who took the field. 2018 rookie passer Josh Rosen donned the Cardinals gear for the first time in an organized game, going 6-for-13 from the field for 41 yards. Meanwhile in Denver, 2016 1st-round pick Paxton Lynch scrapped out a 6-for-11 performance for 24 yards.
The evening's festivities are as good of a reminder as any that the box score has this nasty little habit of lying to you. These two players are moving in the opposite direction -- in Lynch's case, quickly. Lynch struggled throughout his reps, holding the football too long, playing skittish in the pocket and simply not throwing into open spaces.
Lynch's performance was amplified after former Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly made his long-awaited NFL debut in relief and sliced up the Vikings backups for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns.
In Arizona, Josh Rosen felt right at home in a crumbling pocket, the Cardinals second string offensive line did not do much differently than what Rosen's line at UCLA had offered him through the majority of his career.
The focus belongs more on the things Rosen did through the course of his playing time, because it shines much brighter than his stats.
- Subtle movements from the pocket, avoiding rushers and extending plays
- Several well placed throws along the sideline, including a back shoulder throw that Greg Little couldn't bring the second foot down on
- Commanded a two minute offense effectively, although drops/execution neutered the drive just before the half
His best play was a strike over the middle of the field, a pretty throw that required Rosen to slide in the pocket to his right to avoid a collapsing lineman before resetting his feet.
Josh Rosen did have an easy interception dropped, plus two aggressive throws into coverage that were...ambitious, to put it mildly. There are things to clean up, make no mistake. But Rosen's performance against the Chargers was much more impressive than the stats would indicate.
Three stars of the night
Young players in both contests made big plays, but several performances stood out. Rookies and young unproven players from the 2016 and 2017 classes made firm cases to make their respective rosters. One player from each class is recognized here as the three stars of the night.
1. QB Chad Kelly, Denver Broncos
"Swag" Kelly ignited a dull Broncos crowd, bringing the same swashbuckling act he was revered for at Ole Miss to the Broncos offense and flashing some enticing skills. Kelly had two touchdown tosses on the night but his best throw may have been a dig route over the middle of the field.
Kelly hit the top of his drop and eyed his receiver turning into the middle of the field, directly into the path of a linebacker in zone coverage. After a moment to allow the receiver to gain speed, Kelly zipped the ball in between the two linebackers underneath, hitting his receiver in stride for a big play.
The Broncos may have lost the game with Kelly in the line-up, but Kelly all but secured the back-up job to Case Keenum after Paxton Lynch's punchless effort. Call it early, this one's a wrap.
2. WR Isaiah McKenzie, Denver Broncos
McKenzie had butterfingers as a rookie, logging 6 fumbles on just 29 touches of the football over the course of his rookie season. New year, new McKenzie? So far so good after Week One of the preseason, where McKenzie played the most impressive game of chicken you'll ever see on a football field.
Taking the punt at his own 22-yard line, McKenzie held his ground, allowing for the punt coverage to close in. In a blur, McKenzie was gone. He took the left corner and weaved his way for a long touchdown.
3. RB Roc Thomas, Minnesota Vikings
You could say it was a...Roc-ky night for those tasked with defending Thomas?
I'll see myself out.
The Jacksonville State (and former Auburn) product rumbled to 131 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on the evening, making an impact both as a rusher and a pass catcher. Will Roc be able to ascend the running back depth chart and push Mack Brown from the 53-man roster? More performances like his showing last night will make life hell for Vikings' coaches trying to decide.