- Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
- Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
ATLANTA — For the past two years, Josh Rosen has bounced around the country, from Arizona to Miami to Tampa Bay, San Francisco and then Atlanta. And at each stop, even if the on-field success didn’t come, the former first-round pick felt like he was growing.
And he knew when he signed with the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday, having less than a week, three practices and one half of one preseason game to make an impression, what he was getting into because of everything he’d faced before.
“People say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression and that is true in a macro sense of the NFL,” Rosen said. “Said some dumb things coming out that I’m not all that proud of, but I’ve had a lot of chances to make a first impression with new teams and I think each one has been a little bit better.”
In Atlanta, he knew he’d have to make a quick one. Rosen worked out for Atlanta on Monday, signed with the club on Tuesday, had his first practice Wednesday and saw his first significant in-practice work Thursday. By Sunday, he was in the game for the Falcons, playing the entire second half in a bid to win a job backing up starting quarterback Matt Ryan along with undrafted free agent Feleipe Franks after a season-ending injury to initial No. 2 quarterback AJ McCarron.
Rosen’s first series didn’t go very far, ending when he fumbled a snap leading to a turnover. He also had at least two miscommunications with pass-catchers leading to incomplete passes with no one in the vicinity of the ball during the second half. But he also showed potential, leading Atlanta on a touchdown drive that was the Falcons’ only passing touchdown of the preseason. He finished 9-of-18 passing for 118 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Of his incomplete passes, two were drops.
“You just get an opportunity, you got to seize the moment and it was kind of — it was a little bit refreshing to kind of get out on the field and kind of half know the offense and just kind of let go and play football and have fun with it like you did back in Pop Warner,” Rosen said. “At times I felt a little bit like a chicken with my head cut off running around, but I thought it was fun. Could have cleaned up a lot of stuff but overall thought it was a productive night.”
His 7-yard touchdown pass to Juwan Green came as he was pressured, a good throw that showed the promise that made him the No. 10 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. It was also a sense of relief for Rosen, who said Sunday night was the most confident he’d been in the ball coming off of his hand in a while.
Rosen said Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith expanded how many plays they would call with him as the game went on because they’d run through his pre-planned package of options early. Smith would ask Rosen in the headset if he was good with a play. Rosen said he was — and then asked receivers to double-check what was going on.
“The feeling of throwing a touchdown pass and celebrating with sort of teammates that come to the sideline and getting the head slaps and high-fives, that’s just a feeling I haven’t had in a while,” Rosen said. “And it felt really good. It’s like that shot in golf that brings you back or like this, this is why we do it.”
It was learning on the fly after a week of coming in early, staying late, asking Ryan questions and trying to figure out as much as he can. That is, in some ways, the growth Rosen has taken from following Ryan Fitzpatrick around and trying to learn as much as he could from him in Miami. Then, in Tampa Bay last season, he purposely went there so he could absorb as much as possible from Tom Brady.
He hoped it might lead to something when he signed with San Francisco. It didn’t, but he also felt it might have set him up for a good opportunity in Atlanta. And in a short week, he showed the Falcons something.
Smith said he felt Rosen handled what they gave him well and showed his talent.
Was it enough for Rosen to stick around beyond the team’s cut to 53 players on Tuesday? Smith was noncommittal.
“We won’t rush to judgment here,” Smith said. “But I give Josh credit. He came in here and handled it but we’ll take everything into consideration. I’m not ready to make that statement right now.”
The Falcons are Rosen’s fifth team in four seasons. He has been cut twice. He’s been through coaching changes and scheme changes. He’s gone from being a prized prospect to a player with more teams signed with than years in the league. But somehow, he believes it made him smarter. More mature. Better on an overall level, which can only help with football, too.
“I feel like I’m sort of more capable right now at seizing an opportunity because I feel like I’ve grown as an individual a lot since my rookie year,” Rosen said. “I feel like I matured as an adult, as a human. It’s funny enough, knowing how my career has gone, I feel like as a human I’m in a better place than I’ve been in a while.
“It’s a good feeling going out there and having fun playing football. I missed it.”
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