Cardinals’ quarterback Sam Bradford comments on Larry Fitzgerald and Josh Rosen at training camp.
Rob Schumacher, azcentral sports

Steve Wilks still isn’t prepared to say how much he plans to play his starters during Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. Cardinals fans, however, can expect to see an awful lot of rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, the team’s first-round pick out of UCLA.

Sam Bradford isn’t likely to see more than a series or two, if he plays at all. But Rosen can probably count on playing the majority of the first half, both with the first-team offensive line and perhaps the second-team unit as well. And the 10th overall pick can’t wait to make his NFL debut.

“I’m very excited,” he said Wednesday. “It’s been a while since I’ve played an actual game, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Just 10 days ago, Rosen said he was thankful he didn’t have to play a game the next day.

A week and a half later, he said he’s gotten far more comfortable with the playbook and how to process information at a faster pace. He can get the play call out, the offense lined up and turn his focus to the defense and his throwing progressions.

More: Arizona Cardinals training camp schedule, details

“I think it’s going really well. I think I’ve progressed every day. I think I’ve gotten better pretty much every day since I’ve gotten here,” he said. “I’ve gotten a ton of help from the quarterbacks’ room, all the quarterbacks, my quarterbacks coach, Byron (Leftwich), and (offensive coordinator) coach (Mike) McCoy, coach (Steve) Wilks. I think regardless of where I’m at, I think I’ve just progressed, which is a good feeling.”

Rosen said he has gotten a better handle on the snap counts, changing up his cadence to buy himself some more time and draw the defense offside, and the confidence to check out of plays.

“I think that’s what coach encourages because the headset cuts off at around 15 seconds, so he can’t say everything,” Rosen said, referring to McCoy. “Plus, he doesn’t have the perspective from the sideline or ground level that you do from behind the center. But him actually coming from Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning, two very willing audible and sort of checking quarterbacks, coach McCoy encourages that. He wants us to be able to try and fix things right here and there. It maybe makes his job a little easier, too.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Rosen also talked about everything from his plans to go back to school after the season to how he will deal with scrutiny about his performance. On that front, he said no one is more self-critical than he is, adding, “I’m a perfectionist and I very rarely satisfy myself when I come in and watch the film the next day.”

“I’m trying to be the best that I can be,” Rosen said. “Over the course of my career I’m trying to win Super Bowls. … I am an NFL football player now and I’m going to try the best that I can to be the best one.”

Rosen scoffed at a question about about pre-draft criticisms that he has too many outside interests for a rookie to focus on.

“I’ve been all ball,” he said. “Even if you had outside interests, it would be pretty hard to entertain them this time of the year. … I’m really excited to buckle down for the long haul.”

Speaking of debuts

Saturday night’s game at University of Phoenix Stadium will also officially mark the NFL debut for Wilks as a head coach. He’s been readying himself for this moment for years, and when it comes to all the “firsts” he can expect to encounter, he said he’s been preparing for those, as well.

“I have been going through different scenarios, looking at different things throughout the league over the last couple of years like two minute-type situations, time outs, time on the clock,” Wilks said Wednesday. “Those are some of the things we’ve been working through spring and some of the things we did this morning.”

Will there be some nerves? Probably, Wilks said.

“I think we all have nerves, even the vets,” he said. “Just for the mere fact we’re getting out there, first game, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It gets you locked in, gets you focused and gets you to concentrate. I’m sure I’ll have a little bit (of nerves) as well.”

As for the opening coin flips this season, Wilks said he has no plans of wavering on what he will do on occasions when the Cardinals win the toss.

“My philosophy is always to defer,” the former defensive coordinator said. “Get the defense out there, try to set the tone and if we win it, that’s what I want to do. You try to get that two-for-one at the half.”

Cole energy

Rookie Mason Cole only has three days under his belt as the Cardinals’ new starting center since A.Q. Shipley suffered a season-ending knee injury, but the team isn’t worried about throwing too much his way in terms of responsibilities.

“He’s extremely smart. We don’t want to try and limit him,” Wilks said. “The biggest thing we’re trying to get done is to make sure that those (other starting linemen) are communicating and really helping him out. We really don’t want to slow the offense down.”

Bradford acknowledged that the center position is one of the toughest jobs to play, especially for a rookie. He isn’t too worried, though, after working with the four-year starter from Michigan.

“These past couple days I think have been very encouraging from what he’s been able to do on the practice field,” Bradford said. “Just in my couple days with him, I think he’s extremely sharp. It seems like he’s already got a good grasp on what his responsibilities are in making the line calls in the run game, getting the ‘Mike’ point set in the pass game.

“It’s just a matter of getting him some experience. Obviously, there’s only so many looks that you can see from our defense. They play one style of defense. I think seeing multiple fronts, seeing an odd front, seeing different things will be good for him so that way he can kind of store that away in his memory banks and just build that up.”


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