Sunday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angles Rams won’t have the luster of playoff positioning hovering over it. Since the Rams are sans a 1st round pick via the Jared Goff trade, it won’t have draft positioning impacts either. You’ll have two NFC West foes going toe to toe for pride, and it should be interesting to see how the teams respond.
I took the time to touch base with the head honcho of SB Nation’s Arizona Cardinals affiliate, Revenge of the Birds, to get a pulse on the Cardinals as the season winds down.
Prior to the season, the Cardinals were favored by many to be a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl. Carson Palmer is playing well, David Johnson has been a beast, and Larry Fitzgerald continues to drink from the fountain of youth. What's the primary cause of the Cardinals disappointing season?
There were a couple of issues:
1. The Cardinals offense started slow as Arians was a little slow to maneuver towards David Johnson being the offensive focal point.
2. Arizona's special teams for 13 games was legitimately awful.
3. The defense has nice numbers, but struggles on important plays, getting off the field and transitioning turnovers into short fields or scores.
If you have a problem on all three levels, coaching as well, you are never going to live up to expectations.
There was a lot of drama surrounding Robert Nkimdiche leading up to the draft. He has battled some injury issues this season...how has he performed when he has been able to play?
He's been out there? He hasn't been a liability, he hasn't been making plays, he is doing his job, getting himself more playing time week to week. It is unfortunate that a team that needed some help with playmaking on the defensive side of the ball, couldn't get it from their first round pick. Yet, that has been an Arians staple the last couple of years, he doesn't have time or patience for a player who is hurt, not injured, especially a rookie.
Hopefully the last three games plus a full offseason will cure what ails all involved.
David Johnson is having a great season, largely under the radar. He has eclipsed 2000 yards from scrimmage and has 20 TDs. Should he be getting more attention for offensive player of the year?
I wrote last week, he is the offensive player of the year and I don't think it is close. It is unfortunate, because if he is on a good team, he is the MVP front runner, yet there is a legitimate question if he is going to get as much love in the post season awards as he should.
He is having the same impact Marshall Faulk had on the Rams, hopefully the Cardinals are able to take advantage like the Rams did and win at least one, their first, Super Bowl.
The Cardinals defense is ranked 3rd in yards per game but 18th in points per game. What's behind that discrepancy?
You want the long winded version or...? Honestly, this team is full of good players who don't play together all the time. There is too much freelancing and guys worried about what everyone else is doing.
That leads to huge swings in effectiveness, where the Cardinals will completely shut down an offense for three quarters, then give up two or three short touchdowns late in the game, like last week against the Seahawks. Going from 18 to 31 points in less than three minutes. They just can't seem to find the closing effort they had last year.
What is the shelf life of this current rendition of the Cardinals? Some of their core members are getting long in the tooth. Will the Cardinals be able to retool on the fly to stay in contention or will they be forced to rebuild from the ground up?
Probably 2017, with a slight, slight chance for 2018, but they need to figure out a quarterback beyond Carson Palmer. With that, they have a young, productive defense, even with their flaws, a solid offensive line under contract and David Johnson. They need weapons outside, weirdest thing ever to say about the Cardinals, but if they go to a heavier, run oriented offense, they could be ready to make a smooth, Ben Roethlisberger like transition.
If they don't, well it could be an issue of continually searching.
Thanks to Seth for taking the time to answer these questions.