The 2016 Arizona Cardinals are 1-2.
The 2016 Los Angeles Rams are 2-1.
So sad that Arizona doesn’t know what 2016 Week 3 first place divisional status feels like.
To console Seth Cox of Revenge of the Birds, the SB Nation community for fans of the Cardinals, I popped him some questions to get a sense of what the Rams are facing this week.
So let's get the big one out of the way. You guys have started 1-2 off of losses to a Garoppolo-led Patriots team at home in Week 1 and last week's road slip in Buffalo. Are you worried? Why/why not?
I think as a Cardinals fan you are worried, simply because this was a team that was not just supposed to be good, but legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Yet, here they sit, at the bottom of the NFC West, with questions on offense, defense and special teams. So yeah, you have to be worried.
Overall, I think this game really will be huge determination of whether or not this team is for real or just one of those okay teams. A contender would respond to the early adversity, especially against the NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. You can't fall behind three games (virtually) in the division this early.
You guys finished last year first in the entire NFL in yards gained (second in passing yards, eighth on the ground). Through 18.75% of the 2016 regular season, you guys are now tied for 14th in total yards (11th in the pass, 20th in the rush). What accounts for the offensive fall? Is it all on QB Carson Palmer? At what point do you get concerned if you're not already?
It looks like Palmer's lost a little bit on his fastball, but the Arizona Cardinals are still trying to run an offense that is predicated on him pushing the ball down the field. Also, they built an offensive line that is best utilized in the run game. I think the under utilization of the run game in general, plus the fact that the passing game is for some reason not on the same page, there is a concern with the offense. Of course, we have seen this before, in 2013, and it just took time, but it is a shock.
Defensively, things still look very solid. Even last week, the passing game was completely in your favor, though TyGod obviously turned things on the ground in support of LeSean McCoy...any concerns with the defense compared to the offensive dropoff? Any major holes that are developing that you anticipate opponents targeting?
I would be shocked if the Rams didn't try and exploit the porous run defense the Arizona Cardinals are sporting right now. They have struggled to set the edge as well as keep their linebackers, mostly Deone Bucannon, clean to make plays. They are without Frostee Rucker and Robert Nkemdiche has been out with an ankle injury, and it has been quite the struggle to fine help.
Pass defense has been good outside of the one game against the quick passing attack of the Patriots, but the run defense is a real concern right now.
What are the big differences between the 2015 Cardinals and this year's squad thus far? Has Chandler Jones' impact over 60 minutes improved things up front? Is the secondary holding up coming off of Tyrann Mathieu's injury from last year? Any personnel wrinkles to the offense?
The biggest thing right now is that the Arizona Cardinals look like a team that think they are contenders, not a team that are playing like a contender. Jones has three sacks, Mathieu is getting healthier, but it really is just about putting it all together. The talent on paper is really good, the product on the field through three games is not.
The biggest difference in personnel right now is actually that Jaron Brown, yes Jaron, is the second best wide receiver on the Arizona Cardinals. John Brown was behind, while Michael Floyd just hasn't looked good. Outside of that, the way they look on paper is about what you can expect, now if the team that was expected shows up, that is a whole other ball of wax.
We've got a long break until our next meeting in 2017. Obviously, things will look radically different closing out the regular season than how they've shaped up this early on. What is something you were anticipating that hasn't materialized? And vice versa - what's something you didn't see coming that has popped up, good or bad?
I was expecting a dominating start from the Arizona Cardinals. The biggest change they made was in the secondary, moving Tyrann Mathieu back to free safety, bringing in Tyvon Branch, adding rookie Justin Bethel, but the secondary hasn't been the issue. That's why it is so odd to see the struggles, because they come from players that were expected to be good to great again, or in the offenses case, a unit that has been great before.
I am hopeful that it was a slow start, but seeing the Rams, seeing the Seahawks and seeing how other teams within the NFC are out to better starts, it better turn around quick, or this season could get sideways in a hurry.
Hopefully next meeting, this game is for nothing but seeding for the Arizona Cardinals.
Thanks to Seth for the time.