So to get a better sense of who we’re facing, I linked up with Seth Cox from Revenge of the Birds, the SB Nation community for Cardinals fans.
The offense really never got on track last week. Was that something to be expected (though perhaps not to that degree) or was it a surprise? What’s the primary issue or two to get fixed ASAP?
This is one of those questions where you want there to be a clear-cut answer and there really does not seem to be. Sam Bradford threw the ball 11 times in the preseason after basically missing all of 2017. Moreover, he is in a new offense, surrounded by new players with a new offensive coordinator. The fact that they stunk in week one is the least surprising thing that happened in that game. The primary issue is that Bradford has no rapport with his new offense and that Cardinals really lack talent outside of the ageless Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson. Put it this way, the Cardinals had one catch for four yards from a wide receiver not named Larry Fitzgerald in game on.
Then, Bradford took Wednesday’s practice off for a veteran’s day off. Things are going to likely be slow going until this team gets some work together against live fire. The offensive line was passable in game one and the running game was effective, but they had to abandon it so early because the defense struggled and they couldn’t keep up with the Washington Redskins.
If they want a chance to fix the offense, they have to find a wide receiver to help Bradford and alleviate pressure off Fitz, while also keeping it close and playing to their strength... running the football. That isn’t exactly the best strategy against a potent Rams team, but we’ll see if it works for longer than it did for the Raiders.
On defense, how are things shaping up? It’s Al Holcomb’s first go as an NFL defensive coordinator, so I’m sure teams are paying close attention to the job he’ll do. Is the depth chart in alright shape?
When I said it was not surprising that the Cardinals struggled on offense, what I really meant to say was the fact that the Cardinals couldn’t stop an Adrian Peterson lead rushing attack and put their offense in a hole they are not equipped to dig out of was shocking. Not giving up yards or 24 points, but being bludgeoned by the Redskins rushing attack and then having no answer for... Alex Smith.
The defense is behind because they lack much in terms of middle of the field game changers. The Carolina Panthers defense was so good because they had Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, and then some linebackers that most people think are pretty good. The Cardinals have Corey Peters and Robert Nkemdiche at defensive tackles, and they played okay, but the linebackers for the Cardinals, specifically Deone Bucannon were bad. That leads to the depth question... It is not good outside of the secondary. The Cardinals linebackers aren’t very deep, which is why they spend most of their time in nickel, to minimize the time on the field for three backers. They have talent all over the secondary, although Tre Boston was really bad in game one, so they want those players, five usually, on the field.
Meanwhile, the defensive front four lacks any sort of depth right now with Olsen Pierre dealing with a toe issue and Markus Golden still recovering from a torn ACL. That means you get Chandler Jones, Nkemdiche and Peters and not a lot else.
Who are the major first-year contributors? Obviously the coaching changeover and new QB depth chart is going to be a focal point of change from 2017, but what else is going to make 2018 different from last year overall?
Mason Cole played well for a rookie in his first game against a solid Skins interior DL. Now, it is a whole new ball game with the Rams interior. Justin Pugh was their big free agent signing and he did a nice job as well. Andre Smith was a their starting right tackle, but it is likely he will be out with an elbow issue this week, so you get veteran backup John Wetzel.
Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds are two potential game changers from the 2018 NFL Draft, but Kirk mostly on punt returns right now and Edmonds on the field somehow meant no David Johnson on the field, which seems like a bigger minus than a plus right now. We talked about Tre Boston earlier, but Jamar Taylor has been solid in the Holcomb/Wilks zone defense. He is a little over physical, but I’d rather that than the alternative of just letting guys run by.
The biggest issue for the Cardinals in Wilks first year is the lack of depth talent and the fact that Bradford still has an ample amount of rust to shake off. Hopefully it gets better this week, but against this Rams team, I am not exactly liking those chances. Of course they get Khalil Mack and the Bears next week, so it definitely gets easier from here... (insert eye-roll).
Overall, we talked about this on our podcast, but the biggest thing this week is staying competitive and looking like an NFL team. Two things that didn’t happen in game one.
Thanks to Seth for the time.