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5Qs and 5As with Revenge of the Birds: Why do the Cardinals keep starting so slow?

On Kyler Murray, Marquise Brown and the team’s lack of sacks

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Las Vegas Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams travel to the Grand Canyon State this Sunday to take on the Arizona Cardinals. This week marks the first road game of the year for LA and the first matchup between the teams since the Rams’ 34-11 thrashing of the Redbirds in the Wild Card Round en route to the Super Bowl.

The Rams won their last meeting in Arizona and are listed as a 3.5-point favorite according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

With both teams sitting at 1-1 and looking to seize early control of the NFC West, I sent questions to Seth Cox at SB Nation’s Cardinals blog Revenge of the Birds to gain more insight into the Rams’ opposition this week.

Q - Last Sunday, the Cardinals looked like they were about to fall off a Kliff after going down 20-0 against the Raiders. Eventually they scored 22-unanswered, pulling out a miracle overtime win. Despite the victory, Arizona has started their opening two games very slowly and are subsequently 3.5-point underdogs against the Rams. So what is the best remedy to cure that going into their game against LA?

A - Hopefully just getting going quickly offensively and it will start the Arizona Cardinals in the right direction on both sides of the ball. The return of J.J. Watt was a huge boost to the defense and it showed up more in the second half.

For the Cardinals it will be about getting into a rhythm early and allowing their offense to take advantage of playing from ahead, which means they Kyler Murray has to come out looking to take over and not waiting to do so when things might be on the brink. If he does that, the Cardinals should be able to give the Rams a game from the first whistle.

Q - Kyler Murray was instrumental in leading his team to a win in Vegas last weekend but his play has garnered some criticism from the media as of late. Much of it likely stemmed from his contract saga this summer. His playmaking abilities are astonishing but what is something else you’d like to see in his game that will help push the offense further?

A - Just looking to assert himself more early on. He’s almost gone too robotic trying to sit in the pocket and become a “normal” quarterback to appease the voices outside.

Too many times he lets the defense dictate things and then sits back and tries to make plays. He needs to come out and get the magic started early, which will allow for your first question to be answered.

Q - Second-year linebacker Zaven Collins played all 67 defensive snaps against the Raiders, joining safety Budda Baker as the only other defender to play the entire game. How have the Cardinals expanded his role this season and how does he compare this season to his rookie year in 2021?

A - Game one they put him in situations and let him continue to grow. In game two they gave him the green dot and told him to run the defense. Who knows what game three holds outside of Collins is getting the chance to show his ability after being too inexperienced in year one.

He’s shown more understanding of NFL run game concepts but now he goes against a master in Sean McVay with maybe only the 49ers run game being better designed. It’ll be a fun test to see if he’s continuing to grow.

He’s got to continue to get downhill and trust his eyes. If he does that he should have a good game.

Q - Wide receiver Marquise Brown was traded to Arizona on draft day and has had modest production through two games in the desert (10 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown). How has his connection been with Kyler so far and where could it go once DeAndre Hopkins returns from suspension? Also, do you see him going o/u 55.5 receiving yards this week?

A - They are growing. The Cardinals made a decision to not give Brown and Murray any live bullets during the preseason and it showed in game one. In game two they looked better and would have been close to 100 yards if not for a great play by Duron Harmon.

It’ll be interesting to see if that continues to grow into this game where they have to play against a great cornerback in Jalen Ramsey. It is also going to be fun to see Brown opposite of Hopkins later on because it will open things up for one of them and it should give them a great passing attack.

That being said, they are trying to force feed Brown, so I would take his over 55.5 yards receiving in this game.

Q - Getting to the quarterback has been a huge issue for the Cardinals through two games, mustering only a single one thanks to JJ Watt. What are the odds that the defense at least doubles their sack totals against a makeshift Rams O-line?

A - Game one was a complete waste. It counts, but I don’t think much of it outside of it gave a lot of guys live bullets together for the first time. Or live bullets this year.

Game two with Watt back in the fold, it was better. They only had the one sack, but they were better getting after Derek Carr, especially in the second half of the game.

Now, it’ll be important to keep that going against a good team, with issues along the offensive line. If they can get after Matthew Stafford then things will get better.

I won’t say they get to Stafford four or five times, but I do think they can two or maybe even three times if Watt is healthy.