I've been keeping a low profile to this point because I don't think you can make judgements on a team on a game to game, or worse, play to play basis. But three games in, you start to get a little feel.
Now I know most are pretty upset with the overall play of the team, and I agree there haven't been alot of good things to talk about. But overall, I am ecstatic where the team is at. Being 2-1 is exactly where I thought they'd be at this point. But considering how they got here, how can you not be happy we are 2-1. Look at some of these rankings:
Pass comp % - 31st
Passing yds - 31st
Yds PA - 29th
3rd down conv - 29th
Penalty yards - 31st
Rush Def - 31st
Fumbles lost T-last
I've seen Cardinal teams of the past have numbers like this before, but none of them had a winning record.
As most of you know, I was not a fan of DA becoming starter, and after watching the first 2 games I was starting to think Whiz really blew it. But I have to tell you, and I know alot are going to think I am nuts, but I think he had his best game so far in week 3 and I saw alot of improvement. Was he perfect? Far from it. But he was, for the most part, going through his progressions well, he was decisive, there wsan't alot of panic when facing pressure and he was, yes, reasonably accurate. I counted at least 7 passes where, although not perfect, were either catchable or just flat out drops. The shovel pass was awful but seemed to have more to do with the timing of the play being off due to Tim getting caught in traffic. Also, he is much more mobile than I thought he was and has shown a BigBen-esque knack of shedding would-be sackers.
Also I wanted to point out that although DA's numbers were, at best, average in last weeks game, don't forget we picked up 3 LONG PI penalties for 75 yards that you must give him credit for, particularly the first one where Oak sent 8 and DA avoided the immediate pressure and got the ball downfield. It was a great play by the QB.
It has really bothered me how long it has taken this unit to get it's collective act together and I was all but ready to call for Bridges and Hadnot to replace Faneca and Brown. But if last week is any indication, we could be turning the corner. Of the 30X DA dropped back to pass, he had 21 plays where there was little to no pressure, a clip of 70%, not great, but not sieve-like either. But this has had as much to do with the schemes as it has the personnel. And Oakland blitzed a ton in this game rarely sending less than 5 or 6 pass-rushers and sometimes 7 or 8. As most have noticed, most of the pressure is coming from the edge rushers for the opposing def. so far this year, particularly on Browns' side beating him around the corner. So AZ did 2 things last week that worked very well. Shortened Da's drop and rolled him away from Browns side. Because of the solid play from the center of the line, and the fact that the tackles are only asked to ride the speed rushers wide, OAK go very little pressure and it is something you will see alot more of in weeks to come, I believe.
I know, everybody in the league complains about the refereeing, and I'm sure Oakland fans had something to say about last week's game. And although I thought last week was probably the fairest shake we have gotten so far, we are getting shafted at this point in the season and won't be surprised if it continues in SD this week. We've had the HighT non-fumble, the fact that the first 8 flags thrown, not accepted, thrown, in the Atlanta game were all aginst us(Jerome 'Booger's' crew - the absolute worst in the NFL), the phantom hold on "The Hyphen's" return vs Atlanta to name some things and this past week 2 critical calls. The first was on the PI penalty on Toler in the end zone. Was it PI? Absolutely! The only problem was there was very very clear false start on the right tackle which should have negated the play right there. This was a crucial at was a third and long and gave OAK 1st and goal from the one. The fact that they didn't capitalize is a testament to the 'D" but does not excuse the line judge. The 2nd call was the major facemask on Beanie. I mean, REALLY! You call a facemask on the RB with 4 mins to go??? If it was truly, truly blatant, maybe. But it was debatable at best and if you are not sure.......
SOME OTHER THOUGHTS
We have the best punter + punt coverage team in the league - bar none! That being said, we also have the WORST punt return team in the league - bar none, although I still think this unit can turn it around.
2 things have already happeneed this year that haven't happened in a long time. The Cardinals won a game where they turned the ball over 4X and they also won a game where they were -2 in TO differential.
Defense hasn't been great, but I still feel it has been very solid. A very distrubing trend has worked against them as they lead the league in a very ominous statistic. They have been on the field for more plays(229) than any other defense in the league. They are AVERAGING almost 77 plays per game. To put that into perspective 28 of the other 31 teams have not had even 1 game where they were on the field for 77 plays. Some of this has to do with short drives on offense(1 play 80 yard drive - 5 play 76 yard drive - KO return TD) but has more to do with 10 extra possessions given to the opposing team due to TO's. This MUST turn around!
We have now scored 6 TD's this year, 3 have come without a single pass being thrown.
Speaking of the RB's, we currently rank 2nd at 5.8 YPC. Take away M.Vicks scrambling Pha and they drop a distant 2nd at 5.2. There is real explosion in our running game that no one in the league gives us any credit for.
Another point about the running game and the reason you stick with it: Although it started out a little slowly with only 4 of the first 12 runs going for at least 4 yards(33%) from the late 2nd Q on, they ran 14X with 8(57%) going for 4 yards or more.
The Cards have given up 7 TD drives(I consider a 'drive' to be at least 20 yards) this year. 5 of those drives have been aided by major penalty flags being thrown on the defense(one drive had 2). On the flip side, the Cards have exactly 1 TD drive that has been aided by a major penalty. I mean, I don't know, Is it just me?
With all the injuries at WR, it is time for us to start using our TE's more.
Shame about Dan Williams not suiting up this week who I think to this point has played well and was outplaying BRob. I don't think this is a big deal and might be more of a case of looking for a reason to get Watson on the field. Depending on how Watson plays, I'm pretty sure it will be he and Williams suiting up and BRob deactivated by the 2nd half of the season.
On a related note, Commander "Fat Boy" has still not suited up for a Ravens game, although there is a chance he might this week vs Pit. GOD, am I glad we did not draft him.
Biggest surprises so far this year
The Hyphen: He's awesome...every team should have one
Paris Lenon: Haven't read one post since the season started yearning for the return of Hayes
DRC Although he has shown some flashes of how great he can be, he already has 3 PI penalties this year, one which almmost cost us a game and he completely mailed it in vs Atlanta in week 2. He still very good, but I expect him to be elite. But the season is still young.
WR's: I know everyone has been hurt, but except for Boobsie in game 1, no one has stepped up their game. I have seen very little separation off the line of scrimmage. And for all those callin for Max Hall to be the starter, look at what we have gotten out of our ROOKIE FA WR's so far. Not pretty, but that is what you expect out of ROOKIE FA's, and is exactly what you would get with Hall at QB