While the Cardinals defeated the Detroit Lions on Sunday for their first win of the young season, many questions continue to surround the team. The ROTB Writing Staff took their shot at answering three of these.
Don't forget to answer them yourself in the comments below!
1) In what area do you think the Cardinals improved on most from Week 1 to Week 2?
Khodder: I don't actually think they improved much in any area, I think they played better week one than they did in week two, especially offensively it was just the result did not come their way week one, and it did week two. I do think the defense in the second half really showed a big step up from what they had shown in the first 6 quarters of the season. However the first half was still sloppy and the pass coverage in particular was poor. If the defense that showed up in the second half vs Detroit can consistently show up this season then you are going to see a team that will be in a position to win every game they play.
Randy Fields: The defense first and foremost. But also, I can't believe I'm saying it, but I think they made one step forward in pass protection. I'll stress the word one though. They need to continue to improve and they need to keep chipping opposing ROLBs to help out Levi Brown. He's doing we'll except against the inside move which is difficult for a RB to come back inside and help him.
Shaun Church: The biggest improvement was from the offensive line. By no means was it great Sunday, but holding that talented defensive front to one sack is an accomplishment in itself.
Alex Mann: Buckling down in the second half. Last week our Offense put us ahead and Bowles/Arians took their foot off the gas. It cost us and Bowles/Arians were not going to let the same mistake happen again, as we witnessed on the 4th down play where Bowles sent pressure instead of sitting into coverage. Excellent improvement.
2) What were you most concerned about after the Lions game?
Khodder: I am concerned about the health of Larry Fitzgerald's hamstring. It is better he misses a week or two now than him missing six or eight weeks later in the season.
It is impossible not to worry about the consistency of the pass rush, though there were small gains made this week.
The first half tackling was porous giving the opposition free yards.
The lack of running plays being called worries me. I pointed it out on twitter at one stage, on the opposition 23 yard line, 1stand 10, 15 minutes left in the game, down 5 points, your RB averaging well over 5 YPC, running the ball in this kind of a situation is imperative, yet we threw three times, only one was completed, that was short of the markers and we settled for a field goal. Excluding kneel downs we are sitting at a Pass/Run ratio of about 63/37 right now through two games. Vs the Lions Mendenhall had 10 carries for 57 yards and then touched the ball once on the next 14 offensive plays. Over that period Palmer went 4-8 for 36 yards and was sacked twice (One of which was ruled out by a penalty). Run the ball with more balance and ride the hot hand.
It is encouraging however that the team has been "in" both of their games and is 1-1 despite these concerns.
Randy Fields: Third down conversions. It was incredible to see the 0-for-n that was displayed prominently until the fourth quarter. I know it was a game winning drive, but that was the first of the day that they could really be proud of. Also, they need to generate some pressure on the QB if they're going to have luck next week against Drew Brees.
Shaun Church: I was most concerned with situational football. Third-down and red-zone offense was terrible against the Lions, and they need to be much better than that Sunday to have a chance in New Orleans. Going 1 of 11 on third downs is not going to cut it, and neither will getting one touchdown on four red-zone appearances.
Alex Mann: Nothing really concerned me. A lot of the errors were attributed to mental mistakes and as Arians has pointed out, they're fixable. We saw what our receiving unit can do without Fitzgerald and I have no worries about him missing time.
3) What do you think will be the most important factor in Sunday's game against the Saints?
Khodder: Containing Drew Brees is imperative. Playing with balance offensively vs the Rob Ryan run Saints defense. We are going to be the underdog going into this game, I think in order to win this team will need to score points defensively or an special teams and not turn the ball over offensively.
Randy Fields: Protection of Palmer and limiting big plays from Brees. If they can generate pressure and keep their man in front to limit big plays they'll have a shot.
Shaun Church: The most important factor to Sunday's game is keeping Drew Brees off the field as long as possible. That goes back to converting on third down. Carson Palmer completed 4 of 10 (40.0%) on third down last Sunday for 20 yards, 2.0 YPA, no touchdowns, an interception and one first down.
His completions are as follows:
Jim Dray short right for 1 yard on 3rd-and-2
Michael Floyd short middle for 5 yards on 3rd-and-10
Andre Ellington short left for 6 yards on 3rd-and-5
Jim Dray short right for 8 yards on 3rd-and-10
Continually throwing short of the marker on third down tells the defense that all they need to do on third downs is put linebackers at the first-down marker to stop them-the defenders keep the play in front of them and the Cardinals fail on third down.
Alex Mann: Shutting down Jimmy Graham. I expect Arizona to play a similar scheme to that last week, with both Mathieu and Jefferson getting time at safety, and Bell playing a good chunk of snaps at LB. I could also see Peterson coming off a receiver and going against Graham and a handful of plays, particularly red-zone.
Offensively, they need to run it. Yes of course Palmer will do well in the air, but the Saints are ranked 27th in the league, allowing 124 yards per game, and 5.3 yards per carry average, and with Mendenhall's spurts of good running, to go with Ellington who is surprising a lot of folks around the NFL, Arizona could have a field day on the ground.