It was exactly how the Cardinals drew it up… right?
No matter how it happened, the Cardinals are 2-2 after a brutal two game road trip through the NFC South saw the team stay out of the state of Arizona for the last week.
There were miscues, sloppy play, and late game heroics, but the Cardinals still managed to come out of Tampa with a victory, and in it we were able to see there is still PLENTY of work to be done in Cardinals camp.
The good, the bad, and the ugly from the Cardinals week four victory in Tampa Bay:
It’s getting real 2012ish up in here.
This Cardinals defense has the makings of a special unit, and against the run, they are one of the best teams in the NFL so far.
Coming into today the Cardinals had surrendered a meager 3.2 yards per carry for the season, and after their dominant performance Sunday that number is down to an astounding 3.03 yards per carry, including a stifling effort to hold the leads second leading rusher Doug Martin to 45 yards on 27 carries, or 1.7 yards per carry.
The defensive front’s dominance can be attributed to a multitude of players, but over the last two weeks, it’s been the play of newly acquired Alameda Ta’amu, along with inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Jasper Brinkley (who left with an apparent injury) who have provided the anchors they have been longing for in the middle.
Ta’amu’s ability to control his gap, and allow the linebackers to play their single gap assignments free of concern of taking on or coming across unexpected blockers.
There are still chunks of big runs being given up, which are not unexpected in this single gap 3-4 look, but they are few and far between, and with the tackling being good in the secondary, the Cardinals run defense is looking like an elite unit.
As for the pass defense, they aren’t the dominant group the run unit has been, but they are getting the job done enough, and making timely plays that have allowed this defense to be great so far.
While the defense is giving up a healthy 64% completion rate, they are holding teams too little to no yards after completion, keeping the ball in front of them, and not allowing deep plays, except for the Calvin Johnson fiasco.
They may have looked out of sorts at times, and the pass rush is still a hit and miss type effectiveness, they may have found something in Dontay Moch… as long as he’s just rushing the passer and not asked to do much else.
This defense is very close to being great, but it’ll take a more competent offense to get it to that level.
The offensive line put together maybe their best performance, I charted 4 total quarterback hits, this unit struggled in a different way today, and that was because of their inability to run block.
The offensive line protecting Carson Palmer is without a doubt the number one priority for this unit, but if they can’t open consistent holes for the running backs, this team could have even more problems in pass protection, because the Cardinals won’t have a tangible threat, and then teams will pin their ears back even more.
Rashard Mendenhall has struggled to find a consistent footing running the ball because he isn’t a big play running back.
He is a workhorse that needs his touches to get into a rhythm and getting only 12 carries, four in the first quarter, one in the second, five in the third and two in the fourth, isn’t a way to get him into rhythm.
If the Cardinals are going to go forward with their outrageously inconsistent run pass ratio, it’s now at 34/66, then they need to move on from Mendenhall being the feature back and move towards a tandem of Andre Ellington and whoever they decide, but Mendenhall needs to be out.
If they want to move forward at a more balanced rate, then feed Mendenhall 20+ times a game, if not then he doesn’t serve the purpose of taking up an active roster spot.
There’s an elephant in the room and his name is Carson Palmer.
There was much, much fanfare made of the Cardinals trading for Palmer in the off season, proclamations of the Cardinals having their man while Arians and company had the next two to three years to find and groom their quarterback of the future.
When Palmer was brought in though non Cardinals fans put out a warning: He’s really not as good as his stats say he is.
You see, for years Palmer has put up a ton of numbers, but they always seemed empty.
He’s on pace for:
348 completions 608 attempts for 57%
4040 yards 16 TDs 24 INTs
While the touchdown to interception ratio should go up (crosses fingers) the Cardinals need Palmer to not put up such empty numbers, like yards those 4000 yards, but find a way to make impactful plays in key situations like he did on his touchdown throw to Larry Fitzgerald.
Palmer can’t be a stat stuffer but throw interceptions in big spots, something he has a propensity to do, and he needs to find a way to get the "elite" talent at receiver he has the ball more often in spots to be successful.
Yes, the quotation marks are there for a reason: Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, what talent has been elite? Michael Floyd has put up some numbers; five catches and 87 yards lifted his 2013 season numbers to 16 catches for 240 yards, but neither Floyd nor Andre Roberts have caught a touchdown pass, and the enigmatic Rob Housler continues to confound.
Even Fitzgerald’s numbers aren’t very Fitzgerald like, as he is on pace for only 84 catches and 960 but the plus is he’s on pace for 12 touchdowns.
If Palmer is going to put up nearly 4000 passing yards on the season by throwing passes to 13 different receivers that will look good on the stat sheet, but it won’t put the ball in the end zone, and that’s been the case thus far.
Targeting your investments, starting with Floyd, Roberts and Housler, more needs to be more important than spreading the ball around for meaningless passing yards.
Get the ball into your playmakers hands, even if it is force fed, and win with those that you have invested so much in.
There may not have been much on the field offensively to write home about, but as the old adage goes, a win is a win, and now it’s just about finding that offensive rhythm, making big plays in, and getting rolling going into the San Francisco, Seattle and Atlanta before the bye week and figuring out what this team really is.