Matt McCrane/Phil Dawson/Zane Gonzalez
- A number of Cardinals’ fans, including myself, became very impressed with Matt McCrane during the pre-season. Many of us felt he made the best possible case to win the kicking job. He showed commendable form, trajectory, range and most of all—-accuracy. It is no wonder why he ranks s the 8th most accurate kicker in the history of Division 1A college football.
- To learn from Steve Wilks, who vowed that the best players will play, that McCrane as early as week 2 of the pre-season was being “showcased” for other teams, was not only disappointing, but it evoked questions about Steve Wilks’ sincerity—-that is, unless this “showcasing” decision was really Steve Keim’s and not Wilks’ or Jeff Rodgers’. I believe it was Keim’s.
- Those who look at McCrane’s 5/9 FG ratio while with Raiders and have concluded that he wasn’t really all that special anyway—-I beg to differ because McCrane had three days to adapt to a new snapper and holder—-even more challenging was learning how to kick off of the slippery dirt of a baseball infield. One of the FGs he missed was 57 yarder into the wind that was right down the middle but fell a yard short of the crossbar. And I don't take for granted that fact that he kicked a game winning FG in overtime in his first ever NFL game to secure the Raiders’ first win.
- To bring McCrane back for one week while Phil Dawson was nursing an injured hip was a colossal tease for him and for those of us who had been hoping he would back back one day in Cardinal red. Even though Dawson was injured, he wanted to kick in the Raiders’ game and was understandably upset when Keim signed McCrane. Wilks said it was his call to rest Dawson another week for “precaution’s sake.”
- Despite the fact that McCrane went 3/3 on extra points and kicked two of his kickoffs for touchbacks and the fact that Dawson was still unable to practice during most of the next week, the Cardinals promptly cut McCrane and turned their attention to Zane Gonzalez. This begged the question as to why the Cardinals just didn't sign Gonzalez in the first place. But it seemed that this was the plan all along.
- Dawson’s missed FG this past week sealed his fate and paved the way for Gonzalez’s promotion. When asked about why and not McCrane, Mike Jurecki initially tweeted: “the Cardinals feel he (Gonzalez) has more upside” which he later changed to “IMO he (Gonzalez) has more upside.”
- Ok, let’s compare McCrane and Gonzalez’s college stats—-
McCrane FG% 86.4% (8th Highest All-Time in D1-A) XPT % 99.3%
Gonzalez FG% 82.8% (28th Highest All-Time in D1-A) XPT % 97.6%
- Compounding the matter is that Gonzalez has been nursing a slight groin tear which he suffered early this season and didn't tell the Browns about until he was missing FGs and XPTs badly (2/4 XPTS, 2/5 FGS)..
- Now—-when healthy, Gonzalez is a talented kicker—-but McCrane, in 4 months with the Cardinals was 100% accurate on every kick (5/5) he made in the pre-season games (including two 54 yard FGs) and versus the Raiders (3/3). It feels like classic Cardinals to argue with perfection.
- This feels like a bad way of doing business, especially when the current head coach is preaching “consistency” and McCrane was a paragon of consistency.
- The whole episode also feels like a poor way of treating Phil Dawson—-especially when the head coach says he does not know why Dawson was put on the IR. Weird. The only potential winner here is Gonzalez, who has been with the team a week.
- For McCrane, his journey to find the right team continues—-today he was worked out by the Carolina Panthers.
- It was surprising that Steve Keim signed Andre Smith so early in free agency to a a 2 year $8M contract seeing as Smith, on the tail end of his career, hadn’t started at RT in two years. The Bengals were using him as a reserve guard last year.
- The fact is—-Smith, when healthy, turned in some solid games, particularly when he had John Wetzel breathing down his back.
- Also, that fact is—-that any coach who wouldn’t offer Andre Smith help on 3rd and longs against Joey Bosa should bear the majority and onus of the blame for the sacks. The beat goes on for Cardinal OCs who don’t seem to know the opponents or place the highest priority on protecting the QB. By this standard, the Cardinals should have cut Jared Veldheer last year after he gave up 3 sack to DeMarcus Lawrence without an iota of help.
- So now he’s home collecting the $3.2M he earned this year ($2.6M signing bonus + roughly $600K in base salary) much in the same way that Mike McCoy and Sam Bradford are home collecting their salaries.
- His expulsion now leaves the Cardinals precariously thin at tackle, particularly seeing that D.J Humphries is still recovering from a knee injury.
- Just two games ago versus the Raiders Benwikere was having arguably his best game as a Cardinal—-playing back and forth between safety and boundary CB—-making 8 tackles and 1 pass breakup—-until he gave up the fade pass to Marcel Ateman that put the Raiders in FG position—-off of a disguised combo zone/man play that even Patrick Peterson had trouble defensing a week earlier versus the Chiefs.
- Versus the Chiefs Benwikere had 9 tackles and did a very good job covering All-Pro TE Travis Kelce and was part of the reason why the Cardinals held the Chiefs to the lowest offensive production numbers.
- Benwikere’s interception and 21 yard return versus the 49ers was a key play in securing one of their two wins.
- Yes, Benwikere struggled versus the Chargers, but then again so did newcomers Leonard Johnson and David Amerson. Yet, it was Benwikere, one of the team’s few decent tacklers and versatile defenders, who gets scapegoated.
- In a way, Wilks’ cutting of Benwikere—-a player who came in and spoke so positively and enthusiastically about Wilks—-is perhaps extra symbolic of how Wilks has lost this team and his senses in the process.
- As is the case with Andre Smith, Benwikere’s expulsion leaves the Cardinals precariously thin at safety and CB where Budda Baker and Rudy Ford have been inactive due to injuries and after Jamar Taylor was cut and only newcomers remain (oh, and Brandon Williams).
Steve Keim’s 2018 Pre-Season Free Agent/waiver/trade signings:
- QB Sam Bradford ($15M guaranteed + $1M in games played incentives(
- QB Mike Glennon ($4M guaranteed—-2/$8M)
- CB Bene Benwikere
- WR Brice Butler
- WR Cobi Hamilton
- CB Jamar Taylor (2019 6th round pick to Browns)
- FB Derrick Coleman
- LB Jeremy Cash
- G Justin Pugh (5/$44.8M/$15.8M guaranteed)
- T Andre Smith (2/$8M/$2.6M guaranteed)
- LB Deone Bucannon ($8.7M option)
- RB David Johnson (3/$39M/$31.9M guaranteed)
- DE Benson Mayowa (1/$1.53M/$310K guaranteed)
- CB Marcus Williams
- LB Josh Bynes (3/$5.6M/$1.3 guaranteed)