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Perspective on the Cardinals’ First Half (With Eyes Moving Forward)

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

So—-from the outset—-what went wrong for the Cardinals?

  • Giving Steve Keim another contract extension with two years left on his first extension—-it seemed like Michael Bidwill was trying to exonerate Keim for the failings of the past two years. But—-really—-did Keim deserve it? It’s amazing how Michael Bidwill keeps getting burned on reward contracts that are given to personnel with a year or two left on their contracts.
  • Taking a long, drawn out approach to hiring a new head coach. Being last to the dance doesn’t typically work, even if the Cardinals got lucky that the Bears chose Marc Trestman over BA the last time.
  • Hiring a defensive minded head coach when the last two head coaches, both offensive minded, brought the Cardinals to a Super Bowl and 2 NFC Championship games.
  • Plus—-as dynamic a person as Steve Wilks is—-he’s a 43 guy with only one year of experience as a defensive coordinator (which produced mixed results).
  • Hiring Mike McCoy as OC—-who had just gotten fired in Denver during the middle of the season under a rookie, defensive-minded head coach.
  • Heading into the draft with the express purpose of drafting the QBOF in the 1st round—-why sign both Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon in free agency? Even the departing HC, Bruce Arians, always maintains that if you draft a QB in the first round, you should play him. In this scenario, the draftee was expected to come in as the #3 QB—-and just how many reps would be given under that arrangement? Plus, after losing Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton to numerous injuries over the past five years—-why sign such an oft-injured QB in Sam Bradford? And—-why make a $20M commitment to him?
  • On a side note, for those of you watching BA do the color commentary on the Chiefs/Browns game yesterday—-it was particularly vexing and ironic to hear BA gush over and over about the talents of Patrick Mahomes knowing that Mahomes was there for the taking at #10 in the 2017 draft and also knowing how in appraising Mahomes prior to that draft BA offered such a scornful critique of college spread offenses like the one Mahomes ran at Texas Tech—-and how in BA’s mind it was so difficult to assess how college spread QBs would fare in the NFL.
  • When Wilks and McCoy were hired, both of them maintained that they would be very flexible in what kind of system they would run. The Cardinals’ current defensive personnel was geared toward a base 34. On offense, Fitz and the returning veterans were hoping that Mike McCoy would not change the nomenclature of the play calling that they were so accustomed to. And yet—-within such a short period of time—-Wilks declared a switch to the 43 and McCoy insisted on using his old playbook and the language that he and not the players were accustomed to.
  • Was it wise to bring such significant changes on both sides of the ball?
  • Back when the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford, I wrote of how prudent it would be for McCoy to sit with Bradford and watch Bradford’s sensational performance in week 1 of the 2017 season when Bradford put on one of the best passing clinics versus the Saints. In doing so, McCoy could ask Bradford to illustrate the plays he was so successful executing and use those plays as a starting point for the new offense. Well, it was clear from watching the Cardinals’ Week 1 game versus the Redskins that McCoy’s plays nowhere near resembled the plays that Bradford was mastering while he was with Pat Shurmur.
  • There also appeared to be a disconnect between McCoy and the new OL coach Ray Brown, particularly in the run blocking schemes. It’s of paramount importance that the OC and the OL coach work in complete unison when designing the plays. If you were watching the Seahawks/Chargers game yesterday—-the Seahawks cleaned house on the coaching staff last year and brought in OC Brian Schottenheimer who insisted that the Seahawks pair him with OL coach Mike Solari (who was the Seahawks’ OL coach back in 2008-2009). Yesterday, it was impressive to watch the Seahawks rush for 154 yards at 4.8 yard per carry versus the Chargers’ defense.
  • The decision to reward David Johnson with a 3 year $39-$45M contract extension when they could have assessed his play this year and, if need be, use to franchise tag on him appears thus far to be a mistake. Did you watch how fast Alvin Kamara hit the holes yesterday for the Saints versus the Rams? That’s how you run against the Rams. Did you also watch RG Larry Warford play so well versus Donald and Suh? The Saints are paying Warford $8.5M a year—-while the Cardinals are paying Justin Pugh over $9M a year.
  • David Johnson has been hamstrung by an ultra conservative offense—-but he also hasn’t been running as hard or as decisively as he was back in 2016.
  • How or why can Steve Wilks continue to justify using his nickel as the base defense? Even when he and DC Al Holcomb were asked about finally employing a 43 base in the Week 8 win versus the 49ers, both coaches downplayed the change.
  • Byron Leftwich’s hands-on approach to coaching Josh Rosen and the Cardinals offense is refreshing. The offense started playing more relaxed and with more urgency and emotion in the second half versus the 49ers.
  • Would love to see Leftwich, Rosen and the Cardinals come out versus the Chiefs in an uptempo offense the way the Patriots did versus the Packers last night. Uptempo seems to suit Rosen to a tee.
  • And it appears that Leftwich and OL coach Ray Brown are making some necessary changes in the blocking schemes up front. Seeing as Leftwich has never coordinated an offense before, being able to lean on Brown is of paramount importance.
  • Leftwich made a concerted attempt to diversify David Johnson’s role—-and called a modern day Cardinals’ record number of screen passes. Johnson had his first 100 yard (combined fishing and receiving) game of the season. Hard to figure, but true.
  • What was most appealing about Wilks’ and Holcomb’s switch to the 43 was much more clearly defined edges and more balanced field coverage—-to the point where the 49ers weren't able to exploit the perimeter of the Cardinals’ defense the way they were able to at will during the first meeting.
  • Who knows at this point what to think of Patrick Peterson’s trade demand. Would it be a surprise if Peterson reverts back to saving himself every chance he gets by avoiding contact? Was it pure coincidence that he registered 0 tackles versus the 49ers?
  • Losing Swiss Army knife T/G John Wetzel for the season is a tough break for the team and for Wetzel. For the past three years, Wetzel has been one of the most under-rated and unsung players on the roster and by every right should have been the starting RT this year. He is a restricted free agent in 2019 and if Steve Keim gives him a low ball tender, don’t be surprised if some well prepared team scoops him up.
  • The young players I am most excited to see get some playing time on their sides of the ball are T Korey Cunningham, RB T.J. Logan (he hits the hole), WR Trent Sherfield, LB Zeke Turner, LB Dennis Gardeck and CB Deatrick Nichols.
  • I love the way DE Markus Golden is playing and hope that the Cardinals re-sign him asap. The dude is a baller and flat-out leader.
  • I have also been very impressed with DE Benson Mayowa who is a far better run stuffer than I ever imagined. I want him back on a 2-3 year deal.
  • So happy to see that Mike Zimmer and the Vikings will not be getting a 3rd round comp pick for Sam Bradford. It looks like the Cardinals will pick up a 6th round comp pick—-which feels like karma seeing as they lost their 6th round comp pick last year when they traded for Adrian Peterson.