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LAR 34 ARI 7: Nagging Thoughts

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Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • The Ravens gave the Cardinals the blueprint as to how to attack the Rams’ defense—-a steady diet of off-tackle runs, QB escapes up the middle, short to intermediate passes to the TEs and Slot WRs off RPOs (many times picking on S Marquee Christian and CB Nickell Roby-Coleman in coverage)—-to the tune of 5 TD passes from Lamar Jackson. Check it out:
  • Yet, it seemed like the Cardinals ignored that blueprint altogether and just tried to do their own thing.
  • Offenses often gain an edge when the defense sees plays that they struggled with the week before—-yet the Cardinals never planted that seed of doubt in the minds of the Rams’ defense. Instead they played right into the Rams’ strengths.
  • The game was classic Ram Tough versus Cardinals Soft.
  • Hmmm—-since Bruce Arians gave the Rams a wakeup call in 2016, the Rams have beaten the Cardinals 6 of the last 7 times and under Sean McVay the Rams are 5-0 and have won by a points total of 130-25.
  • In my opinion—-just as Kyler Murray said that he feels Bruce Arians’ ghost-like presence in the building—-the Cardinals are still trying to clean up the mess from the extravagant 5 year bash that Arians and his staff hosted and walked away from. A quote from The Great Gatsby comes to mind: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things and creatures and retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that held them together, leaving other people to clean up the mess.”
  • But this week—-it was like the Saturday night when Gatsby’s parties ended—-as there were no fireworks to gaze upon or revel in whatsoever.
  • Starting with play 1—-a dive up the middle for 0 yards. By now—-starting the game with a dive into a wall in the middle is pure torture for Cardinals’ fans. If K2 doesn’t know that by now, then he hasn’t been paying attention.
  • On the flip side, Sean McVay is doing with Jared Goff what K2 should have been doing with Kyler Murray—-running a whole lot of play action passes and shifting pockets with rollouts and bootlegs.
  • Did you ever imagine that the story of the game would be Jared Goff’s legs and not Kyler Murray’s?
  • Heck, Goff, on a roll to his right even connected on a throwback to the middle pass to TE Tyler Higbee who had the easiest 100+ yard performance of his career.
  • The Cardinals pass coverage was so soft and passive—-it was such a shameful effort. WR Robert Woods had 7 catches and close to 100 yards before any Cardinals’ WR caught a pass.
  • If there is one team the Cardinals need to shift the pocket on, it’s the Rams. Their pressure up the middle is too quick and strong. And when it does come quick, you have to do what Lamar Jackson did—-find a crease and escape it. Kyler was a tad too late a couple of times, one of the times getting clotheslined by a spinning Aaron Donald.
  • There has to be something wrong with the way the Cardinals WRs are being coached. They have plenty of speed to work with—-but they are running routes like robots (other than Larry Fitzgerald)—-and they are not being the least bit creative. Most of the WRs seem to have such little roles in the game plan. In a K-Raid this is just plain odd and even bizarre.
  • K2 did the smart thing and dialed up TE Charles Clay’s number early on—-the Rams have had their struggles against TEs. On MNF, Ravens’ TE Mark Andrews had 2 catches for 45 yards (22.5 ave.), for example.
  • The way the Rams were trying to jump all of the short routes—-the Cardinals needed to counter with double moves off shifting pockets—-but the adjustments were not made. They also needed Murray to look off the safeties (high and under)—-but Murray was feeling the heat and rushing his decisions. And perhaps K2 was worried about moving Kyler around too much because of his hamstring.
  • Kyler Murray was throwing to spots—-again like a robot. There was such little feel and way too much panic. Part of it was Murray’s worry about testing and taxing his hamstring—-which is understandable. the other part was that the rams sis a fantastic job of hemming Murray inside the pocket.
  • But here Kliff and Kyler go with that ridiculous, completely televised screen pass to the left—-which has almost been intercepted the last three times they have run that. How is it that Kyler Murray could be so oblivious as to not do anything at all to sell a simple screen pass?
  • D.J. Humphries picked a bad time to have one of his worst games of the season—-particularly seeing as his agent is in contract negotiations with the Cardinals. His PFF grade for the season is now hovering at the 60 mark (60.8). Giving him top tackle money right now would be a mistake—-and no way does he deserve a $16M guaranteed f-tag.
  • The other OL the Cardinals are negotiating with, C A.Q. Shipley had a 55.7 grade for the Rams game and now has a 55.6 PFF grade for the season, by far the lowest on the Cardinals’ OL.
  • The best OL grade this week was from Justin Murray again at 67.6 and he now has raised his season grade into the 60s at 61.1.
  • TE Maxx Williams had an uncharacteristically poor game for him (54.1), but still has the highest season grade on the Cardinals’ offense at 77.6.
  • WR Larry Fitzgerald had the highest offensive grade versus the Rams (72.5) and is up to 71.6 for the season.
  • On defense DT Zach Kerr had the highest grade on the defense at a stunning 85.5. His year grade is now 2nd behind Chandler Jones at 76.9. He’s become the Maxx Williams of the defense. Extend him for 2 years. We need rugged players like Kerr up front.
  • Jones’ poor 48.6 game grade dropped his year grade out of the 80s and down to 77.9.
  • Terrell Suggs 44.6 game grade exemplifies why he and Chandler Jones are doing such a poor job of keeping contain—-and in Suggs case, getting any semblance of sustained pressure on the QB.
  • Cassius Marsh had the best pass rushing grade at 65.7—-but his overall game grade was 54.9, which again is a reflection of how badly beaten the Cardinals were on the perimeter.
  • In the middle, Jordan Hicks had a solid game (62.2) and is at 62.3 for the season.
  • Joe Walker did as well (62.9) and since becoming the starter Walker has had 3 good grades in the last 4 games: SF—-72.1; TB—-56.0. SF—-71.3 and LAR—-62.9.
  • Now that the Cardinals are finally moving Haason Reddick to OLB, it’s likely they will promote Tanner Vallejo from the PS to be Walker’s backup. I thought Vallejo played very well at times in the pre-season.he could be the Pharoh Cooper—-happy to have you back—-player on the defense.
  • Guess who had the highest game grade in the Cardinals’ secondary? ironically, Tramaine Brock at 76.2, boosting his year grade to 66.4. One would think that Brock will get scooped up by a playoff contender.
  • But—-what was very clear to me in this game was that with Patrick Peterson on one side and Tramaine Brock on the other—-it was easy pickings for screens and hitch passes and sweeps to their sides—-all day long. Other than one good tackle late, Brock’s tackling attempts were very Peterson-esque. And that’s always the worry of the PP Effect—-if PP doesn’t have to tackle, then why should anyone else?
  • Guess who had the 2nd highest game grade in the Cardinals’ secondary? Byron Murphy at 64.4. Followed by Budda Baker at 59.2, Jalen Thompson at 55.2 and Patrick Peterson at 53.6.
  • At RB, it was a tough day for Kenyan Drake (49.3) and David Johnson (57.1) who, imo, were used incorrectly versus the Rams’ defense. It is also my opinion that if K2 wasn’t trying to placate Johnson and GM Steve Keim, Chase Edmonds would have gotten some much deserved touches. I believe that of the 3 RBs Chase Edmonds may be the best all-around RB fit for the K-Raid and that David Johnson’s best fit is at slot WR opposite Fitz.
  • The timing of the Cardinals’ bye was made all the more difficult, routine-wise, by having Thanksgiving come up during the game day week. Coaches and players thrive on routine, especially for a coach like Kliff Kingsbury. Not using this as an excuse, per se, but as a contributing factor.
  • I hope and imagine that Kliff Kingsbury now looks back at the Wednesday he gave the players off in the 1st week of the bye. For a team mired in a 4 game losing streak and having the worst ranked passing defense in the NFL and the team near the top of the most penalties in the league, awarding the players with a day off was a poor message...and may be one of the main reasons why the Cardinals came out flat as a board and stayed flat for virtually the entire game.