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Three Games, Three Takeaways

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How should the Cardinals look to the future as the team three weeks into the season is showing some strides but more discouraging holes

Arizona Cardinals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Dan Kubus/Getty Images

Welp.

That about sums it up, right?

Granted...

This game wasn’t guaranteed for the Cards to win. They were only a 2.5 point favorite at home and the Panthers have always given them issue.

However, against a young quarterback making his second start and after two decent defensive efforts that kept them in the game, optimism abounded.

Even through the 3rd quarter, Arizona led 17-14.

Then...it fell apart as it often did in 2018 and Arizona ended up losing 35-20, by two touchdowns. And at 0-2-1 on the season, that opening tie might feel like a win given the play of the Detroit Lions in future games...but without a W on the board now it hangs like a loss in the atmosphere hovering somewhere over Lake Havasu.

So what is the team to do?

Here’s where I stand and granted, I’m a fan and more of a fanalyst who’s not paid to make decisions but as usual there will be opinions. So here are my big 3 takeaways through 3 weeks of the season so far.

#1. It’s not time to worry about Kliff and Kyler...in fact almost the opposite

Three weeks in and the biggest difference from last year are some of the masterful, well-executed drives from the Cardinals and continual progress.

Week 1, the team looked terrible on offense w/ Murray lost and the team completely ineffective...up until the 4th quarter comeback.

Week 2, Kliff adjusted.

Murray was able to get some time and go deep despite a ton of pressure in his face and went deep with success and luck, however there was no run game to speak of and 2/11 on 3rd down kills you

Week 3, Kliff adjusted.

As the yards per attempt plummeted, chains were moved to go 9/14 on 3rd down and the run game took a step forward as Kyler used his legs to make some plays

In short, there’s continual progress being made week in and week out by K1 and K2.

However, none of these games ended up a win for probably because of the core issue that the team is facing in that one man can’t make an entire offense and as a growing/learning rookie the expectation he has is...

...to have to go out and win games now.

Yikes. Imagine just graduating college, getting your first job and then the boss walks up to you and says “By the way, this is your department now as if you don’t succeed we all might close down.”

Fun stuff! The adjustments and growth through 3 weeks we’ve seen from Kyler has been solid, but moreover Kliff Kingsbury’s growth is more and more encouraging.

The fact that Kingsbury’s self aware and understands and is able to adjust is part of why he’s had offensive success and part of why every Cards fan should be excited. It’s a steep learning curve in the NFL yet Kliff seems to be figuring it out more and more. At least so far.

2. Vance Joseph’s defensive approach should be on the hot seat

The Cards are in a rebuilding position and a transition into a new team. Some players will survive. Some won’t fit. Some will be band-aids until you can add talent around guys, or if you’re missing a talent like Patrick Peterson on the sideline.

But 3 weeks in and Arizona’s defensive approach has more holes in it than swiss cheese.

  • They keep dropping their best pass rushers like Chandler Jones into coverage
  • Clearly their approach with linebackers is solid but Hicks’ lack of athleticism limits them there
  • Big plays are being given up on a weekly basis by Tramaine Brock
  • And of course, the refusal to double tight ends after how they are set to give up a record number of yards and touchdowns to opposing tight ends
  • Tweets like this:

Look, I checked in with Broncos fans and was warned in advance that their personnel type in Arizona might not be a success.

The book is out on Vance Joseph’s defense and today was a day where he had no answers and the adjustments (if there were any) at the half weren’t good.

I’m still curious to see what it looks like if he can play Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford to isolate them one-on-one versus outside receivers and then safety help can go over the middle...but a game in which D.J. Swearinger was given one-on-one coverage on Greg Olsen all day and Olsen burned him and the Cards all day was a bad look since nothing changes.

So I’ll say this—I think that the Cards should 100% give him the season to figure it out.

But for now? I think as long as he fails to fix or address this one issue, even if the D improves with Peterson back, I think I would move on.

Right now, he’s off the team for me for 2020 until he can show he knows how to stop or slow a tight end threat.

Sue me if you want but when there’s a trend and it’s a RECORD-SETTING trend that has a few baffling in-game decisions (like he was criticized for in Denver) you have to be willing to find the right guy, not just find a guy who many thought was the best guy. And perhaps hiring another ex-coach out from the Denver Broncos after Mike McCoy wasn’t the smartest thing that Steve Keim did.

There’s plenty of defensive fish in the sea.

And Kliff has zero ties to Joseph like one could say about an Arians-Bowles combination, for example. I’ll finish with this:

The Cardinals defense can’t be weighed down by having Kyler Murray facing 4th quarter deficits in every game he plays in.

#3. Doesn’t seem like Keim Time is winding down but it should

16 sacks in 3 games.

Not enough talent SEEMING to be a keyword on defense.

Poor expectations and not managing to build a 3-13 team any more up in an offseason outside of looking like they found the right guys at HC and QB.

Welp.

Cue the #FireKeim tweets coming back onto the Twitter timeline...#sigh

The Cardinals are stuck in a rut where General Manager Steve Keim continually seems to be unable to retool in filling holes. He skimped out in 2016 on special teams...couldn’t address the defense or offensive line in 2017 and made the wrong coaching and contract decisions in 2018.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back when they essentially lost all 5 starting lineman from the worst o-line in the league. This year? It’s been a bit of a band-aid approach.

So much so that the Cards had no right tackle, choosing instead to rotate guys in and out.

Yikes.

There’s been no fixing this line outside of 8 games in 2015 and the lack of OL was why Rod Graves got fired in 2012.

This shouldn’t be different no matter how close the reported relationship between Keim and Bidwill may be.

I think Keim should be given the same stipulation as Joseph: fix the offensive line (through trades, signings, etc.) before the end of the season where it shows improvement; the same sort of time he gave Steve Wilks.

But then that brings up a whole host of other questions as far as the future of the team and the turnover and chaos within the organization.

It would kind of reflect what the 2016-2019 Cardinals have done overall: been a slow slide back into the “same ol’ Cardinals” poor play where the GM dug himself into a hole and struck out on the patches he wanted to fill it with.

There’s no denying that he took a huge roll of the dice in hiring Kliff Kingsbury and even moving on from Josh Rosen to draft Kyler Murray. Just how many NFL people (whom many were laughing at throughout the process) will buy into this full-on Air Raid identity? How many outside of Arizona?

Not many...and that’s a problem with any experienced GM coming into the Cards. Fans, however, feel that he’s past due and I think the area of “accountability” and “performance” and “production” doesn’t feel like it applies to the GM and it should.

The answer might be simple: if Keim’s handpicked offensive line can’t hold up and the Cardinals O-Line stays on pace to set a brand new sack record, they might already have a solution. Promote Quentin Harris from his current position as director of player personnel.

He’s already here with Kingsbury and we know that the organization’s bought into Kliff. Keep Adrian Wilson in his current role and bring in a new assistant general manager from outside the organization...preferably with a history of building a team’s offensive line through the draft.

In short—this team’s in a rebuild that was caused in effect by Steve Keim and while I do not expect the team to move on from him at GM any sooner than the 2021 season, I can’t help but wonder if they are better served finding better production at the GM spot.

But I expect no changes.

I don’t expect the Cardinals to move on cause I think Keim bringing in Kliff alone was a job security type of move where he clearly “needs an adjustment period” and while it was done to win and not just for job security, it means Arizona won’t want to overhaul their identity.

And that’s unfortunate as it means they really had no choice but to keep him if they wanted this experiment.

You feel stuck as a fan.

If Keim wants to change my mind and turn back into the 2015 GM from the pumpkin that he’s become, I’d more than welcome it. After all, he already has taken more steps in terms of change. Just hasn’t been enough for the touchdown.

Kind of like Sunday’s performance. And I hope I’m not hoping and praying for the end of 2021 to get here to know what I have in Murray because the team continues to struggle to build the offensive line.