The Arizona Cardinals have had issues with getting off to a fast start.
And it looked like they had a really brutal start to the game. The team stumbled out of the gate trading punts before they finally found something with a Kyler designed run and a 1 touch, 29 yard touchdown on the inside zone from Chase Edmonds.
Then AZ almost let the Jets back in the game, allowing a loooong rushing drive followed by a batted INT that could have turned into 14 points.
IF the Jets were any better...which they weren’t.
Punting it back on 4th and 1 and then going for it to get stuffed on 3rd and 4th down on consecutive plays, AZ held and made the Jets pay on the next possession w/ a Murray rushing touchdown.
I was still less impressed by that than I was seeing Arizona’s amazing execution of the 2 minute drill, hitting Edmonds YET again for a big gain.
It’s becoming more and more clear that there’s two things happening in Arizona:
-The Rise of Chase Edmonds
-The Fall (?) of Chandler Jones
Jones left with a biceps injury and while I’m no doctor, the man’s pressure and pass rush rate has been down and if he isn’t playing hurt, he’s certainly not playing motivated.
Soon as he went off the field?
Dennis Gardeck got a sack.
It goes without saying that Arizona is at a crossroads with their star players.
Patrick Peterson looked to get beaten at times by (checks notes) Jeff Smith.
Chandler Jones has faced multiple backup tackles this season to no avail. He has looked like he turned to dust after last year’s offseason.
Kenyan Drake went from being a running back that everyone was dropping jaws over but now can’t seem to get back to 5 yards per carry and seems to be lacking explosiveness.
Steve Keim trusted his veteran players to be “the guy” and push Arizona over the top.
They aren’t getting it done against the Jets?
That’s a yikes.
As an organization that has never had a high level of stars or talent, Arizona’s been far too lenient as far as pushing their star or favorite players ahead of the team and it has seemed to cost them the last two years.
Keeping David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald under contract for double-digit millions when both looked clearly past their prime...oof.
Now, Arizona’s got a decision to make on Peterson and it doesn’t seem likely that he remains or retires a Cardinal. And they have 2021 to decide on Chandler Jones who’s hitting 30 and went from THE premier NFL sack leader to...watching a UDFA success story have the same amount of sacks as him on the season.
This Cardinals team might be one where we look at GM Steve Keim and talk about the timing being terrible for having what looks like a longterm franchise QB under contract for a low rookie salary at the same time as their star talent fell off a cliff and they didn’t have a lot of young talent to make up for it.
The team had some good breaks vs. the Jets but Keim might need to do a total overhaul in this offseason for finding long-term young talent and....the team doesn’t really have the picks or the cap space coming off of a year w/ Covid to make that move.
I think Cardinals fans in the moment can feel comforted that the team has been able to look like a solid team against the Jets, but the cost seems to be a future that leads to all sorts of questions in the NFC West.
Does Arizona have the talent to beat the likes of Seattle and San Fran and LA without Peterson and Jones?
Hardly. Another 4th place finish isn’t acceptable and for me all I can take away is how brutal the Cardinals playmakers have looked.
The good news?
Honestly...there is some.
It’s that Arizona has gone from a team that would NEVER put opposing teams away to one that when the talent level is offset, has a killer instinct to do so.
The team went on two long 2nd half drives, with 9-11 plays to Drake and Edmonds on the ground and through the air and then showed off some explosive involvement for Deandre Hopkins on a touchdown pass that hit him perfectly for another 30 point game.
So far this year, Arizona’s averaging 25.6 points per game.
They are giving up 20.4. That’s a far cry from last year’s 5-10-1 team that would score 24 points a game but give up 28.
If anything the game against the Cowboys next week might be a season-determiner for them as they strive to stay relevant and in the playoff race.
Should they drop the next two games, fans hoping for a playoff team will suddenly switch from excited and dialed in after a 2-0 start to fall to 3-4 with the toughest part still ahead will call for heads at a rate we haven’t seen since 2018.
That’s just the way it is in the NFL.
But for now, the Cards did what they had to do and that’s worth praising.
Some quick hits:
- With Chandler likely out for the season, Arizona needs to figure out who’s going to rush the passer and given how it’s a long-term need, potentially trading draft picks for one from a team who might not want/be able to keep theirs should be on the table
- Patrick Peterson should also be on the table trade-wise as Arizona needs an influx of talent. They clearly outclassed the Jets but right now if Kyler isn’t perfect, don’t have the OL/Run Game/Receivers to carry the team against the best in the NFL
- Kyler’s development seems to be tied to “letting it rip” and having a balanced offense. Seeing how he’s played well despite offensive struggles is a solid sign
- The defensive improvement has been night and day, especially on 3rd down and in the red zone. It’s still missing a truly suffocating playmaker on the edge and in the secondary, however
- Deandre Hopkins is very, very good. Arizona’s in good hands with Fitzgerald moving on.
That’s all for now. We will see with a crowd on the road how Arizona does in what might be their pivotal seasonal game against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football next week.
The team will either crack under the pressure or make a diamond out of it and honestly I have no idea which team shows up.
Hopefully it’s the one that did in the second half of today’s game.