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The _____, the bad and the ugly for the Arizona Cardinals

Fans feeling bamboozled after Arizona drops to 2-2 and it feels like anything is on the table now

Arizona Cardinals v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Man, what can you say?

This was going to be a “Winners and Losers” article but really there’s no winners here for the Arizona Cardinals unless your name is “Deionte Thompson” or “Jordan Thomas”.

The loser just feels like the fans who expected more from this team through 4 weeks of the season and saw a chance for redemption yesterday.

After the first two games Cardinals fans felt the sky was the limit for the team. They’d beaten the previous NFC Champions on the road and trounced the Washington Football Team and their offense still didn’t seem to be at its peak.

Then 3 interceptions and two long drives killed their chances against the Lions. But they still had a chance to go 3-1 after that wakeup call.

...the wakeup call didn’t come.

Instead it now looks more like some alarm bells.

There’s reasons to be positive, Cardinals fans:

  • Budda Baker is only expected to be out for one week
  • Jalen Thompson is eligible to come off of IR this week as well
  • Chris Banjo, the depth safety, was out for this game but might be able to be back if either is out for another week
  • Maxx Williams may return to the lineup
  • Maaaybe Isaiah Simmons gets played more?

Other than that?

There’s a lot more reason for fans to feel like the Cardinals are in a hole after they were outplayed and outcoached last week.

What does that mean?

It means that everything SHOULD be on the table for the Cardinals.

Lose to the Adam Gase-led hapless Jets next week and you might have fans questioning if AZ should clean house before Kyler’s rookie contract is up.

The upcoming games after that against a terrible Cowboys defense (with a solid offense) and a Seahawks team on a short week....whew. Talk about season defining.

We’re a long way from 5-0. Some would argue that will help the team but there’s not much to say that they could rack off a few wins in a row without major changes.

Arizona could be 4-2 heading into a Seahawks game at home. Or at worst could be looking at a possible blowout and falling to 3-4. Big difference. (God forbid they drop a game to the Jets cause then they’re probably gonna struggle the rest of the way).

Here’s my three big takeaways so far that might surprise you as to why the Cardinals are in this spot:

A. Kliff isn’t learning at the speed necessary to develop Kyler Murray and is still missing more talent than you’d think

The Cardinals were supposed to be a high-flying offense with the likes of Kyler, Hopkins, Kirk, Fitz, Drake all pushing for impact roles. Even Dan Arnold was getting a lot of love over the summer.

Their offensive line was returning 4 starters and they got an upgrade at right tackle with Kelvin Beachum.

And so far they’re scoring 24 points a game and giving up 23.

Which means...

B. Vance’s defense fell apart going from averaging only 20 points a game...to 24. The team scoring 21 means they’re currently going to lose more games than they win

What went wrong? You’d think that for the defense—they’re playing well in 34 of their games and were missing their top 3 safeties today. While Chandler Jones has been absent on the field they still have gotten pressure and sacks.

It’s been the offense that’s had the majority of the issues....until today.

It felt like their defense without Chris Banjo took a major drop and Isaiah Simmons questions aside, they showed cracks down the stretch of the old 2019 defense.

It was full-blown yesterday. Wow. Budda might be worth his weight in gold if Vance couldn’t do anything to stop Carolina...either from a talent or a coaching perspective they weren’t ready to play and Curtis Riley looked like he didn’t know anything happening on the field.

And finally...

C. Kyler’s still productive...but even a casual fan can see he’s still not comfortable in the NFL nor executing at the level he should

Something’s amiss with Kyler Murray.

There’s been some missed throws he’s had over the middle but he’s seemed to go from a quarterback who was able to go through progressions last year and make plays (albeit inconsistently) to one who throws to Hopkins and relies on his legs for explosive plays if the deep shots aren’t hit.

Which is interesting as it might mean that teams are playing him differently. He’s not gotten much help from Kingsbury in terms of play design in these past two games but he’s missing throws that he 100% made last year and that’s concerning.

Despite that, he’s making way more plays than he did last year and Arizona’s scoring touchdowns far more often, especially in part because of his legs and improved decisions in the redzone.

Still, the Cardinals are relying right now on their defense to put up points when instead their offense should be the one that’s dissecting defenses and part of that might have been the expectations of Murray to rise to an MVP status in his 2nd year despite this truly being his 2nd year of full season-long snaps in football (Mahomes played for 3 years as a starter not to mention Lamar Jackson and both got a season to adjust putting them both right now at least 2 full seasons ahead of Murray at this point in his career as far as snaps go).

The fact that Kyler’s accounting and producing is still valuable. He’s AVERAGING 300 yards of offense and 3 touchdowns a week with just over one interception (from a turnover perspective, he’s turning it over just under 2 times a game however given the 3 INT game).

And from where the Cardinals were under Kurt Warner? That’s great news for the team long-term. But it doesn’t help you win now with his rookie deal, unfortunately.

So, what’s to be done? I’ll give 3 opinions on what could happen with 3 different views.

None of them are the “correct” view but all are valid.

The GOOD view:

  • Look at this game not as an aberration but rather as a poor trend of back to back games made worse by Arizona missing the likes of Budda Baker and any decent backup safety and one in which their offensive line got punched in the fact and the team realized early they weren’t gonna win the game because of it with the talent they had.
  • They play the Jets next week
  • And get perhaps a “season defining” series of two games against the Cowboys and Seahawks who have DYNAMIC offenses and....terrible defenses.

The BAD view:

  • This was a sign of Arizona not being as advanced as we thought on offense as they didn’t protect well, Kyler is improving but not at the pace expected
  • Same for Kingsbury
  • The team needs weapons and we REALLY saw with no Budda how difficult it’s been for Vance Joseph to still succeed and that’s gonna have question marks

The UGLY:

  • This was Matt Rhule’s 4th game and despite having no starting LT/LG, he and Joe Brady with Teddy Bridgewater ate the Cardinals for lunch on the offensive side
  • And on the defensive side, Kliff has had pretty much everything good called into question the last two weeks, weakening if he’s “the guy” despite this being Year 3 of a “retool” that turned into a rebuild and Arizona’s struggles will continue in part under him
  • Steve Keim’s inability to find talent is hampering the Cardinals and his lack of addressing safety outside of Curtis Riley has doomed the team the past two weeks...meaning that as long as he’s the GM, Arizona will struggle. And he’ll continue to be the GM as long as Michael Bidwill’s the owner due to Kliff/Kyler saving his butt

I think it’s fair and valid to have all 3 of these viewpoints as a fan.

The Cardinals aren’t perfect, and while I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom there’s certainly cause for alarm when you beat what looks to be an elite team, beat up a weak opponent and then it seems to come off the rails.

There’s no telling where Arizona can or will go, honestly, but one thing is for sure.

More days like today and fans will be having a hard time wanting to come back into those seats once things reopen.

Because in the NFL just having an electric playmaker at QB isn’t good enough. Wins have to be a part of the equation.