What were the takeaways as to which players or positions came out as winners on the day and who came out as losers?
Let’s take a look at three from each category, starting with the biggest winner and loser of the day:
WINNER: Vance Joseph’s Redemption Arc
After heading up the 31st ranked defense in the NFL last season, Vance Joseph has seen his defense take a turn for the better.
The Cardinals last year gave up on average nearly 30 points a game defensively (even to the likes of Kyle Allen, mind you). Through two games this season? They’ve given up a combined 35 points.
A major improvement to say the least. He’s no longer looked at I’m sure by many Cardinals fans as the “defensive Mike McCoy” that was bandied about and if anything showed he was working with a deficit of talent last year.
Plus, he also got to celebrate a birthday victory and got a gameball from Kliff Kingsbury in the locker room post-game:
LOSER: Patrick Peterson & those pesky slant patterns
Patrick Peterson’s a large, imposing and athletic corner who plays physical press man and can contain the likes of the alpha wide receivers in the NFL in single coverage.
However...there’s a type of receiver that gives him trouble more often than not and it happens to be the smaller, shiftier and quicker-than-fast type of receivers who can get off the line in a hurry. Pat’s recovery ability is so good that he usually never gets beaten deep, but on quick slant routes? He loses to the likes of Michael Thomas or as we saw against the Seahawks so often, guys like Doug Baldwin.
Today’s matchup against 2nd year pro Terry McLaurin was one of those matchups, with one such play Peterson not even being able to dive after him on the touchdown:
Terry McLaurin burns Patrick Peterson for the touchdown! pic.twitter.com/XBmFabjZUI— Barstool OSU (@BarstoolOSU) September 20, 2020
Despite having Peterson on him, McLaurin went off for 125 yards and a touchdown (and P2 was beaten off the line but look how guys just can’t pursue with those jets!) No shame in having a weakness, as it comes in handy against the likes of D.K. Metcalf’s or those battles back in the day against Calvin Johnson.
Granted—there were two catches w/ the drive extended with Dre Kirkpatrick and NOT Peterson on McLaurin, but it didn’t really matter who was covering him for AZ as he went off and made guys miss.
So it does bode questions given that Peterson’s entering into the final year of his contract and a franchise tag (in a cash-strapped year) might cost Arizona nearly $17 million dollars for his services next year...not to mention any extension.
it will be interesting to see Peterson’s caliber of play the rest of the season especially against the likes of a Tyler Lockett.
WINNER: Kliff’s Coaching Kick in the rear
In the middle of the second half, after another three and out, Kliff Kingsbury gathered the entire offense together for a huddle.
It was a rare sign.
Often given a “player’s coach” moniker, Kingsbury normally treats his team with the expectations of them managing themselves and being self-motivated. But this team had been stuck in a rut ever since coming out of the half. Penalties and some decent play despite being up 20-0 he knew they needed to put the game out of reach. Credit him for that meeting, as the team then went on a long drive, converting multiple 4th down plays to have Kyler run the ball into the end zone and take an insurmountable lead over Washington.
It was an important moment and showed the respect that the players have for Kliff, as well as showed a bit of his “when he gathers everyone you KNOW it’s about to go down” idea of managing the team.
Given the fact that the Cardinals could have some brighter or darker days ahead, it was a needed step to rally his troops and it paid off.
LOSER: The Non-Kyler run game effectiveness (until the end)
When Maxx Williams was scratched from the opening game along with Center Mason Cole, most fans weren’t too worried about the pass protection for Kyler Murray anyway given the job Lamont Galliard did last week. And WFT only had 3 sacks on the day, with one being credited to them after Murray was forced out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage.
The problem was that the run game, up until a few big chunk plays on their final drive of the game, was pretty much averaging only 3 yards a carry outside of Kyler Murray.
I don’t think that’s an awful thing as long as Murray is effective on the ground, and it’s been back to back weeks of TOUGH front-seven defenses in San Fran and Washington, but some were scared enough to even have Kenyan Drake tweet this out:
Lol if you’re mad about my fantasy output the first couple of games, drop me and bless someone else in your league— Kenyan Drake™ (@KDx32) September 21, 2020
My best guess otherwise?
AZ sorely misses Maxx Williams in the run game to be able to block guys and open up holes. Last week the running game notably saw a big bump that helped calm Murray down once he came into the game and they ran more 11-12 personnel sets, and I hope that he gets healthy enough to be able to play moving forward as the team’s good but not GREAT like they were at the end of last season with him on the sidelines hurting.
And given the poor run defenses that Arizona has coming up it wouldn’t shock me if this is simply a temporary setback.
WINNER: Backstreet’s Back (with a bounce back) for Isabella & Kirk
I could have talked about how Kyler put his stamp on a potential MVP race this year, getting Arizona up early with his arm. Or mentioned the special teams play, with them forcing a fumble on a punt return to set up an Arizona score for the second week in a row.
But I think that this step was one of the most important ones for Arizona to take in finding a threat outside of Hopkins or Fitz. Isabella’s been only used sparingly for AZ, with 9 catches in his career, yet he caught a 50+ yard bomb from Murray and later in the game picked up a crucial first down on a blitz in which Kyler hit him on a hot route.
Christian Kirk also took advantage of a broken play with an impressive sideline grab off Kyler rolling right and extending the play. He’s got an arm and we saw some shots, but no connection last week against San Fran. This time he did.
Having two threats like that who can haul in a deep shot will give defensive coordinators headaches and was needed to take some pressure off of a guy like Hopkins.
LOSER: Dwayne Haskins getting comparisons to another certain former Cards 1st round QB?
Both Dwayne Haskins and Josh Rosen have had tragically similar starts in the NFL:
-Pocket passers drafted to rebuilding teams w/out an O-Line or a lot of talent on offense or defense who’ve had accuracy issues and taken a lot of sacks
I think Haskins is a better overall player than Rosen was, as far as decision-making and the like goes, but there was indeed questions and talk from some in the media wondering if they could take Tua Tagovailoa instead of Chase Young.
I think WAS still believes in Haskins and will give him time, but he’s got a new head coach AND GM from the one that drafted him, and the NFL is a game where if one guy isn’t successful, his replacement is just an offseason away.
If Haskins doesn’t develop well and the Football Team ends up in position for a top QB this year, it will be a major discussion as there’s set to be at least 2-3 potential franchise quarterbacks with mobility that Haskins doesn’t possess that Washington could use to FULLY reset their franchise.
And if that’s the case, poor Dwayne will be in a rough spot. And this game against Arizona, who has a good, but not great, defense certainly didn’t help much.
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