After consecutive losses, one coming at the hands of the Detroit Lions, the Cardinals are in a familiar place. Last season after the bye week, the team lost games they should not have. Injuries derailed momentum and ultimately forced them to miss the playoffs.
The Detroit loss was inexcusable. The team came out flat and emotionless. Some onus must land on the shoulders of head Coach Kliff Kingsbury. A sizable portion of a head coaches job is to motivate and inspire his team. Rally the troops! This was not the case on Sunday.
- Better and consistent play calling
An issue that continues to hinder the Cardinals offense, inconsistent red zone play calling. Kingsbury tends to shy away from the run game. James Conner has been a great asset this season because of the physicality he adds to this finesse offense.
In their last 2 games in red zone, Cardinals scored TDs on 2-of-8 trips and scored on 4-of-8.
Against the lions, they were multiple failed attempts to score touchdowns. At one point, Kingsbury called three or four consecutive passing plays. Offensive opportunities were available but execution was missing. Going forward, the run game will be important if they have any chance to win on the road in possible weather elements during the playoffs.
2. Play with aggression and urgency
The Cardinals have two glaring weaknesses that have shown up. The lack of physicality on the interior offensive and defensive lines. The run defense ranks 16th in yards allowed with 1,579. The most concerning part is ranking 6th in yard allowed per carry with 4.6.
This issues keeps offenses in third and manageable. The interior defensive line is not answering the bell against downhill rushing attacks. Offensive lines are able to double team and climb to the linebackers. Physicality must be met with physicality. The athletic and tangy linebackers cannot use their abilities when offensive linemen have quick access to the second level. Improving their mentality and level of physicality against the run will be huge for their post season success.
3. Better secondary adjustments
The Cardinals secondary plays a lot of soft coverage with their corners giving receivers 5-7 yards of cushion. This gives offenses space to run with hitches, digs, and out breaking routes. For example, this is how Aaron Rodgers attacked the defense with a depleted receiving corps.
Defensive coordinator must adjust to the offensive game plan and force tougher throws. Especially considering the pass rush is not automatic this season. It is sporadic at best. Implementing more press man coverage to reroute receivers and disrupt their timing could prove beneficial down the stretch.
This issue can be masked right now but addressing the talent in the off-season is a must.
To some Cardinals fans, this seems like deja vu from last season. I understand why they would feel this way. I am optimistic this will will not have the same results.
The Cardinals roster is much better overall than last season. With that being said, their are big voids they refused to fill or address last off-season. Until then, some key adjustments and improvements can strengthen their chances of a postseason run!