Someone in the Cardinals’ organization needs to hold defensive coordinator Vance Joseph accountable for his poorly researched game preparations and the irresponsible ways in which he puts his own players at a distinct disadvantage.
When is enough, enough?
Case in point —- this gift wrapped TD for Sean McVay, Cooper Kupp and the LA Rams.
On one of Sean McVay’s classic bread and butter “motion” stretch plays —- which any team that plays the Rams should be fully prepared to defend.
Clearly, Vance Joseph over the course of 4 years, hasn’t put in the kind of detailed preparation for how to defend Sean McVay’s offense, even his most basic plays. Here is the kind of preparation it takes, courtesy of our good friend, NFL film analyst, Brett Kollmann:
Fast forward to the 4:50 mark for a privileged glimpse of how McVay’s motion package is designed to work —- and, kudos to Kollmann —- for ways in which defenses can make the adjustments in order to defend and counter for each wrinkle.
If you really want to understand what makes Sean McVay’s offense tick —- this video will open your eyes big-time.
Now —- do yourself a favor and watch how absurdly unprepared the Cardinals were this past week to defend Cooper Kupp’s jet sweep.
Unprepared —- both in terms of play recognition —- but also in terms of having the correct personnel in positions to stop a McVay bread and butter play like this.
Let’s start with the personnel:
Vance Joseph lauded Isaiah Simmons for being the only athlete on his defense to be able to sprint from the A gap to the sideline so swiftly, as he did to produce the forced fumble that helped Byron Murphy and the Cardinals secure their 29-23 OT win in Las Vegas —- why then is a stellar athlete like Isaiah Simmons only given 16 snaps all game this week, in Joseph’s favor of, playing far less talented athletes and less productive players?
Having Isaiah Simmons on the field for this play would have given the defense a significantly better chance to keep Kupp and the rams out of the end zone and the Cardinals out of a 10-0 hole..
The most glaring and egregious personnel gaffe —- besides Simmons being on the bench while a third offense in a row was asserting 1st quarter dominance over the Cardinals defense —- was how and why Vance Joseph ever thought it would be a good idea to position 6’5” 330 pound defensive tackle, Leki Fotu, on the edge.
Do not blame Leki Fotu for this TD —-
On the pre-snap Matthew Stafford must have licked his chops to see Fotu positioned on the left edge —- it was an easy audible, with Cooper Kupp lined up in the right slot with opportunity to sprint motion him to the left.
Stafford must have been laughing inside when he saw that slot CB Jace Whittaker was not chasing Kupp across the formation —- and, for that matter, that the Cardinals’ ILBs didn’t shift an inch toward Kupp’s motion —-
When Whittaker didn’t chase —- this signified that the Cardinals’ were in zone coverage on the play, not man to man.
Or, were they?
If the coverage was indeed zone, then who then would have been assigned to cover the flat to the motion side?
It would have to be either Marco Wilson or Budda Baker, neither of whom filled the void.
Wilson looks like he’s in man coverage because, on the snap, he runs to cover his WR, Allen Robinson, who is successfully trying to lure defenders toward the middle to open the TD path for Kupp.
Baker gets caught up in the traffic where Cardinals’ defenders are bumping into each other like Keystone Cops.
“No Contain? No Chance.”
No offensive coach in the NFL knows this better than Sean McVay.
The irony is that on the previous play, Devon Kennard made his one big play of the day, by keeping contain on a sweep —- in textbook fashion by keeping his outside shoulder free and by stringing out the play to where RB Darrell Henderson had to reverse his direction and was chased down for a one yard loss by Budda Baker.
If you know McVay, he’s thinking OK, I tested contain to the right side —- what do the Cardinals have for contain on the left side?
Imagine then McVay’s surprise to see Leki Fotu on the edge and not JJ Watt or Dennis Gardeck or Isaiah Simmons or Zaven Collins or Markus Golden or Victor Dimukeye or Cameron Thomas or Myjai Sanders (oh, wait).
Prepared edge players versus the Rams know that if Cooper Kupp is motioning their way, they need to “hedge” on Kupp to slow him down and to establish contain —- they also should know that it is often likely that Kupp is being used as the “sift” blocker on cutback runs (check Kollmann’s video).
But the worst thing an edge player can do on the snap is to stay relatively in place and not get upfield to contain the play.
Again, Leki Fotu isn’t an edge player, so expecting him to be prepared for a play like this is pure folly. Give Fotu credit where credit is due for chasing the play from behind like “Rollo the Dancing Bear.”
But according to GEN X stats, Kupp was running over 20 mph on the play for the first time since his ACL injury a few years back.
One of the other ways in which Vance Joseph’s edge and perimeter players consistently lose contain is on screen plays. One of the huge differences in this game was the Rams’ ability to run textbook screen passes for chunk yards, while the Cardinals’ execution of screens was laughably inept.
Lastly, one of the biggest plays of the game came when a blitzing Zaven Collins had Matthew Stafford right in his tracks to make a key 3rd down sack, but Collins took a straight path at Stafford, which allowed Stafford to break contain by spinning away to the outside, where he then threw a dart to Kupp for a 1st down.
The correct technique is to rush “outside shoulder - in” so that Collins either makes the sack or funnels Stafford back into the arms of his teammates.
You know who was textbook at the “outside shoulder - in” rush technique? Haason Reddick.
Someone in the Cardinals’ organization needs to hold Vance Joseph accountable.
However, Joseph’s excuse is that he is being asked to coach “Little Leaguers”.
Hmmmm. what an indictment and mockery that is of not only of Joseph’s own players, but of his own GM.
The very GM who for four years has been letting Vance Joseph break contain, time and time again.
PFF, however, is holding contain on Joseph and his defense very sturdily.
Here’s PFF’s evaluation of the Cardinals’ defense through 3 games:
- 30. HOU —- 50.3
- 31, SEA —- 45.5
- 32. ARI —- 41.0
- 22. ARI —- 55.1
- 30. DET —- 49.6
- 31. SEA —- 41.7
- 32. ARI —- 29.6