After the Arizona Cardinals lost to the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams yesterday, what was expected to be a joyless march to the playoffs is becoming something else. One quarter of the way through the season, a lot of fingers are being pointed. The reality is that the Cards are two toss-up games from being 3-1. The Cards have enjoyed tremendous luck in one-score games over the last three years, and that luck seems to have run out.
In part, the Cards aren’t making their own breaks because the 2016 version is not as suited to the tendencies of the coaching staff as the 2015 edition. The best player on an offense that loves to pass the ball is a running back, and two of the top wide receivers are regressing. A young defense can’t wait for an inexperienced coordinator to find his footing in games the way a veteran unit can.
It took the Cards 4 weeks to rack up as many losses as they did in 16 games last year. This team can still qualify for the playoffs, but their road is much tougher.
David Johnson, RB 20 touches and over 120 all-purpose yards qualifies you even when you have a fumble. Johnson was on the field for 73% of the offensive snaps, and that still feels like too much. Arians and his staff seem to rotate between drives, but Johnson needs a breather after big gains.
John Brown, WR The wideout continues to get integrated into the offense, with 10 receptions and 144 yards. That said, Brown seems to be a step slow; it was shocking to see him get run down from behind by a linebacker. He may need another few weeks to get back in game shape.
Calais Campbell, DT Campbell stands in for an overall excellent effort by the defensive line, leading the unit in snaps and completely bottling up Todd Gurley (1.7 YPC) for four quarters. Campbell remains a monster in all phases of the game, even when his stat sheet production (1 tackle) seems quiet.
Michael Floyd, WR After another third-down drop, Floyd was effectively benched for the rest of the game. He only came in for a couple of packages for which Jaron Brown would have not practiced (namely no-huddle packages). Floyd is the poster boy for high expectations gone unfulfilled.
Kevin Minter, ILB Minter was exposed in the passing game and found himself overrunning gaps and relying on his teammates to cover up for him. Unlike Floyd, Minter probably isn’t playing himself off the roster, but the Cards may let him test free agency.
D.J. Humphries, OT Los Angeles recognized that Humphries has been effective at dealing with speed rushers, so they decided to put All-World DT Aaron Donald across from him. Humphries should benefit from a real learning experience in anchoring against a smaller, more powerful opponent.