Cardinals Bye Week Report

Cardsfaninlouky

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I think it is fair to say, I should have some crow to eat this morning. While I am not surprised in the least this team stands at 3-7-1 going into the bye. I am in fact, very surprised on how this team has got to this point. [This is the time for all those who want to, to say, “I told you so”.]

The 2018 Arizona Cardinals were the worst team I have ever seen on a professional football field. How that team won three games I will never know. When thinking of that, the 2019 Arizona Cardinals, have a good chance of winning more than 3 games, and to be fair has already won 3 ½ games. Not that the records really matter, especially this year, but it would be nice to see this team show how much better it is than last year by winning a game or two in these last 5 of the season.

Yet, perspective is key right now. It sucks to sit here and “be happy” with improvement, yet that is where this team is. To have a team that is very much improved in a lot of areas, and a team that is entertaining in a way that the difference is stark as night and day when compared to last year, is a big deal. A very big deal. Seriously, watching last year’s team was like trying to enjoy cow piss flavored moonshine, sure it is a drink, but do you really want to sit down and drink it for four hours on a Sunday afternoon? I am a loyal and routine man to a fault more time than not, yet I was not going to waste time in my recently gained, busy life on whatever the hell last year was.

Yes, we all want immediate turn around, but this IS the Cardinals. An immediate turnaround is asking a lot from a franchise who has limited resources when it comes to obtaining talent. I am not a fan of Steve Keim. His supporters can throw what they want in my face. Don’t care, don’t like him. To sum it up on Keim, it is not that he fails at his job, and he does do that well, but that he NEVER LEARNS FROM MISTAKES. Call it ego, ignorance, arrogance, whatever, don’t care. In the end it causes this team to be stunted, and retards the progress and opportunities presented. Yes, some of it is luck, I am the first to point out injuries and just bad luck with players, but then again, when that “bad luck” continues to happen, maybe some of that poor luck is produced by stacking the chances against your roster.

I will try to make this breakdown brief (LOL, and you can all laugh with me on that), and leave it to the younger fans, and those who still love this game as I used to, to turn over all the stones, and to breakdown why the third string safety or the significance of the dependability of your practice squad is important. I do not have the time to put into this anymore, for better or worse, and I cannot tell you honestly if it is time better spent elsewhere. But in that lack of looking at every tree in the forest, has allowed for me to think more “big picture” than before.

The Cardinals front office has saved the Cardinals this year in where it was most critical, the fans (aka money). The foundation of this organization’s fan base is small but it is crucial to have, or their stadium would be far more empty than it already is. Yes, game days are filled with the opposing team’s snow bird fans, but at least it is not a situation where it is 95% the other team’s fans. A continuation of last year’s …..”football” would have taken a large chuck out of the foundation fan base, and even worse there is the threat of the Las Vegas franchise taking a chunk out of the fan base with a team moving there. This team has done enough this year to give someone pause before jumping ship for good.



Coaching:
Grade: B


This is a good subject to start off with. Why? Because it is a happy topic where everyone gets to feel like they can the right idea on this. The Cardinals get a lot of credit here, but not so much for their progressive thinking, as much as finding a coach that will pick and choose where he will stand by his system and methods, yet also compromise and evolve. Kingsbury is not a good NFL coach at this time, but he is much better than he was at the beginning of this year. The NFL is a professional sports league. Ask Kyler Murray what he thought when he was sacked by N.Sue against the Bucs, or every time he is run down by a defensive lineman. Ask Kyler Murray how the current offense was working when 95% of the time than 3 yard out, or slant doesn’t produce more than 3 or 4 yards. A college offense just won’t work here in the NFL, the reliance that your athletes are better than their athletes is not so simple in the NFL.

Yet, I will give it Kingsbury, he realizes when something is just not going to work, and he will tweak things based on feedback from the experienced people in this league, and mix it into his “modern/creative” offense. That is a good thing, because this team would not have won a game this year if it kept on with what was going on in the offseason and the start of the year.

Right now the offense is strapped by the skill players on offense, but that is not on Kingsbury. The Cardinals have to work hard in their front office to keep not only Kingsbury surround by athletic talent, but by coaching talent like the offensive line coach, who seems to have a very positive effect on this team as a whole.

On defense, well, I am not sure where the blame on Vance Joseph lies, but that seat has to be hot. Both in regards to the defense, which is quite pitiful this year, and the supposed experience he provides to Kingsbury, which I have not seen AT ALL. If Joseph is supposed to be “helping” then how does Kingsbury make “rookie” mistakes in time management, situational football, and personnel choices for who is active on game day.

Yet, as a whole this is Kingsbury’s team, and his ability to compromise has been good to see and has allowed his offense to thrive and grow. On the flip side he has also shown he is going to play the best players to win the game, and that he will win a game however it needs to get done.



Quarterback:
Grade: A


Kyler Murray has answered the hype in my opinion. He was as expensive a player to select as you are going to see outside of a RGIII/Hershel Walker/Ricky Williams situation. The athleticism is impressive, the arm strength is ridiculous, the ability to run the offense at this stage is rare, and he has a lot of potential to become MUCH better than he already is. The Cardinals are trying to win now, in the modern football age. It is all about the QB for the most part, and they have found a NFL QB that has everything you need to compete for a championship in this league. Not easy to find as any Cardinals fan will tell you. He is a pocket passer 1st so he can do what he does for a long time, but the offensive line would have to improve as his legs start to lessen his ability to run (yet that is a long way off still).

Outside of Murray, it really doesn’t matter. I mean, I grade this out to an A+ if the team kept Drew Stanton as a backup, because …..well, it is Drew Stanton, the man! Yet, Hundley is a good backup, and the way Murray keeps himself out of harm’s way, and his VERY surprising physical makeup, one would think he can hold up in this league. Murray is way more “stout” than I thought, kind of like Maurice Jones-Drew playing QB.

As for room for improvement, I think once/if Murray understands two things and improves them, he will be elite in this league. The first is understanding the offense in the NFL world would allow him to make better decisions and know when it is best to run the ball, which he is DANGEROUS with. His 35 yard or so run against the Niners was nightmarish for other teams to see. Murray’s biggest issue is his footwork. He can be accurate at time but he does miss throws you simply cannot miss in this league. All footwork, and if he realizes this and works on it…watch out.

Regardless, the big thing here is the Cardinals do not need a QB. If Murray fails that falls on the head coach and more importantly the GM. No excuse this team doesn’t have a QB, they have one.



Running Back:
Grade: C


This could have been a disaster. David Johnson is worth a debate. In my opinion, I do not have anything to day about that situation more than he is done, and he was a one year wonder. If I am running the show, I cut him next year. The 2 million it would cost against the cap, and the dead money that would follow is worth it just to free up a roster spot for a team where the running back is not a center piece of the offense. David Johnson’s personal grade is a F-. Horrible. His effort out on the field is a joke, and that would be putting it lightly. In the game of life, he won, and got his money for his lifetime and children’s lifetime. As a fan, he is an insult to everything we pay money for.

It is good to be wrong about Chase Edmonds. To be honest, he is exactly what you want in a NFL back for this offensive and this time in the game’s history. A cheap player on his rookie contract that can run the ball at a NFL level, and catch passes. Yes, his pass blocking is poor, but are most backs in the league when it comes to the monsters they are asked to get in front of. Then there is a Kenyan Drake. Steve Keim always seems to have better luck than most GMs when going through the bargain bins of the NFL. Drake has been a great piece to this offense. Between Drake and Edmonds, the Cardinals are fine at RB for this year. If Drake will take a modern contract extension next year, then I see no reason not to, but if Drake is looking for big money. You let him walk and find another player like him in the draft or in the bargain bin. A competent GM should be able to do that.



Wide Receiver:
Grade: D+


This is a pretty foul situation right now. This is where Steve Keim drives me nuts, just CRAZY. When you fail time and time again as something, then learn from it, or maybe try something new. I do not understand why there is this need to go small school, or small stature, or both with EVERY pick. Sometime you get to a job, and the bolt fits in the hole, the space you need to install whatever you are installing is perfect, and the traffic to the job is wide open there and back, and the customer is happy. You take that. You take it, and enjoy the simplicity of the work. You may not be able to brag at the bar about “how hard you worked today”, but you take the easy work day, and the results from it on a platter.

Keim sometimes just makes it too hard on himself, and I just cannot understand it.

Andy Isabella is not a polish NFL player? Shocker. Hakeem Butler is a raw talent that needs a lot of work? Really, you don’t say. KeaShawn Johnson cannot get separation? Never would have thought it! Damiere Byrd, and Trent Sherfield are not consistent or reliable enough? How could that be? Christian Kirk has durability concerns? How could that have been seen? Larry Fitzgerald is a great compliment but has lost his ability to completely take over games at age 36? How can you plan for that?

This is where Bidwill needs to be the owner that he can be sometimes, and that is too involved and too much in his own ego. Not always a bad thing, and he should be getting on Keim for continuing to make the same mistakes. Find the top end talent this organization, team and offense needs. If you think throughout this season, there are throws a “play maker” would have caught. A back shoulder, a jump ball, a 3 yard out where a broken tackle makes all the difference.

I will admit, there is depth, there are role players within the receivers that are here. But, none that I see become that force on the outside that is needed in this offense. Between Kirk and Isabella the slot and speed are taken care of. Fitzgerald provides depth at any position and pacifies the lack of a tight end for a bit. Yet, Sherfield is a special team guy, and K.Johnson is barely a NFL talent.

Having three drafts pick at this position, and not bringing in a difference make is concerning, and no, I am not in the belief the Christian Kirk can be “the guy” unless there is someone else out there making room for him to work.



Tight End:
Grade: C+


I have to give credit where credit is due. For a position that was not going to be needed, and then became an extremely important part of the offense, the Cardinals could not have done much better. Maxx Williams is everything he was supposed to be coming out of college. He can block, and except for his ill-fated drop in Tampa Bay, can catch the ball, and is savvy with his route running and assignments when “getting lost in the shuffle” and finding a way to get wide open in the confusion.

Charles Clay, and Daniels are good enough for now, but when how this offense evolved, it will come to be that Kingsbury is going to realize you can run an offense that is more “college based” in scheme but you need tights end to play some of those wide receiver roles in the offense. Cause sometime you need to help your offense line against the incredible talents on the defensive lines that are all over the league.

A good pass catching tight end, is HARD TO FIND! The goal is to make Maxx Williams your 2nd tight end on the roster. For now, you give credit for the crew they have now, and how well the current players are doing in their every evolving roles. Unless the tight end is elite, a good GM should be able to find more complete tight ends in most offseasons.



Offensive Line:
Grade: B+


Been a long time since I have seen an offensive line play this well in Arizona. To be fair, that could be looked as a backhanded compliment, but whatever, I will take what I can get in the NFL. If the Cardinals can keep the status quo, and improve the right tackle position, then we are good for now. You got at least 5 years, you can bank on Kyler Murray’s feet to be the best offensive lineman out on the field. No problem with that, by way.

Humphries (LT), Pugh (LG), Shipley/Cole/Galliard (OC), Sweezey (RG), and anyone better that Justin Murray, is a good NFL offensive line. Just keep the status quo and/or improve those positions. Pugh at left guard but nowhere else on the line is fine, and at his salary has to work, and seems to work. Humphries for his minuses, is fine at left tackle, and is going to be signed in the offseason because he is good enough. The center position has good depth and will sort itself out. Sweezey is good at right guard, and Justin Murray is a backup playing his butt off at right guard.

A competent GM should be able to keep this group together and find a better right tackle in the offseason. As for depth, Justin Murray, Mason Cole, and Max Garcia are as good depth as you can find in the NFL these days. In a perfect world, you draft, or find a very good right tackle that can play left in a pinch, and you can “done stamp” this part of the roster for a couple years. That is improvement.



Defensive line:
Grade: B-


With the hybrids, and strange multi-role players on defense, I am done with old labels for defense. The defensive line for a 3-4 these days is more a 5-2 in my mind. Chandler Jones, Rodney Gunter, Corey Peters, Jonathan Bullard, and Terrell Suggs are the defense line in my mind.

Chandler Jones is so good that the grade is a B- for this group, he is an A+++ player. Not sure what more you want to ask from a player that is literally your entire defensive line play. Gets pressure on the QB, plays in coverage, strip sacks, tackles for loss, and the list goes on. Imagine if there was any type of talent out there with him.

Corey Peters and to a lesser extent Rodney Gunter are serviceable. Zach Allen has shown a lot of promise and is WAY bigger than I thought he was. There is no doubt, the Cardinals can improve upon the three down line man but they will do for now. Rodney Gunter is not the best DT out there, but for Pete’s sake how long does one player have to be the safety net on this team before the team realizes they should be able to sign him to a modest contract of 3 years and feel good about having that depth?

Cassius Marsh, Terrell Suggs, and Brooks Reed are serviceable, but again, for now. It is the NFL. To say that pass rushing talent has to be found and depth at pass rush to be found is always the case. You can never have too many pass rushers, so that is a normal need, that an competent GM, especially one with a QBOF on their roster, should realize when they have the opportunity to get a pass rusher, to do so above all other priorities.



Linebacker:

Grade: D


Jordan Hicks is a good linebacker. Not great, but he is pretty good. If he holds up physically, then at least there is one NFL linebacker on this team. He keeps this from being graded an F. In a perfect world, Haason Reddick could be signed as a bottom of the roster, special teams guy, that plays are role in coverage. He is a complete bust as a draft pick, and a huge liability on the field against the run and at times in coverage. He is just not a smart football player, he is an undersized DE that has great athleticism that won’t translate to the NFL cause he is too small to play OLBer. Sign him at a low rate, or cut bait.

Joe Walker is good depth, and can play fairly well against the run, but he is not a starter, not by a long shot.

That’s it. There are no more linebackers on this roster. The rest are special teams guys that do not know how to play the position. The Cardinals have to take a chance with a high draft pick and try to find a play maker, or start investing some of those 4th round or 5th round picks on players that have played the position throughout college. Linebackers that can play all three downs in the NFL are REALLY hard to find, but you have zero chance at finding them if you refuse to draft any, and you cannot be paying Jordan Hicks money at the position for both linebacker positions, when it is time to pay Kyler Murray.



Cornerback:

Grade: B+


Patrick Peterson is not going to be the player he once was. Elite, shutdown, play making coverage cornerbacks that are top 3 at the position can get away with making business decisions when it comes to tackling. Suspended, malcontents that are showing their age, and effecting the team with their lack of leadership do not get off so easy. Yet, let’s not get crazy, he is still a great cornerback.

Byron Murphy. I love being this wrong about a player. This kid can play, he can tackle, he can make plays on the ball in the air, and has started from day 1 as a rookie. This is the type of player that allows Steve Keim to hold onto his job. My hope is Murphy doesn’t fall victim to the curse that Steve Keim has found himself subjected to. That is finding good talent, and some ridiculous outside the norm situation happening and that talent vanishes within a year’s time. It would be nice to rely on Murphy and his talent to be around for a couple years.

Now for my favorite part of this situation at cornerback, and that is we have cornerbacks!!!! Trumaine Bock, Kevin Peterson, Rob Alford, and Chris Jones. That would make six cornerbacks that I have no issue with having on this team. You have talent for starting positions, and depth positions. That is a LONG WAY OFF from the last few seasons. I know it is just depth but Kevin Peterson is a pleasant surprise. Give me Patrick Peterson, Byron Murphy, Robert Alford, and Kevin Peterson next season, and I really have no complaints.



Safety:
Grade: D+


Budda Baker, and Jalen Thompson are not what you want at safety in the NFL. When it comes to Budda Baker, I have to temper my criticism. The face of the Steve Keim curse is Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals did the right thing by not re-signing Mathieu, he is nowhere near the player he was before injuries. The pre-injury Mathieu was a generational talent, the post-injury Mathieu is a solid defensive back with good leadership qualities.

Baker is a serviceable NFL safety. He is start quality, so having him at this current pay, at his current position is fine for now. He will make a play with a tackle here at and there, but his coverage is average and doesn’t make plays on the ball in the air. Jalen Thompson is what you want in your depth at the position and for special teams. He could grow into a starter, but his ceiling is limited.

The grade is for how this position has fallen. The regression of the talent at this position, is almost hand and hand with the regression of this once formidable defense. Since losing Bowles, and switching from 3-4 to 4-3 and back to 3-4, this defense is now a liability.

The safety position being good enough for now, needs to hold up as the front seven gets addressed over the next year or so.



Specials Teams:
Grade: A


This is a grade for the best example of what you want to see in regards of improvement. It has been two years since Amos Jones left, and the special teams for the Cardinals is an asset. Zane Gonzalez is a good NFL quality kick, and Andy Lee is still good enough.

The coverage unit on this team is impressive, and enough to make a case to keep Trent Sherfield, and Dennis Gardack around for a while.

Pharoah Cooper…….can we please just sign this guy now to a 2 or 3 year contract? He is a great return man, and he has his role in the offense as a guy who can make a guy miss on and make a play. If you are keep six wide receivers then he should be cemented into that 6th spot.


Summary:
Grade: C+


With 4 wins, this grade is a B-.

All in all, this organization can feel they have accomplished a lot of good things over the last year. For coaching, I think with the right support Kingsbury could become a good coach, but he has to improve from where he is now. Defensively, the talent is so poor that Joseph can buy himself another year, but just one. All in all, some experience from an older ex-head coach may help in the future.

The roster has some good and some bad, I think you can rely on the quarterback, the 4/5 of the offensive line, one or two skill players, Chandler Jones, Jordan Hicks, the cornerbacks, and some depth/role players. That is enough for a competent GM to build off of.

There is work to do, most at receiver, tight end and the front seven on defense.

But this is it. This is the season where the dice were throw on the risk of buying into Kyler Murray and Kingsbury. I did not see it as a grand slam, but I feel this organization hit a homer run.

Next offseason is not going to be “bigger” than this last one, but it is going to be spot light on Steve Keim. Is he a competent GM? This is where he will prove it, and has to prove it. Labor talks are coming, the Raiders to Las Vegas is coming. He has a foundation to build off, he has a QBOF that is prime time TV.

No more excuses. No more time for learning. This is the pros. Results are what matter, and moral victories are not results that matter, wins matter.
Great post. I'll say it again, great post. Last yrs team won 3 games because JG was hurt & Rodgers wanted the coach fired. This yrs team, we have many holes but a play or 2 here or there in about 5 games, we could have a lot more wins. We have our QB imo & a HC that's willing to adapt, so I'm excited about that. SK isn't going anywhere imo cause he's buds with MB, so we wait. Wait to see what personnel changes are made in FA & the draft. Let's hope & pray his stupid signings & draft picks are behind him? Let's get this thing rolling next season. Go Cards.
 

BigRedRage

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Finally read the whole post. Good stuff. Better than most the print stuff I read.

You all remember the year that Fitz, holding and breaston all had 1k yards or close to it? I think Kirk is that kind of wr if he had support like they did at the other wr positions.

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Cardsfaninlouky

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Surprising to say the least.

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Very surprising. The way our ST get to the return man so quickly & tackle well.......? Wow, didn't think we would rate that low? Taking into consideration our return teams maybe, but definitely not our coverage teams. No team gets many opportunities on kickoff returns because of the ball being spotted closer now. Some teams even kick the ball off shorter forcing a return, that has advantages & disadvantages.
 

daves

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FWIW, Football Outsiders rates is as one of the worst Special Teams units in the league—29th overall with exceptionally bad ratings in the return game and kick coverage.
Interesting - their raw stats are mostly better than 29th.

In average offensive starting field position after kickoffs, the Cardinals are exactly 29th (24.1 yard line) - but that's only 0.9 yards below average, so shouldn't carry much weight.

In average defensive starting field position after kickoffs, they're 12th (24.67).

In net punting average, 9th (42.5 yds).
In punt return average, 22nd (6.0 yds).

In FG%, 6th (90%) and 2nd in made FGs (26), with one XP missed out of 21 tries.

So, I'm surprised their overall ranking is so low. The eye test results me they've been "decent", but with no spectacular plays.

FO's rankings seem pretty volatile and sensitive to big plays - e.g. the Redskins were ranked 20th last week, but after getting a KR TD vs. the Lions, they're currently 5th.

...dbs
 

wit3card

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Interesting - their raw stats are mostly better than 29th.

In average offensive starting field position after kickoffs, the Cardinals are exactly 29th (24.1 yard line) - but that's only 0.9 yards below average, so shouldn't carry much weight.

In average defensive starting field position after kickoffs, they're 12th (24.67).

In net punting average, 9th (42.5 yds).
In punt return average, 22nd (6.0 yds).

In FG%, 6th (90%) and 2nd in made FGs (26), with one XP missed out of 21 tries.

So, I'm surprised their overall ranking is so low. The eye test results me they've been "decent", but with no spectacular plays.

FO's rankings seem pretty volatile and sensitive to big plays - e.g. the Redskins were ranked 20th last week, but after getting a KR TD vs. the Lions, they're currently 5th.

...dbs
If we make a KR TD or finally some blocked FG or something like that we ma be on a higher point. But one two good KR/PR without a penalty, that would help as well.
 
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