With the third preseason game in the books, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves with out much to go on as far as offensive production goes.
There haven’t been many bright spots on the Cardinals first unit offense. The running game has looked good at times, it has looked good with all three running backs. But the Arizona pass protection and passing game in general has lacked the elite play that many Arizona fans have become accustomed to.
One thing to keep in mind though, the Cardinal offense has also lacked a couple of big names due to injury, like Larry Fitzgerald & John ‘Smokey” Brown. That, plus part of the offensive line is still learning to play/gel with each other. But the biggest concern has to be Carson Palmer’s play so far this year. Palmer has thrown more pick 6′s then he has touch downs, and he has also gotten away with some normally guaranteed interceptions.
Every year people get caught up in meaningless preseason records and stats. Truth is Bruce Arians isn’t even calling most plays, and just like the other 31 teams, the Cardinals are trying out several things that simply don’t have “winning the game” in mind.
The Arizona Cardinals can score points, they’ve been one of the best teams at doing so since Bruce Arians landed here. I believe we are just missing the normal rhythm as of late and we are missing a couple pieces.
Carson Palmer is still the veteran QB that has lead the Cardinals to the playoffs in back to back years. This is still the same QB that was in the MVP discussion last season. And let’s be honest, a lot of Carson Palmer’s best football doesn’t come in the first quarter, he “usually” gets better as the games goes. Between trying to stay healthy with the sub-par protection, and being without two of his top receivers, we should not throw Carson Palmer in the worry department just yet.
Sure, there are definitely some issues. Everything is not “hakuna matada” in Arizona right now. But we are far from hitting the panic button people. It’s preseason, and we cannot poetically wax on stats one way or the other, because it’s just preseason.
I am more worried about roster depth, and overall health at this point in time. We are stacked with 3 quality running backs but I think we still need at least 5 on the roster. The aging Chris Johnson was a top 5 rusher in 2015, but was lost for the last part of the season. Andre Ellington averaged the most yards per rush, but he has yet to shake the “injury prone” label. Then we have David Johnson, a touchdown scoring machine that reminds me of OJ Simpson, but we lost 2 running backs in the same game in 2015, so keeping Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams sounds like a good move to me.
But onto the defense..
Again, we will not be bringing up a bunch of meaningless stats here. The Cardinals first unit defense has had to play in rough conditions brought on by Arizona’s offensive play. Short fields and little time between series hasn’t exactly benefited the cause. But in the latest game versus the Texans, we saw Kevin Minter go untouched through a middle gap to take down Brock Osweiler, and we also witnessed our first Chandler Jones sack.
The Arizona secondary hasn’t played lights out either, which is of some concern, but they are missing the pro bowler Tyrann Mathieu. On a good note, the rookie Brandon Williams looks like the game isn’t too fast for him. The Cardinal secondary is known for playing fast and creating turnovers. The Cardinal defense should be top 10 again in 2016, maybe even top 5 (again) if they can stay healthy.
So while the Arizona Cardinals will most likely draw a bad preseason grade from most NFL pundits, I see a squad that is still very much intact. The important parts of the core remain even after a couple years of success, which is kind of hard to do in today’s league. Arizona is now a sought after destination and the type of squad that players want to play for. I’d even expect Steve Keim to pick up a couple pieces after the season begins, as one team’s trash is another team’s needs. Steve Keim has been nothing short of masterful when it comes to finding great overlooked talents on the cheap.
The Cardinals also have the pleasure of playing a Tom Bradyless Patriots team to open the season. The Buccaneers look tough, but looking at the schedule I can see the Cardinals starting off somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-1.
Simply put, it’s too early to worry. The Arizona Cardinals know who they are, they are still a super bowl favorite in 2016. They have both the talent and the coaching staff to chase a ring this year. It’s going to bumpy at times, there will be some low points, sometimes there will be no points, but tough teams find ways to win tough games.
I doubt there will be much to write home about after the last preseason game, but I’ll try and come up with something.
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