Cardinals Look to Prevent 0-3 Start

The “Khalil Mack Attack” and the 1-1 Chicago Bears will head to State Farm Stadium week three to take on the 0-2 Arizona Cardinals. After two weeks of regular season football, Chicago comes to town with a defense ranked seventh in total yards given up. Two of the six teams ranked ahead of the Bears have already had the luxury of playing against Arizona. Chicago, however, had to face off against Aaron Rodgers and Russel Wilson in weeks one and two. To put it bluntly, the Cardinals offense is in for another bumpy flight in week three.

Steve Wilks
OC Mike McCoy with HC Steve Wilks

With the arrival of new Head Coach, Steve Wilks, things were expected to look much different in Arizona. For many, the 2018 Cardinals were not expected to compete for a playoff spot, let alone acquire any hardware, but this is bad – even for a city with a historically bad record and no Super Bowl rings. It’s one thing to lose but it’s a whole different story when you’re not even close to competing, and fans are already grumbling. During week one’s 24-6 loss at home to the Washington Redskins, Cardinals fans booed the team as they headed in to the locker room for halftime. Whether or not you agree with how the fans handled themselves, numbers don’t lie. Arizona has scored a total of six points in two weeks and is ranked dead last in total yards on offense. In week two against the Rams, Arizona didn’t even cross the 50-yard line until the final minute of the game.

This week Wilks used the booing as motivation when he ended Wednesday’s practice with players huddling up to the sounds of boos echoing throughout the stadium. Wilks also said that he has directed Offensive Coordinator, Mike McCoy, to scale back the offensive playbook to try and help limit mistakes and allow the Bird’s offense to take flight. Let’s get one thing clear, shall we? The depth of the playbook hasn’t been what has clipped the Cardinals wings, but rather the plays that have been selected from the depths of that playbook. Plays so deep that Vince Lombardi likely used them in Super Bowl I. It’s almost as if Wilks and McCoy had never watched a single David Johnson highlight before arriving in the desert. For example, in 2016 Johnson lined up as a wide receiver on 26% of his routes run. This year, that’s only happened on 9% of his routes run. Not to mention, the routes DJ has been asked to run do not exploit any mismatches. Take a look at David’s route tree in 2016 against the Rams versus David’s route tree last week against the Rams:

David Johnson 1
Route Tree against Rams (2016)
David Johnson
Route Tree against Rams (2018)

If the Cardinals expect to pull off an upset at home this Sunday, Wilks and McCoy are going to have to get more imaginative. Wilks has already announced that Sam Bradford will be the starting quarterback this week, but for a coaching staff whose seat is on the verge of becoming a bleacher on a summer day at Sun Devil Stadium, you’d have to think Bradford’s margin for error is gone. This past Thursday night, fans were witnesses to how much life a young, fiery, quarterback can provide to a team when they watched rookie, Baker Mayfield, check in to the game and secure a comeback victory against the New York Jets – the Browns first win in 635 days. Should the boos begin go rain down again this Sunday, you’d assume the Cardinals will at some point use the same tactic and insert their own rookie quarterback, Josh Rosen. If not, the boos may get even louder.

When McCoy addressed the media this week, it was clear that he was just as upset as anyone. “Losing sucks, regardless, anyway you look at it”, McCoy said. “We just got to find a way. Every player, every coach, every person in the organization. Go out there and find a way to win this one.” When you’ve been outscored 58-6 through the first two games it’s not just a simple fix, and McCoy knows that. “It’s not just one area,” he said. “I can call some different things too. We’re all in this together.”

You’re right, Mike. We’re all in this together – even the fans.

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