I've written several articles about the Cardinals on Field Gulls, and all of them have been about as popular as the Cardinals. While my colleagues are writing articles that are changing everything you thought you knew about graphs and also get to turn this place into GIFfindor -- Hey everyone, let's talk about the Cardinals!
Now, I may just be a low-level grunt making fart and virgin jokes, but I've got some cool things to say about the Seahawks Week 7 matchup against Arizona. Starting with this: Hey look, a Bye Week!
Except that there's one problem with that first thing I said (Cards fans, recoil your fists. Here, drink this water, I'm pretty sure you've run out of sweat and now blood is seeping through your pores. Haha, that's not water.) is that we all believed that Seattle started the 2012 season with a Bye Week. I remember talking to Danny before the year and we pondered the farcical notion of "What if the Seahawks lose to the Cardinals in Week 1?"
Can you imagine having to come to Field Gulls on the Monday after you lost to Arizona, with expectations as high as they were to start the year? Well those expectations got cranked to 12 this year, and you better damn be sure that the Cards want nothing more than to remind us of what happened in Arizona last year.
In Russell Wilson's debut, he was 18-of-34 for 153 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and 4.5 yards per attempt, and Arizona won 20-16. It was the third-most attempts that Russell would have in a game all season, but was possibly his least-efficient game of the year. How much of that had to do with the Cardinals and how much had to do with Wilson playing in his first career game?
Lil' column a, lil' column b.
How funny that in his second game against Arizona, Russell threw for 148 yards, one touchdown, one interception... and the Hawks won 58-0. It's the "little" things in life, idn't it?
This year, Seattle is focused on the big picture. There were plenty of skeptics headed into 2012, but by and large the Seahawks and Cardinals have gone in completely different directions since the middle of last year. The Cards lost 11 of their final 12 games, Seattle went 7-1 in the second half of the year. Nobody could possibly fathom a world where Arizona wins the NFC West in 2013, but as we saw last year, there is plenty of argument to see how they could be the Hawks in Week 7 and stop Pete Carroll's perfect seasonne.
I may not have fancy graphs or gifs, but I've got some of my own neat editorial tricks up my sleeve. I'll use that, plus I guess some stats, facts, and information, to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Seahawks improve to 7-0 after a win over the Cardinals in Arizona. Here's how:
1. *FACE-PALMER* How much better is the QB situation, really?
Back when the Cards traded for Carson Palmer, I wrote about how it could make them a much better team even if he was only average. Ryan Lindley and John Skelton helped 'Zona finish with one of the worst passing seasons in NFL history, so even if Palmer has been "underwhelming" in his last four NFL seasons, he's hardly bad.
I do stand by what I said about how much the team can improve with Palmer, but there are still some very real negatives to the quarterback situation in Arizona. It was only a year ago that shitty play at QB turned a 4-0 team into a 5-11 team after the loss of Kevin Kolb (the loss of Kevin Kolb) and how close are they to seeing similar results in 2013?
First of all, Palmer is 34-years-old. There are certainly a number of examples of quarterbacks that put up excellent seasons after they were 34, but it doesn't change the fact that Palmer is still six years removed from the last time he completed more than 62-percent of his passes. He's seven years removed from the last time he threw more than 26 touchdown passes. He's seven years removed from a QB rating over 87 and his yards per attempt over his last 77 games is only 7.1.
In 2004, Palmer was a budding star. In 2005, he looked like he was turning into potentially the next Manning or Brady. In 2013, he's a slightly-better-than-average quarterback that's in his mid-30's and is a good bet for 60-percent completions, no more than 7 yards per attempt, low-20s touchdowns, mid-teens interceptions, and he hasn't been on a winning team since 2009.
And the Cardinals better protect the shit out of him because if Palmer goes down, they could see a repeat of last season.
Before acquiring Palmer, new head coach Bruce Arians was legitimately trying to sell Drew Stanton as a good choice to start at quarterback. Stanton, 29, has started four career games in five seasons with the Lions and Colts. There isn't a shred of evidence that he's an upgrade over the likes of Skelton or Lindley.
And if undrafted free agent Caleb TerBush doesn't make the team as a third-string QB (if they carry one) then Lindley actually might. Though he only played in seven games, Lindley has an argument for one of the worst seasons by a QB ever.
I understand not over-drafting a quarterback. If you don't like a guy, then don't draft him just because everyone is telling you that you should get a quarterback early, but looking at it now I can't believe that the Cardinals didn't draft a quarterback. I suppose you could argue that Palmer is like their Matt Hasselbeck this year and Stanton is like their Charlie Whitehurst, but I could also argue that the 2010 Seahawks sucked.
If their plan was to get better at quarterback, they did. If their plan was to be good at quarterback, I doubt that they did.
2. How Super is Your Cooper?
Only time will tell who won and lost the NFL draft, and immediate grades are bad-dumb-stupid, but when watching the draft with Rob Staton, he was baffled that one of the worst teams in the NFL would take a guard seventh overall. I concur.
If Jonathan Cooper is the best guard in the NFL, how many more wins does that give the Cardinals? If they had waited to draft a guard later (they did actually, taking Earl Watford in the fourth) how much worse off would they have been?
It's easy to sit back and poopoo the Cards pick of Cooper simply because he's a guard, but it should be easy. What if Tavon Austin does play like Percy Harvin? What if Dee Milliner becomes a shutdown corner? More importantly, what if E.J. Manuel becomes a star quarterback?
Almost all positions have proven to be more valuable than guard. The Cardinals pick at the top of the draft a lot for a reason. Maybe those misses like Matt Leinart and Levi Brown have made them gunshy about taking a football prospect that could bust, whereas Cooper has a very good shot at becoming a Pro Bowl guard. But you can't be gunshy in this league and expect to get better. You have to take risks.
Cooper isn't much of a risk. He's good. He's just not good at the right position, and it's hard to see how much that changes Arizona from 2012 to 2013.
3. How Low Can You 'O'?
What's better than facing the Colts defense, ranked as last in the NFL last year by Football Outsiders? Facing the Cardinals offense, ranked last in the NFL last year by DVOA, twice.
Arizona had a passing DVOA of -30.3%, 31st in the NFL and a rushing offense of -22.1%, worst in the NFL. There was a major separation between the Cards offense, and especially Weighted Offense (-36%, weighing more heavily towards recent games than games over ten weeks ago) and the 31st place Chiefs that finished at -25.1%.
All the more impressive considering that the one time the Cardinals played well over the final 12 games they put up 38 points against the Lions. The Cards turned it over 19 times in their final six games, including eight turnovers to the Seahawks. They failed to scored double digits four times. They failed to throw for over 100 net passing yards three times. They ran for seven yards against the 49ers. They ran for under 100 yards 12 times. They finished 32nd in the NFL in:
- Total yards of offense
- First downs on offense
- Interceptions thrown
- Net yards per pass attempt
- Rushing yards
- Yards per carry
- Average time of possession
- Average yards per possession
- Average points per possession
The 2011 Rams are an interesting story, because they finished last in offensive DVOA and last in scoring offense, but the next year they were right smack at 0.0% on offensive DVOA and moved up a bit to 25th in scoring offense. And really by the end of the year you could argue that they were a good offense facing some really tough defenses.
But even though the Rams scored fewer points per game in 2011 than the Cardinals did in 2012, Arizona was still much worse when they were bad. You know they're bad, they're bad, and you know it. You know.
What you will want to know are the differences between 2012 and 2013:
- Hired offensive coach Bruce Arians as head coach
- Hired Harold Goodwin, o-line coach at Indy, to be offensive coordinator
- Traded for Palmer, signed Stanton
- Signed Rashard Mendenhall, drafted Stepfan Taylor, Andre Ellington
- Drafted Ryan Swope at wide receiver, probably gave Larry Fitzgerald another $100 million under the table to not retire
- Drafted Cooper
Is that enough for the worst offense in the league? How soon can they expect the changes to happen? How soon is Cooper going to be a great guard, is Michael Floyd going to have a better season, is Palmer going to stay healthy, how good is Arians, or how soon can Arians make the Cardinals good? Even the Colts finished 18th in offensive DVOA last year?
The Cards offense is bad. The Hawks defense is good. Uhh... two more reasons to go?
4. Oh, Come On
5. How good IS the defense?
The Cards finished SIXTH in defensive DVOA last year despite totally being the Cardinals. Players like Daryl Washington, Patrick Peterson, and Darnell Dockett are stars now. Though Washington is suspended for the first four games of the year, he should be active by the time we play in Week 7.
Calais Campbell is good and only 27, linebacker Sam Acho might be underrated, linebacker Karlos Dansby has done the typical thing and returned to the team that brought him to the NFL prom after leaving to get more money in Miami, and the team spent three of their first four picks on defense: LB Kevin Minter, CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, and LB/DE Alex Okafor. All of whom could have been considered first round picks at some point.
But the biggest news was that after firing Ken Whisenhunt, the team did not retain defensive coordinator Ray Horton. He's now in Cleveland, giving us all an opportunity to see how he will do with another historically bad team.
Is that loss enough to see the Cards fall far from their defensive performance last season? The same performance that still yielded 22.3 points per game because sometimes the best defense is not having the leagues absolute worst offense. Will it matter against a Seahawks team that ran for 284 yards against them in Week 14 of last season?
Arizona might be developing the best linebacker corps in the NFL. But as of this writing, they're still the Cardinals you remember and the Seahawks aren't the Hawks that most people remember. And for that reason, we are 7-0.
And here are the others so far: