The Seahawks and Cardinals are facing off for the first time this season and Arizona should be very different than the versions we’ve seen for the last 6-7 years. Or ever. The Air Raid offense is being installed a little bit more each week with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury and while the NFL seems to be headed in that direction, we don’t yet know if this is the personnel to pull it off.
So far they really haven’t — but there’s rarely anything “easy” about the Seahawks playing in Arizona. And it’s not as though Kyler hasn’t flashed the potential that made him the first overall pick.
This is perhaps as concerned I am about any game yet this season. That being said, I was worried about the Pittsburgh Steelers and that team turned out to be not very good. The Cards haven’t look good this season, but they haven’t played Seattle yet. That changes on Sunday. To prepare for the new regime, I sent five Qs to Seth Cox of Revenge of the Birds and he sent me back five As.
Plus a bonus that turned out to be anything but.
Q: We are three games into the Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray offense, which is not very many games. It was such a bold move by the front office though to go the Air Raid route that it’s going to be scrutinized week in, and week out. Rather than tell me if the system is working (because we know Arizona’s offense is not where they want it to be), tell me if you’re more hopeful, less hopeful, or as hopeful as you were when the Kyler plan went into effect on draft day and why?
A: More hopeful. When you look at the team, the changes made on offense from a personnel standpoint were putting a 32 year old center coming off ACL surgery back in the starting lineup, signing J.R. Sweezy, and the merry-go-round at right tackle. They brought in Charles Clay and Maxx Williams as tight ends, but they get 30 snaps a game combined.
The reason I say all that is to say, they are basically taking the same offense that was historically bad last year and putting up average to slightly below average numbers. So, when the talent gets here (another question/discussion for another day) and Kyler and Kliff get comfortable in the NFL, I think it will be a good offense. Now, there are a dozen caveats, but I am hopeful that the front office can add as Murray and Kliff grow and we’ll see the team in a good spot next year and growing more and more.
Q: Defensively, Arizona was probably underrated last season. They have allowed 9 passing touchdowns and no picks so far this season and 4.9 yards per carry against but the big blow is probably getting eaten alive by Kyle Allen at home. Are you concerned that the defense is maybe in store for its “longest year” in a decade or so? Is hope on the horizon for any reason in terms of a player returning or getting used to his role?
A: I thought before last week hope may be on the horizon but now I don’t know for sure. I touched on it Thursday, but the team lacks talent at cornerback, but the corners being bad is not a surprise. The fact that the pass rushers do not get consistent pressure, they struggle to stop the run and then they have two bad corners and a rookie, things are not going well. I mean obviously, when Patrick Peterson returns things should get better, but overall the defense is so bad right now and I don’t know how to fix it. If the only problem was the corners, then things would be easier to see getting better, but when the corners are like third on the list of things wrong, then I would say this could be a long year.
Q: Going 0-1-1 vs the Lions and Ravens doesn’t seem too bad but getting blown out by the Panthers at home feels like it changes expectations a bit. Did you change your expectations after the Carolina game or was it a fluky kind of day? In what way did your expectations change, if so?
A: Yes and no. I said that before the game the Carolina Panthers game would be the game that decides what our expectations would be for the season. Win last week and all of a sudden you have to start thinking what type of season could come out of this. Yet, a loss means this is a bad team still, just under a new coach. So, it seems it is a bad team under a new coach that just needs time and continue to grow while waiting to get more talent on this roster. The expectations? Win 4-5 games and compete in most of the others. If the Carolina game is the only game that gets out of hand, then it is a good season… I guess.
Q: The Cards are just 4 of 11 in the red zone. Only the Bucs (3 of 11) and Dolphins (1 of 5) are worse. What’s the issue when Kyler gets close to the end zone and is it something fixable right now?
A: It is interesting because three of those red zone trips ended with a field goal from inside the five-yard line. Yet, the Cardinals are really good on two-point conversions. Is it that different? Can you not run a similar play from the three or four that you just ran from the two? Play calling is a big issue. Kliff doesn’t like to run the ball inside, but then did not use his quick passing game. Instead, he was trying to throw fades with Murray to Larry Fitzgerald. Or rolling Kyler out to the short side of the field. It just seems like he is still trying to find his way, Kliff not Kyler.
It was better last week, despite the overall outcome. Remember, the Cards trailed 21-20 with 2:52 left in third. They trailed 35-20 with 13:32 left in the fourth. So, within about 3.5 minutes of game time, it was out of hand. It was not the red zone offense that week that was the problem.
Q: Between the Rams, 49ers, and Seahawks, is there a team you more root for the others? Is there one you hate more than the others? And ultimately if the Cardinals are going to win the division in 2020 or at least compete for it until the bitter end, does something need to change or is it just awaiting progress?
A: No, I pay attention to the Chiefs, Texans and Ravens because of who their quarterbacks are. Outside of that, I don’t actively root for anyone. I know the fan base right now has more hate towards the Rams than any other team. I think it depends on who the kings are. However, no one really wants to see anything good happen to anyone in the NFC West, but if the Seahawks and Rams are playing, I think fans may pull for the Seahawks, but more than anything they’ll just hope for mutually assured destruction.
Change to compete is interesting. Steve Keim has struggled to find answers at the same position year after year. He has spent two first round picks, a second round pick and a huge contract on inside linebackers. They have spent two first round picks and three big contracts on the offensive line and nothing is fixed. Yet, two of the weakest positions are offensive line and off ball linebacker. Then, the other positions they should have been investing in prime picks and money in are all weaker. So, now they seem to be in a rebuild phase where they are trying to get pieces in place for next year when they have $90 million in cap space and have the interior of the offensive line and secondary receivers under contract, the linebackers, corners and safeties under contract and can invest in the need positions. Now, they just need those under contract to play well.
bonus: did you hear that gary jennings got released? (wait...)
Yeah, a bit surprising to see it, but seeing what they have done offensively it doesn’t seem like something they will regret.
(kenny note: the one time you guys finally convinced me to not ask the michael dickson question...)