The Seattle Seahawks (3-6) and Arizona Cardinals (8-2) are both coming off losses, but Arizona is still atop the NFC West while the Seahawks are rooted to the bottom. This Sunday is the first meeting between these teams, and there is quite a bit at stake for both. Arizona wants to not only keep themselves ahead of the Los Angeles Rams in the loss column, but they have a real shot at becoming the #1 seed in the NFC. As for Seattle... yeah, this is pretty much a wrap if this team drops to 3-7.
To preview this weekend’s game at Lumen Field, I spoke with Revenge of the Birds site manager Seth Cox about a variety of Cardinals topics, including one way the Seahawks can exploit their otherwise elite defense.
1.) I feel like I should just completely toss aside the blowout loss to Carolina on the basis of the obvious difficulties a team will face consistently winning without its superstar quarterback and superstar wide receiver. Were there other issues at play last Sunday besides the shorthanded roster?
The Murray injury hurt, as did DeAndre Hopkins missing his second straight game, but the big injuries were missing both starting guards. That lead to the inability to run the ball consistently, something they do well, which put the ball in Colt McCoy’s hands much more than anyone wanted. McCoy had a couple of turnovers as well which led to issues.
The biggest issue was the defense. Underprepared? Underperforming? Underwhelming? All of the above? They came out flat, gave the Panthers the ball on their side of the 50 twice and couldn’t get desperate stops. 14-0 and even good teams starts to panic and leave their game plan. Then it just spiraled into what you saw.
The Cardinals struggle to stop the run when playing from behind, when teams don’t have to make changes and throw the ball. If that happens, it’s likely lights out for the Cardinals.
2.) Much like the Seahawks, the Cardinals traded for a veteran Raiders offensive lineman. Seattle got Gabe Jackson who has been the team’s starting right guard, but Arizona got center Rodney Hudson, who’s two years removed from a Second-Team All-Pro selection. How important has Hudson been to the team and has the trade been worth the third-round pick given up?
Hudson has changed the line in a big way. He may not be graded well as far as PFF goes, but you look at how well the Cardinals offense plays with him versus without him and you see his overall impact.
He’s helped Kyler immensely with his ability in protection calls, but more than anything he’s just really freaking good.
When you go from one of the worst centers in the NFL to a guy who is not just competent, but good it provides a massive boost to the entire offensive line.
He’s been worth it and then some.
3.) There were question marks concerning the Cardinals’ cornerback position following the departure of Patrick Peterson, with rookie Marco Wilson thrust into a starting spot. What we’ve seen is a Cardinals defense that ranks 4th in pass defense DVOA and 4th in net yards per pass attempt. How have the corners performed? (No point in asking about the safeties when Budda Baker is there)
They’ve been surprisingly good. First off, Byron Murphy Jr. is turning into a top flight corner, which is good. He’s a guy who you feel comfortable putting against a teams number one and knowing he gives you a shot to shut them down.
However, it has been the play of Wilson and veteran Robert Alford that has been key to the success. They are both capable cover guys, but their physicality and willingness to help in the run game is what has changed the complexion of this defense. They play with a more aggressive attitude and it has shown throughout the season.
Also, everyone knows Budda Baker, but Jalen Thompson, his safety running mate has been phenomenal as well and you have five heavy hitters with average to above cover abilities and it makes things work out.
Also, a quick shout out to the Cardinals pass rush, which has helped as well.
4.) At the moment (exempting injuries like the ones affecting Kyler Murray or DeAndre Hopkins), what are Arizona’s biggest weaknesses on either side of the ball?
Offensively, if healthy they are fairly balanced and able to beat you in multiple ways. The biggest issue on offense when healthy is pass blocking. If they get into a shootout, their pass protection is not always good and they need Murray to make plays. If that happens it puts Kyler in a position to take some shots, or he can be overly aggressive and make some mistakes.
Defensively, it’s stopping the run. They are not just bad, but awful. They give up nearly five yards per carry, and they seem to be only getting away with it simply because they are playing from ahead and teams give up on the run. It’s actually been odd to see, because they will run at such a high clip and be down 10-14 and just start trying to throw the ball, playing into the Cardinals defensive strength. I can’t explain it.
5.) Normally I wrap this up with something standard like a game prediction or Super Bowl aspirations but I want to end this by talking about Kliff Kingsbury. I was skeptical of him as a coach and I predicted Arizona wouldn’t be able to break through until they had a better HC. Well silly me, because obviously coaches can improve too. What do you think are the big changes between 2021 Kliff and the previous two seasons?
Everyone was and rightly so. He was a mediocre college coach, why would someone expect him to be better in the NFL?
There are a couple of reasons though. First, he’s not coaching at Texas Tech where recruiting is hard and if you don’t have a lot of talent how are you going to win in a power five conference? In the NFL, he doesn’t have to recruit players and instead can design plays to his players strengths and get players who fit that system. His system has evolved as well, which is a sign of a good coach as well.
Secondly, Kliff knows his strengths and understands that he’s not a defensive guy. He has given his full trust in Vance Joseph who has shown improvement each year as the DC as well, basically being the head coach on the defensive side of the ball. A good leader knows his limitations and doesn’t try and put his fingerprints all over the entire system of the team. Kliff is doing that.
Finally, players like Kliff. They like that he treats them like adults. He’s a players coach who allows them to be themselves. That has worked, so far.
I think we have to give Kliff his due for all of these things, but I also want to see it through this season while also see him continue to coach well past this season. It’s a quick ride in the NFL and Seahawks fans have not had to deal with the head coaching carousel in a while. Things change on a dime and this could implode quickly, look at Atlanta, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Not saying that will be Kliff, but you’d like to see two to three consecutive winning seasons before you say he’s made it.
Good luck and I hope for good health on both sides coming out of Sunday.
Thanks to Seth for answering my questions, and hopefully weird shit doesn’t happen like we normally see for Cardinals-Seahawks games.