This story is starting to have a familiar look for all Cardinal fans, especially when the third preseason game is suppose to give a glimpse of what the team will look like. But giving up on the team before the season even starts may be a little premature. It is still preseason with a team that is still trying to learn it’s own identity in a short period of time. This team will continue to struggle until they all get on the same page and get confident in what they are doing both offensively and defensively.
The fans in the building before kick off were very excited and anticipated the team putting on a better showcase than last week, and it started that way when they saw a spectacular one hand grab by Larry Fitzgerald on the games first play and then running back Rashard Mendenhall burst off a 22 yard run down the right side line off of great blocking by the offensive line and receivers.
The running game was the bright spot of the game that will give me a little optimism that the team is getting better in an area where they always struggled. Rashard Mendenhall had his second straight good outing rushing for 47 yards on 6 carries and a 7.8 yards per carry average. Alfonso Smith displayed why he is beating out Ryan Williams in the back up spot rushing for 44 yards on just 5 carries. If the run game can stay this consistent it will only help this team get better offensively.The running game as a whole finished the night with 18 carries for 120 yards, which should have been more carries early, seeing that they were going so good.
The passing game moved the ball in spurts, but it is still having issues with communication between quarterback and receiver. Catching the ball seemed like the hardest task all night, and yellow flags flying all over the field for the birds on both sides of the ball. Levi Brown had his pattened false start and holding penalty at the most important time of the game and breaks the momentum that was gained on the drive.
Jerraud Powers had a rough outing with three really questionable pass interference penalties that kept the defense on the field, and two of the three looked like he hit the receiver exactly when the ball got to them knocking the ball down. But it did not seem to matter much because the defense could not stop the Chargers in the first half at all. One major point about the defense is that I dont see this pressure that defensive ends Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett have prophesied, neither one is able to get a sniff of pressure and appear to be having problems getting off of single blocks.
Matt Shaughnessy, Sam Acho and John Abraham appear to be the only intensity on the defensive line, as they were in on the only pressure shown all night. Sam Acho recorded the only sack of the Cards defense but not only that he was causing some pressure in a few other plays, Shaughnessy caused the pressure and hit Phillip Rivers arm and caused the Jasper Brinkley interception. So far its Matt Shaughnessy as our best pressure guy off the edge.
The critics are riding down hard on Carson Palmer and I dont believe it is warranted, he has issues with timing with his receivers at times but he appears to know where the ball should go. In the game Palmer made some very good throws and the bad ones were not his fault for the most part,Palmer completed 12 out of 23 passes for 122 yards and 1 touchdown, which is not bad but it could have been better but he had receivers running different routes, and a major touchdown drop by tight end Rob Housler in the back of the end zone on 3rd down, which was right in both his hands, I dont see this being Palmer at fault he looked like an NFL quarterback and not like last years group at all, so that gives me some assurance that the wrinkles may take longer to iron out than we expected.
The strong point so far this year has been special teams and they failed to be consistent in the game last night, getting the first punt blocked and new kicker Dan Carpenter missed a gimme field goal because his trajectory was way to low. Just a complete lack of attention to details all last night.
Mental mistakes have been surrounding this team so far and they didnt disappoint last night, when the defense had made the play to stop the Chargers on the goal line by hitting Ryan Mathews while in the air and popping the ball out to the sideline. Rashard Johnson picked up the ball and ran with it ,rather than running out the play and finishing the half down only seven points, he mentally broke down and tried to pitch the ball back to a teammate.
Not only was that the wrong thing to do, it was to the wrong person he tried to pitch to, in line backer Sam Acho.
The linebacker is not known for having good hands and running with the ball, and the pitch was in a crowd of Chargers and tight end John Phillips number 83 caught in mid air and ran in for a Chargers touchdown. When you have the chance to keep points off the board from your opponent before the half, you have to take advantage of that and play it safe and fall on the ball or cover it up and get tackled. But you have to be smart and disciplined to do that.
Coming off the field you can read the lips of Johnson say to coach Arians “sorry coach,that was stupid,I know that was stupid” as he shook his head.
The defense has adopted this ball hawk mentality and want to get the ball to the house on every turnover, and that may be because they have the dynamic corner Patrick Peterson’s influence, who earlier Jasper Brinkley pitched back to him on an interception. Pitch the ball back is in the minds of all of the defensive players trying to make plays, dont know if you tell them to not do that or only pitch it when Peterson is behind you.
The coaching staff is going to take a lot of the blame here as well, I thought that this aggressive down the field style is good but it should only be good in the perfect times, for example:in the first half a drive ended because the play call on 3rd and 4 resulted in a deep ball that was miscommunicate between Andre Roberts and Carson Palmer and the ball sailed over onto the ground. In my opinion that was a wasted down, that drive can stay alive if you just play call to get 4 yards, which the run scheme was working all night and that is why this points to the coaching staff. Head coach Bruce Arians has to override that play call and keep the drive going.
This style of play can be the demise of the Cardinals if not used at the proper time, the run game was fluent and the play calling to a deep ball on 3rd and 4 does not call for it, when earlier in the game they had a 2nd and 3 and ran the ball for a first down, that should have been the time to go with the deep ball on a second and short.
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin has to do a better job of knowing when to be aggressive and when to stay with what is working, and in the first half Mendenhall and Smith were working.
Lots of work is needed to be done and the honeymoon of the new regime is over, the results have to start taking place to getting this team more sound and disciplined in what they are doing.
Overall, the run game needs to keep up what they are doing, that means that the offensive line is doing better at run blocking to go with what they have been doing in the pass game. Palmer felt a sack for the first time giving up by Levi Brown to a future hall of fame defensive end Dwight Freeney which could happen to anyone right?, that is Freeney!, so the pass blocking is still solid, how that will play out going forward now will be determined after rookie guard Jonathan Cooper went down with a broken leg after getting run up from behind while making a pull block outside in the running game. This could happen to anybody and the Cards have escaped the injury bug thus far and it was only a matter of time before someone significant was going to go down. Really unfortunate its the reason for our entire draft in Cooper.
The depth of the offensive line should be able to fill in, as Chilo Rachal did a good job filling in the left guard position. My take on the game as a whole, as a fan i am very disappointed but as an analyst I have to be realistic and think, no team that has new parts are going to come together and be perfect that fast. Looks like its going to take some adversity and mountains have to be climbed little by little, and as the saying goes “Rome was not built in one day” this team will struggle for a time until they start to gell together, how long that takes determines on how the coaching staff operates. Nevertheless, the 2013 season looks to be an up and down season waiting to happen, welcome back to reality Cardinal fans.