It's the running game

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The Cardinals are off to a promising start in 2020 with a 5-2 record heading into their bye. They sit a half-game behind the Seahawks in the
NFC West and are in the thick of the playoff race.
Before the stretch run beckons, checked in with four
national analysts to get their thoughts on the team.
Q What kind of expectations did you have for the Cardinals when the
season began, and have they been adjusted after the 5-2 start
Dan Orlovsky, former QBESPN analyst I said this before the season that
they would be a team that nobody wanted to play every week. They were
just going to be a difficult game every week because Kyler Murray is
such a special player, and their offense is so diverse Larry Bird Indiana State Jersey. And then the defense maybe nationally people don't think as a group is
any good, but when you actually watch the tape and look at the names,
it's like, 'Oh, he's a good player, and he's a good player.' There are
individual names that are good players, and the defense has been the
surprising unit. ?? My expectations were that they were going to be a
team that was difficult to face every week. I did not think, like, 'Is
this a playoff football team' I was like, 'I don't think they are there
yet,' but they are closer to being a playoff team than I thought, and I
think that's because of the growth of Kliff (Kingsbury).
Aaron Schatz, Editor-In-Chief for I think my
projection was that they would be a little bit above average, and they
have been a little bit better than that so far. I think we thought they
would be competing for a playoff spot but probably not the division
title, and I think that's kind of what (they've done). Record-wise they
are more competing for the division title than I expected, but this is
about where I expected them to be. They are a good team in a tough
Mike Sando, Senior NFL Writer for The Athletic I thought the Cardinals
could push to be around the .500 range, but now that they are 2-0 within
the division, with victories over the 49ers and Seahawks, we can bump
up those expectations. The NFC East is worse than anticipated Lonzo Ball Ucla Jersey, so that will give teams from the NFC West a boost also.
Steven Ruiz, Lead NFL Writer at USA Today??s For The Win I thought they
were probably like a fringe wild card team. ?? They've met expectations,
which was always going to be hard to do, because after the DeAndre
Hopkins trade, everyone has these expectations for Kyler Murray. They
were comparing him to Lamar Jackson and Pat Mahomes, in that he could
break out in his second year and be an MVP candidate. They haven't quite
met those expectations - last week was really the first week where we
were like 'This offense is starting to look like we thought it would
look like,' especially the passing game. The running game has been
productive, but the passing game kind of looked disjointed over the
first month-and-a-half of the season. But if it continues on, the things
we saw against Seattle, I think this is a team that could exceed even
my expectations of being a fringe wild card contender and maybe make a
run at this division.
Q: What are your impressions of Kyler Murray? Is he close to stardom?
Orlovsky: "Oh, Kyler's at stardom. He's must-see television every time
he plays. There is no one else in the league that is as jaw-dropping as a
runner and as explosive as a runner, but also as good as a thrower.
Lamar is probably a better runner, especially long speed. Their
playmaking is kind of similar, but Kyler is a better thrower of the
football than Lamar, when it comes to pure throwing. Lamar is really
good at that, but Kyler is better. Kyler started this season off so hot.
His first couple of games were so strong and then he hit that two-game
stretch where he didn't play super great. I think it was Carolina and
(Detroit). We were talking about it on NFL Live, and he was going
through the experience of when teams decide to play zone coverage, and
understanding that when you play against zone coverage Michael Jordan North Carolina Jersey, you have to throw into windows and not against people. That was a
little bit of a two-game learning curve for him. These last couple of
weeks, he's been much more like himself, and then having the opportunity
to play on national television Sunday the way he did, that was huge. I
think Kyler is a star. He's one-of-one in the NFL right now."
Schatz: "Yeah, I think so. Their offensive pass rating is not as good as
I would have expected it to be. They are only 15th. But obviously
Murray has great value as a runner. And when it comes to some stats,
he's pretty strong. He's got a positive completion percentage above
expectation, based on the type of throw he's making. They go deep a lot,
so it's harder when you go deep to connect than it is when you go
short. Isn't he a star kind of already? They used him to promote the
Sunday night game, right?"
Sando: "With Kyler Murray, we are seeing him justify the high early
marks he received when 50 coaches and evaluators placed him atop Tier 3
in my annual QB Tiers survey. I'd expect him to push into the second
tier after this season, which means, yes, he is close to stardom. There
are still some questions about how consistent he can become as a passer
if/when teams keep him in the pocket. That can be a tough final hurdle
for quarterbacks to clear, and one that is still important, in my
opinion, even as the game evolves. That is the one area where his size
could work against him, forcing him to adapt the way Russell Wilson has
adapted. Can he do that? I don't know, but so far he seems right on
Ruiz: "Yeah. Especially based off what I saw Sunday night Michael Jordan Unc Jersey. I think it's been kind of rough for him - in the first month the
offense wasn't really cohesive. It was a bit disjointed. I think the
passing game is getting a little bit better. I think Kliff is doing a
better job of letting Kyler throw downfield on early downs and not
putting him in third-and-long situations, which are tough for any
quarterback, and especially so for such a young quarterback. Kyler only
had one year as a starter in college. Last year was basically only his
second year as a full-time starter at a major level. So I'm not
surprised that it may have taken a bit longer than some of the people
that were talking MVP before the season, but I really think in the
second half, we're going to start to see Kyler look like a bonafide
top-10 quarterback."
Q: What do you think could hold the Cardinals back the rest of the way?
Orlovsky: "I think the other teams in the NFC West, especially San
Francisco and the Rams, can decide that you know what? We're going to
dominate the line of scrimmage and pound the football, and we'll keep
two possessions out of your quarterback's hand, while also still
scoring. There is a difference between owning the football and
dominating the game, both in time and score. I don't know if the
Cardinals defense is good enough when those two teams decide to play a
little bit of bloodier-nose football, if they can be as committed and
good enough at stopping the run, yet as efficient offensively to utilize
seven possessions instead of nine or ten."
Schatz: "The weakness of the team - it's interesting, because there
aren't a lot of weaknesses. There are a lot of places where they are
good but not great. They have a lot of good but not great stats, and not
a lot of great stats. There is nowhere where they are just outstanding.
They're good enough to win some (of the remaining games) but not all of
them. That's why I wouldn't expect them (to win the division). Looking
at our latest playoff odds report, Arizona makes the playoffs 66 percent
of the time Paul Pierce Kansas Jersey, and they win the division 26 percent of the time. That goes pretty much
with what I think. I think it would be really tough for them to win the
division over Seattle and the Rams, but they have a good chance of
making the playoffs in a wild card spot."
Sando: "Explosive play-making in the pass game and overall defensive
talent could hold back the Cardinals. Arizona ranks 31st, ahead of only
the Jets, in percentage of passes gaining more than 15 yards. Does that
matter ultimately when the QB can create gains with his legs, and so
many passes are short ones that are subbing for running plays? On
defense, losing Chandler Jones hurts. They were able to produce
protection breakdowns for Seattle at critical times the other night,
which helped overcome that."
Ruiz: "I think the secondary. I think that was the concern going into
the season, and I don't think they've alleviated those concerns at all.
It's harder for them because of the Chandler Jones injury. That's going
to affect the pass-rush, obviously, and there's such a symbiotic
relationship between coverage and pass rush. Chandler going down makes
their job even harder, and I don't know if they were up to the task to
begin with. And now the task is so much harder. That's my biggest
concern going forward."
Orlovsky: "I'd say both red zone offense and red zone defense. Red zone
offense because Kyler can be used as a runner. A lot of teams in the NFL
are more often than not pretty good 20 (yard-line) to 20. Can you be
really, really good when the points on the scoreboard are directly
affected? They are really good at red zone offense, and they've become a
stingy red zone defense, and that's because they are really good
communicating. You saw it on the ?Budda Baker? pick. That's all because
of communication."
Schatz: "It's the running game, definitely, but also I did a piece for
ESPN a couple weeks ago - their offensive line is surprisingly strong.
They lead the league in average yards before contact, they are currently
first in pass-block win rate and second in run-block win rate, and in
Sports Info Solutions' numbers, they have four of the five Cardinals
offensive linemen among the top-40 linemen in the league in their total
points earned metric. That's a not very well-known group of players who
are playing really well."
Posted 28 Dec 2020

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Posted 07 Jul 2021

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