As the sun, set to the west of State Farm Stadium, the hopes of many Arizona Cardinals fans faded just as quickly. The first week of preseason led to overreactions over Arizona’s prospects in 2019. A stinker of a performance in the second game led to many more overreactions. Taking some time to contemplate allowed for some perspective. Today we take a look at the thoughts flying around the red sea after the Cardinals lost to the Raiders.
College Tricks Don’t Work Here
The Cardinals continued with the bland play-calling on both sides of the football on Thursday. Regardless of the opponent, most coaching staffs choose to keep things simple in the preseason, hoping to avoid putting important scheme details on tape. However, the Cardinals seem to have taken it a step further. The first-team offense has struggled to move the ball consistently. Against the Raiders, Kyler Murray completed just three of eight attempts, finishing with 12 passing yards.
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Murray’s struggles came against a Raiders defense hellbent on proving themselves. Oakland’s defense left much to be desired last season. Arizona offered their assistance in the rehabilitation of the Raiders defense. Murray lacked a rhythm from the start. The rookie was called for a false start at one point. Officials felt that Murray’s claps, before the snap, was sudden and an attempt at deceiving the defense. Murray’s struggles are likely not an indicator of how his regular season will go. However, there is pressure on the breaks of the Cardinals’ newest sports car.
New Year, Same Problem
When the Cardinals hired Vance Joseph as defensive coordinator, the belief by many, was the return to a 3-4 base scheme would fix many of the woes felt by the defense in 2018. Through two games, the narrative has quickly changed. For the second straight week, the Cardinals defense offered little resistance against the opponent’s first offensive drive. While the defense was spared against the Chargers, by a brilliant play from Jordan Hicks, the Raiders offered no quarters. The first three runs for rookie Josh Jacobs resulted in gains of six, eight, and six-yards.
Many believed that Arizona had made strides to address the talent deficiencies along the front seven. At the midway point of the preseason, narratives have shifted in the desert. In rapid succession, the Cardinals lost two starters on the defensive end, in Robert Nkemdiche and Darius Philon. Both players were released following legal trouble. The loss of Nkemdiche and Philo have thrust rookie defensive end, Zach Allen, into a significant increase in playing time. To make matters worse, the defense wasn’t playing well before Philon was released. It may be preseason, but the Cardinals have now played some awful defense in consecutive weeks.
Feel free to join us in the group of people who believe the preseason games are not needed. 49ers head coach, Kyle Shannahan, recently made his opinion known on preseason games. The younger Shannahan feels that the games are not needed and offer more negative than positive. The biggest fear during preseason games are injuries. It may be time to join the 49ers head coach in his opinion. Arizona may be sharing that sentiment after Thursday’s game.
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The Cardinals could be without cornerback Robert Alford, for up to three months. Arizona’s free-agent signing suffered a broken tibia, during the loss to Oakland. Arizona signed Alford to compete for a starting job. Perennial Pro-Bowl cornerback, Patrick Peterson, will miss the team’s initial six games due to a suspension. Another major injury befell rookie wide receiver, Hakeem Butler. The rookie has a hand fracture, an injury which could cost him the season. While not considered to be an immediate threat, the loss of Butler is significant in the overall growth of the offense.
We are halfway through the preseason. The weekend brings week three, before the final race to the end of the preseason. Arizona continues to work out the kinks on both sides of the football. The recent cuts and injuries have not helped, but the front office and coaching staff will keep working. Arizona travels to Minnesota for a Saturday clash with the Vikings. How long will the starters play? Can the young players rebound quickly? The Cardinals can answer some of those questions on Saturday.