After a tough trip to Charlotte in week 4, here is this week's First and 10.
First: The Cardinals are not a well coached team
- This is true across virtually all phases of the Cardinals organization right now. Losing a chess match to Matt Patricia's Lions should've been the first sign but getting thoroughly dominated by an underwhelming Panthers team raised all the red flags. I think most sports fans would agree that the hallmark of any good coach is getting the most out of your players. The Cardinals have done anything but that the last two weeks, losing to two teams who across the board had a talent disadvantage relative to the Cardinals starters. Matt Rhule's team was prepared, confident and well coached. Kliff Kingsbury's team was not. Dating back to the second half of the Washington game, the Cardinals have been dominated for 10 quarters and outscored by a combined 72-44. Kingsbury is an offensive coordinator by trade but a head coach by title. His ability to ensure the collective preparedness of his team is undercut by his extreme delegation as a leader. Kliff is this team's favorite teacher and just like in high school, that isn't necessarily a compliment.
- Kliff needs to light into this team. I want to see angry Kingsbury. The kind of angry Kliff gets when someone asks him if he gets his haircut at SuperCuts. The kind of angry he gets when he's been catfished on a dating site. The angry version of Kingsbury when someone else shows up to a party wearing the same scarf. Can he get mad? Will he challenge this team? Can he challenge Vance Joseph?
- Kyler Murray is a part of this problem as well. The general consensus is that the play calling is holding Murray back in Year 2. I don't disagree as I've been critical of the play calling since Week 1 but this is deeper than play calling. Kyler is playing unsure. He doesn't look comfortable or confident when he's not running the ball. This is a real taste of adversity for an athlete who has experienced mostly success competitively. If these performances happened a year ago, everyone in the NFL world would be screaming about his size. Fortunately we don't have to deal with that but we do have to deal with Kyler Murray playing below expectations.
- The Dink and Dink offense needs to end. The Cardinals offense doesn't even try to dunk the ball. Murray averaged just over 4 yards per pass attempt on Sunday. The ball goes sideline to sideline far more often than it goes down field. Kingsbury has been in a play calling funk all season and I'm starting to wonder if it's less of a funk and more of an inability to call anything different.
- The Cardinals lack of depth has been painfully exposed. Steve Keim's draft track record from 2016-2020 is catching up in a major way. Aside from Kyler, Budda, and Byron Murphy the Cardinals aren't getting any impact from five years of drafts. Christian Kirk has disappeared. Chase Edmonds has been used as a change of pace back. Andy Isabella is better than last year but no where near where he needs to be. And the rest of the draft classes are gone. Even the 2020 draft class has been a massive disappointment. The Panthers started three rookies on their defense. The Cardinals have yet to have a single rookie crack the starting lineup, outside Isaiah Simmons's ill fated debut in Week 1.
- Speaking of Simmons, it's time to play the rook. When the team was winning, it was justifiable to keep him in bubble wrap on the sideline. Now that they aren't winning, there is no reason to protect him from the big, bad NFL. Simmons needs to sink or swim along with the rest of the Cardinals defense from this point forward.
- Kenyan Drake averaged nearly five receiving targets per game last season after joining the Cardinals. This year he has five targets total through four games. Kingsbury's inability to properly incorporate Drake into the offense is the #1 reason for the offenses' struggles. Remember, the Cardinals paid a 5th round pick and $7 million dollars this season to land and keep Drake.
- Vance Joseph did not have a good weekend. It's hard to put the struggles of this team's defense squarely on his shoulders. He's an easy target and in some ways, deservedly so with his limited track record of success as a DC but its hard for any coordinator to look good when your two cornerstones are underachieving. Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones look more like JAG's than MVP's and there's not much Joseph or anyone could do with both players struggling.
- Patrick Peterson is likely playing his final season with the Cardinals. His performance has been below his standards despite notching the team's first INT of the season on Sunday. He's going to be expensive and the Cardinals will likely need to make the tough decision on whether to trade him before the end of the month for a mid round pick or wait and recoup a compensatory selection when he leaves via free agency.
- Under the Radar Stars - Dan Arnold who only needs 1103 more receiving yards to be the Cardinals career leading TE in the state of Arizona, Lamont Gaillard, Jordan Hicks and whoever designed the tie dye hats worn on the Cardinals sideline
- Whats Next: A showdown with the worst team in the NFL; the New York Jets. If the Cardinals don't get a W in New Jersey, things are going to get real ugly.