1st: The New York Jets are really, really bad and fortunately the Cardinals are not.
Let's all agree to forget about this game as quickly as possible, deal? Deal. The Cardinals avoided inviting the worst kinds of speculation by mercifully beating the Jets by three scores. Kyler Murray set a career high in passing yards with 380, DeAndre Hopkins shined and the defense allowed the reanimated corpse of one time Super Bowl hero Joe Flacco to make enough mistakes to limit the Jets offense to one touchdown. Ghosts of the Cardinals 2018 season were haunting this game and I for one never want to think about that season again.
The Cardinals are a factor in the NFC playoff picture. At 3-2, they're doing enough to make every game from this point forward meaningful. Thats a huge development for a franchise trying to change its trajectory. With the NFC East likely producing one playoff team, the Vikings falling to 1-4 and the 49ers imploding there is a viable path for an eight win team to possibly earn the 7 seed. Arizona seems likely to be battling Carolina, Chicago and whats left of the wreckage from the San Francisco season for a potential playoff spot.
Kyler Murray finally found a rhythm late in the game. Kyler was erratic to begin this game and my timeline was full of Cardinals fans ready to declare him an overhyped bust. Eventually Kyler calmed down and made some big throws. He completed four passes that were longer than 15 yards. He averaged over 10 yards per pass attempt on the day. And he finally realized that DeAndre Hopkins can be a deep threat. While he still had moments of struggle, it was a markedly better performance.
The biggest concern for Kyler was his propensity in this game to avoid a sack by heaving the ball down the field errantly. It nearly cost him a pick in the first quarter but Andy Isabella and some Jets defends played hot potato before the ball fell harmlessly to the ground. Then in the 4th quarter from his own end zone, Kyler threw a terrible pass that was picked off by a confused Jets defender. The play was called back on a holding penalty on the Jets but it was almost enough to flip the game from a blowout to uncomfortably close.
Chandler Jones injury is a major, major problem. Sure, he only had one sack on the season and inexplicably the Cardinals pass rush got better after Jones left the game with an injury but this is going to be a very difficult challenge for the defense to overcome. Dennis Gardeck had two sacks in relief but this is the kind of injury that gets worse over time as the Cardinals pass rush misses its anchor for the foreseeable future.
Isaiah Simmons should get some looks at OLB but probably won't. This is the position I think Simmons should've been focused on from the start. What good is a versatile defender if his versatility can't help you when you need it most? The Cardinals should deploy Simmons's size and speed as a pass rusher and hope they can patch the hole without Chandler Jones well enough to stay afloat.
DeAndre Hopkins is fun to watch. Hopkins made big plays on Sunday and will hopefully earn more opportunities downfield in Week 6. Kyler and the Cardinals have barely thrown the ball downfield this season but when they had entering Week 5, it had been almost exclusively to Andy Isabella or KeeSean Johnson. That started to change against the Jets and will hopefully only get better.
The backfield needs some fine tuning. Kenyan Drake ran the ball to the sideline like he had a giant magnet attached to his body and the sideline was made of metal. Finally, he turned upfield late in this game and salvaged what was going to be a job losing performance. Chase Edmonds continued to make splash plays and should earn the right at more touches. I don't think this is a question about who should be the lead back, instead it's becoming increasingly clear this should be a platoon. Drake and Edmonds need each other to get the most out of each other.
Build the Lines is still a thing. Five weeks in I think it's fair to say the offensive and defensive lines have not been the Cardinals biggest problems. I also think it's fair to say they aren't nearly good enough for the Cardinals to matter at the highest level. The Browns are oddly the perfect example of this. After last year's disaster, the Browns doubled down on the lines and are now one of the best stories in football. The Cardinals might stay alive in the playoff race for most of this year but if they ever want to make some real noise, they'll have to build their lines.
Under the Radar Stars: De'Vondre Campbell, Adam Gase for making several insanely dumb decisions as a head coach while also fighting for his job making every other coach including Kliff Kingsbury look like geniuses, Budda Baker, the rest of the country for not having to watch this game
What's Next: @ Dallas on MNF. Andy Dalton may still be the third best QB the Cardinals will have faced in this early season. The Cowboys offense will be a massive challenge for a depleted pass rush and overwhelmed secondary.