Blogging The Boys: With David Johnson out, how have the Cardinals tried to compensate? Who is getting the playing time and how have they done?
Revenge of the Birds: There is no one way, it has truly been a committee. Kerwynn Williams got the first crack and didn’t do much, finishing with just over 2 yards per carry on nine carries. Which gave an opening to Chris Johnson who took it, winning out with 11 carries for 44 yards. It looks like Johnson will get the bulk of the work early, with Andre Ellington being the receiving back. Ellington played the most snaps, 30, but only had two carries and three catches. If you are looking for fantasy advice… don’t play a Cardinals running back. If you are looking for who to watch for, it really will depend on the hot hand. Ellington is the receiving, third down back, but Williams and Johnson will be a wait and see type each week. Arians will go with who is working… And by working I mean who is getting over three yards per carry.
BTB: The offensive line has taken some hits with injuries and poor play. Give us a breakdown of what's going on there.
ROTB: D.J. Humprhies, the young left tackle who drew unfair comparisons to Tyron Smith coming out, is sidelined with a knee sprain. He’s literally played eight snaps in 2017, he played three games at left tackle and was good at it in 2016, but he’s not playing again this week. Which means you get John Wetzel at left tackle, maybe Alex Boone at left guard if Mike Iupati is injured still, and then the starting group of A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm and Jared Veldheer at center, right guard and right tackle respectively. Wetzel was great last week if you buy into Pro Football Focus grades, and Boone was clearly better than Iupati, but the three regular starters were below average to really bad. The running game has been bad, the pass protection has been bad, and the offense has been bad. So, it is going well you could say.
BTB: Are Cardinals fans generally confident in Carson Palmer, or is there a significant level of discontent?
ROTB: It is just that… He is getting old and not playing as well as he did in the past. Which makes for discontent, understandably, but the reality is, he is a league age 38, the team is so worried about his arm that he was getting days off nearly every week until the week one loss occurred, and he just hasn’t looked comfortable. We will see if things rebound, but overall it has not been a great first two weeks. The biggest concern is… Palmer has a pass rating of 86.8 while having a clean pocket, and a 30.1 passer rating when under pressure. Palmer hasn’t had a full season passer rating in a clean pocket under 100 since he’s been in the desert. The offensive line, the wide receivers and the loss of David Johnson have all hurt. Nothing has hurt as much as Palmer just hasn’t been good.
BTB: It seems like the Cardinals defense hasn't been as dominant so far this year. What's your take on how they're playing?
ROTB: They’re young and ran out of gas against the Lions. Against the Colts they played really well, for 80% of the game. Chandler Jones has been the only consistent pass rushing force in two games, which is a problem. They need someone who can create pressure from the interior, which is what Robert Nkemdiche is supposed to do. We will see if that happens on Monday Night. The other thing is, they’ve been bringing both their rookies, Haason Reddick and Budda Baker, along slowly. Meanwhile, Tyrann Mathieu hasn’t quite been himself yet either. If they are going to be dominant, they need all of those things to come together. IF they’re going to be a playoff team, they have to be a dominant defense.
BTB: What's the formula for the Cardinals to get a win on Monday night?
ROTB: Play from ahead. If they let Dallas get into their methodical, grind it out play style, there isn’t any team in the NFL who can beat them. On the other hand, if the Cardinals get ahead, they can be a little more aggressive defensively and do some different things. If Carson Palmer plays like he has for seven of the eight quarters, Dallas may be to explosive offensively early and then be able to grind them down the rest of the game. If Palmer can play like he did in the fourth quarter against the Colts, the Cardinals will be able to do some different things defensively like use multiple defensive backs, only go with two down lineman, blitz from everywhere and be overall way more aggressive. When they are behind, they tend to play more base nickel with Tyvon Branch in as that extra DB. They need to get out to a lead and be the aggressor, which is where they have always been more comfortable.
Thanks for the knowledge, Revenge of the Birds.