Entering the 2020 season, there were a lot of high hopes for the Arizona Cardinals following an amazing offseason. That hope was increased further when the Cardinals pulled off an upset win over the defending NFC Champion 49ers in week 1, and following that performance with another impressive win against Washington. There were high hopes for the team, especially with the next three weeks being against opponents with a combined 0 wins (Lions, Panthers, Jets.) But that hype was dashed significantly by a narrow defeat by the Detroit Lions. The interesting thing about the loss was that the Cardinals led the Lions in almost every category, including total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, 1st downs, 3rd down conversion %, and explosive plays.
But there was one key difference; Kyler Murray threw three picks, including two in his own territory, while the Lions had zero turnovers of their own.
The first conclusion to draw from this is that Kyler Murray played a bad game, which is obvious. He threw for three picks, and while there were also a fair share of great throws, great reads, and amazing runs, the failure to progress through reads effectively against a depleted Detroit secondary calls a lot of questions to wether Kyler can become everything the team hopes he can be. Now that is obviously a hasty conclusion after one game, and I have a lot of confidence in Murray to be able to learn from these mistakes, but going into a brutal 3 game road stretch ending with a MNF date in Dallas, these next few weeks will mean a lot for the success of both this team and the development of Murray.
Secondly, this defense absolutely needs a way to generate more turnovers.
The secondary has zero interceptions through week 3, and had zero turnovers against Detroit. Injuries have plagued this group, with CB Robert Alford and S Jalen Thompson both having been placed on IR, and safety Budda Baker has a torn UCL, which the team hopes will only keep him sidelined for one week. But the bottom line is that this group desperately needs to generate some more momentum and short fields for the offense.
Finally, the play calling has seemed a little conservative.
While defenses are generally running cover 4 against Arizona to limit big plays over the top, HC Kliff Kingsbury has to be able to push the ball, especially in key situations. There was an opportunity at the end for a game winning drive against Detroit, but instead the offense stalled after just 5 plays, and the Lions were able to drive down the field and kick a game winning field goal as time expired. A key difference between last years explosive offense and this one is the lack of the running game. Kenyan Drake has failed to really get going, and doesn’t seem to have much room to run when he does get the ball.
There is still a lot of hope for this team going forward, and I personally believe that the team will be able to correct these mistakes, but there is much work to be done for this young team going forward. The team has already made strides to generate more turnovers, with the team showing interest in veteran safeties Tony Jefferson and TJ Ward. The other two parts will likely fix themselves, as both Kliff and Kyler will study the film from Detroit long and hard, and will look to bounce back heading into Carolina.
Image: Athlon Sports