This Sunday Bruce Arians and his Arizona Cardinals will roll into Lucas Oil Stadium and attempt to spoil the Colts’ home opener. After a week one slaughter at the hands of the Rams, the Colts will be desperately trying to avoid going 0-2 yet again. I talked with Seth Cox of Revenge of the Birds to find out a little more about the team the Colts are up against.
Let’s start out with the biggest story. This week we found out that David Johnson is going to miss most of the season with the hope being that he will make his return in late December. How will the Cardinals attempt to replace such a major piece of their offense? Can they?
The short answer is they can’t replace Johnson. The longer answer is, unlike the Colts with Andrew Luck, the Cardinals can mitigate the loss by adapting to their personnel. I wrote about it here, but basically, the Cardinals will need to revert back to their 2013 offensive form, trying to work multiple backs in, giving different looks to the defense and getting 2-3 backs a game multiple touches.
In the offseason, the Cardinals lost Calais Campbell to free agency. Who has stepped in to fill his role as a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball?
They did a great team job in week one of shutting down the Lions rushing attack, but that isn’t saying a whole lot. The place where they miss Calais is the interior pass rush. Chandler Jones had one sack, but offenses now can focus on Jones and Markus Golden, because there is no threat inside. Now, that could change this week, with Robert Nkemdiche more likely to play. He was brought in specifically to ease the loss of Campbell, the pass rusher. We will see if that actually happens.
Who is a player that Colts fans don’t know, whose name we will most likely remember after Sunday?
Kerwynn Williams. Either because he does a nice job against the Colts or because you’ll remember shutting down the Cardinals rushing attack and saying, who was that running back again? Williams has produced when given the chance (career 5.4 yards per carry on 103 career carries), now he’ll get the first crack at being the feature back for the Cardinals.
Colts fans may recognize that name, as Williams was the Colts’ 2013 7th rounder, but was waived just after final cuts to make room for Jack Doyle.
What do you see as the strongest and weakest position groups on this Cardinals team?
Weakest is offensive line and there is zero question about it. They were completely embarrassed by what was supposed to be a bad Lions front line. They were able to get no push in the run game, and despite giving up only one sack, were even worse in the passing game.
Strength-wise, the Cardinals have a strong defense overall, outside of that interior pass rush we talked about earlier. They got tired on Sunday against the Lions because the offense gave them no breaks, but through three quarters, they were able to really make the Lions offense look below average. It starts with the secondary and the speed and athleticism that they have. Patrick Peterson is obvious, but Justin Bethel was only beat once badly, the other touchdown he gave up was just one of those tip your cap to Matthew Stafford and Kenny Golladay. They like to play a lot of games in the backend, so whether it be Tolzien or Brissett, they should… Should, have an advantage.
Haason Reddick was a guy I really liked in this year’s draft. How has he looked so far?
They are taking it slowly with his reps, 58% in game one, but when he is out there, he is a playmaker. They want to keep him in packages that will allow him to use his athleticism and not ask him to do too much straight inside linebacker stuff. Meaning he will drop into coverage or rush the passer a lot. He is going to be good.
Last year was a big letdown after the 2015 season. What is the expectation for what the Cardinals can do this season given that key veterans like Palmer and Fitzgerald are nearing the end of their careers? Do fans blame Arians for the struggles or is there a feeling for who people think is to blame?
Fans thought they were a playoff team. I’d say 30% have jumped off that bandwagon, 40% think they can still be competitive but they’ll be fighting for a playoff spot then the other 30% just believes because of the success of this era. Palmer was awful in game one, he looked like a guy who is barely hanging on, yet, we’ve seen that at least once a year from Palmer, so maybe that was this game. We’ll know more after the Colts game. As for Fitz, he’s Fitz. 6 catches 74 yards, on pace for 96 and 1200 already, he’s the model of consistency. They need someone else to step up though if they are going to make it anywhere.
With Arians, there is a group that is a bit disenchanted with him. He is stubborn and believes in his brand of football. Frankly, I disagree with a lot of what he does, but he’s earned the right with his 41-22-1 record. This may be his toughest coaching task yet though. An old team, an injured star and a bad offensive line. Make some more magic, BA.
Last, how do you think this game will turn out?
The Cardinals have to win this game. The Colts were embarrassed by a Cards division rival, they have to keep pace. That doesn’t mean I expect a similar outcome, but the Cardinals offense needs to find its footing while the defense finishes the game.