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Former coach Bruce Arians ‘shocked’ at crumbling Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Even with his head down focused on his new job, Bruce Arians sees his former team’s struggles.

The first-year CBS Sports analyst hasn’t had much time to see what’s gone wrong since he left Arizona, but he does hear the chatter.

After the problems seemingly came to a head last week when the Cardinals fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson has demanded a trade, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday.

The Cardinals mind-boggling poor 1-6 start hasn’t gone unnoticed by Arians.

“Shocked. Shocked,” the former coach told Bickley & Marotta Monday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “When I look at the statistics every week, it’s hard to imagine with the players that are there — and I know they’re working hard — that that’s the results from their work.”

Arians had previously been critical of how the NFL’s worst offense had utilized former Pro Bowl running back David Johnson, who thrived in the run game and receiving game while playing under Arians from 2015-16.

The Cardinals’ former coach told the TD Fantasy Podcast that Arizona under McCoy was improperly using Johnson. They’d failed to create mismatches by forcing linebackers to cover him on routes.

Admittedly without watching much tape, Arians repeated that assessment Friday.

“I was shocked. I saw a graphic … (of Melvin Gordon’s) and David Johnson’s hit chart, and it was like, ‘woh.’ It hit me right in the face,” Arians said. “I mean, the entire thing was between the tackles and (Gordon’s) was all the way across the board.”

The Cardinals under first-year coach Steve Wilks might tend to agree.

Wilks fired McCoy on Friday, promoting an Arians holdover and quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich to offensive coordinator. But problems go beyond play-calling.

“First thing is I’d get some offensive line guys healthy,” Arians said. “That’s been a problem for a number of years now, just those injuries. Byron’s not a miracle worker, but he will do a good job with what he’s got left.”

So are the Cardinals’ struggles on Wilks? Does it just take time to learn new concepts and play a new way?

Arians said new schemes usually can come together by the start of the season in September. He also suggested that, as it appears with the Peterson news, there are more concerning cracks in the franchise’s foundation beyond the Xs and Os.

“You go through OTAs, you go through training camp, you have some ups and downs,” Arians said of coaching a new team. “As I preached to our guys all the time, if we have a locker room of leadership, we’ll never lose two in a row.”

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