The Arizona Cardinals are off to a fast start in the preseason, as they’re one of only eight NFL teams to begin the exhibition schedule with a 2-0 record.
But it’s another number that’s caught head coach Bruce Arians’ attention heading into Saturday’s contest against the San Diego Chargers.
Eleven percent — as in the Cardinals’ success rate inside the red zone.
Despite victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, Arizona’s offense has struggled mightily to make the most of its trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, managing just one touchdown — a one-yard pass from Drew Stanton to Jaron Brown in the second quarter of team’s 17-0 win at Lambeau Field on Aug. 9 — in nine trips during the preseason.
It’s a problem that was only exacerbated by an 0-for-5 performance against Dallas Saturday afternoon, including two trips by the first-team offense that ended in a 25-yard field goal and a turnover on downs.
Arians was a guest on Arizona Sports 620’s Bickley with Marotta Monday and said the key to his offense scoring in the red zone is rather simple.
“Just execute,” Arians said. “Just execute what you’re taught. Don’t improvise. Do what the playbook says and you’ll be fine. Don’t run a four-yard route on a third down and six from the six-yard line. That’s a Cardinal sin.
“You run your route on the goal line if you’re the underneath guy. Some of it was young players, some of it was older players. When they blitz, you have to run the proper hots.”
Specifically, Arians admitted he was upset with wide receiver Michael Floyd on the third-down play that eventually led to the turnover on downs in the first quarter.
On third and three from the Cowboys’ nine-yard line, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer connected with Floyd for what looked to be enough for a first down. Instead, Dallas cornerback Danny McCray popped the unprotected ball free. Although center Lyle Sendlein eventually recovered the football, the Cardinals were faced with a fourth down and one at the seven-yard line instead of a new set of downs.
“It’s just the little itty-bitty things, the easy things that we need to correct,” Arians said. “But it’s frustrating that they continue to happen.”
Nearly four weeks into training camp, the first-year head coach noted that a lot of the errors and minor setbacks have a lot to do with intellect and very little to do with the speed and physicality of the game.
In his eyes, it’s an area that’s still very much a work in progress.
“Having played [the Cardinals] in the past I thought they were a physical team, obviously defensively I thought they were,” said Arians. “Offensively, it looked like they got away from the run and became more pass-oriented. But I don’t really care about the past.
“What we want to do is become smart, fast and physical. The smart part is the part that is lacking right now. We’re fast and physical, but we have to be a little smarter.”