“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the most negative thing was the pressure on the quarterback, the sacks, and the turnovers,” said Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians the morning after the team’s 27-24 opening game loss to St. Louis.
Unless coach is bundling the damage caused by Levi Brown’s ineffectiveness at left tackle into one convenient criticism, that’s actually three negative things.
• The Cardinals couldn’t get pressure on Rams QB Sam Bradford.
• Levi Brown didn’t protect Carson Palmer’s blindside from DE Robert Quinn.
• Carson Palmer had two costly turnovers, and turnovers stink.
Let me add one other thing to the list.
• Without Daryl Washington, the Cardinals have no answer for defending against athletic tight ends.
“I want everything corrected from this game by 5 o’clock today,” Arians boasted Monday morning.
They, of course, won’t be able to do that, but I do believe coach has a point.
It’s no secret, the NFL has made changes to create a safer environment for players. Among the changes, the league has enforced a serious reduction of practice time. And teams, proving fearful of losing players to friendly fire injuries, aren’t spending much time at all during the preseason going 100 percent.
So, here comes Week 1. It was an entertaining week. I was relieved to see the defenses step up, because I was legitimately worried that the average NFL final score would be 42-35.
However. It was also an undeniably sloppy week of football. The Giants committed six turnovers Sunday night, and running back David Wilson went from being the darling of Giants camp to possibly out of a job in less than one half of play.
• Green Bay rookie RB Eddie Lacy was benched for a fumble, as was New England’s Stevan Ridley.
• Cincinnati, unaccustomed to their new role as possible Super Bowl contenders, lost the turnover battle to Chicago 3-to-1, committed twice the number of penalties, and linebacker Rey Maualuga lost his cool to earn a 15-yard flag with the game on the line.
• Even the seemingly always efficient Pittsburgh Steelers looked lost Sunday, making uncommon mistakes time and time again en route to an embarrassing 195 yards of total offense.
What’s it all telling us?
When you think about it, Week 1 of the season was every organization’s first chance to truly assess their team. And obvious flaws were uncovered around the league, flaws like Levi Brown can’t block a speedy edge rusher.
So, now you know. Right? Now, the coaching staff can address the issue, an issue they were probably already aware of, but Arians and his staff were hoping the veteran would step up on game day. He didn’t. In truth, Brown’s woes versus Quinn were so glaring, it not only didn’t take a rocket scientist to notice, it didn’t take an NFL defensive coordinator with a few hours of film study or even a newly-arrived Vietnamese immigrant walking by a TV display at Best Buy. Heck, even Dick Stockton noticed. And the way he sounded lost during the game, I’m pretty sure he left the house without pants Sunday.
Look, Robert Quinn is going to give a lot of NFL left tackles fits this season but particularly meat blocks like Brown. And in defense of Brown, he won’t be facing a freak athlete like Quinn every week. So, if Brown remains in the lineup for Carolina by game five, when the team faces its next truly nasty edge rusher, the coaching staff now knows they can’t leave Brown on an island against Greg Hardy.
The Cardinals also now know Karlos Dansby can no longer cover fast tight ends. And the staff now knows that getting pressure on the opposing quarterback may be the team’s largest concern to start the year.
And so…they begin practice this week with the benefit of knowledge.
Can they fix Levi Brown by 5:00 Monday? No.
Can they uncover a pass rusher with double-digit sack potential in time for Detroit? No.
But they can work on how to compensate for obvious flaws that didn’t reveal themselves until live game action.
So yes, the Cardinals are 0-1, and that loss could certainly come back to haunt them.
But now the season begins.