TEMPE, Ariz. — The last time the Carolina Panthers took the field for an NFL game, they beat the New York Giants 38-0.
They sacked Giants quarterback Eli Manning seven times while limiting New York to just 150 total yards of offense.
“When you turn on the Giants film if you don’t get scared, you at least get shaken up,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
“By far the best front seven we’ve played, and they do it all very well,” Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer said. “They stop the run, they rush the passer.”
The Panthers, who allow just 12 points per game on average, also present an incredibly stiff challenge for a Cardinals offense still trying to find its way in the early part of this season.
In four games this season, the Cardinals have scored 24, 25, 7 and 13 points. They have struggled to protect Carson Palmer while failing to consistently open up holes in the running game. Those issues, along with the team’s 29.2 percent conversion rate on third downs, have been a great source of contention.
However, the prevailing thought around the team’s Tempe training facility was one of them being not far away from turning things around.
“It’s always one play here, one play there, guys off, all the guys are not on the same page,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “That’s the biggest thing; you’ve got to have all 11 guys on the same page and trust me, the plays will work.”
There does not seem to be panic over the offense as much as maybe a hint of frustration. Coming off season in which the team struggled mightily on that side of the football, the hope — and belief, really — was that Arians, his staff and Palmer would go a long way toward making this a pretty solid group.
But the players have seemed to be a bit slow in picking up Arians’ system, which has caused the coach to try and simplify things heading into this week’s game.
Maybe that will help, as there have been instances where it seems as if the wide receivers and Palmer have not exactly been on the same page. Those miscommunications lead to incomplete passes and turnovers, and it’s something Larry Fitzgerald said has plagued the team.
“This week, hopefully we’ll be a lot sharper,” he said. “We’re going to do some things that make things a little bit easier for guys to just go out there and play fast.”
After an entire offseason and training camp, as well as four games, the question becomes why exactly is the offense struggling to understand what their coaches are asking of them?
“There’s a lot of nuances, there’s a lot of specific things,” Fitzgerald said. “A route could be run one way in this coverage, it could be run a different way in this coverage based on leverage.
“There’s things you just have to pick up pre-snap and also while you’re running the route, but once you get it, it’s pretty indefensible.”