Dealing Cards: Run game unacceptable, grading offensive line
TEMPE, Ariz. — The numbers are not good. In fact, they are the worst in the league. Through four games, the Arizona Cardinals have not shown the ability to run the football.
Among 32 NFL teams, the Cardinals rank 32nd in rushing yards per attempt (2.7) and per game (57.0), while their overall total rushing yardage (228) is 31st, trailing only the Miami Dolphins.
“Being where we are in rushing in the league is unacceptable,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Thursday. “We got too good of tailbacks and too good of tight ends and o-linemen to be in that position. We need that to come alive so our offense can come alive.”
Much of the problem in the run is simply execution, especially early in games, whether that’s the running back not seeing the correct rush lane or someone up front not staying on their blocks.
“Once we start having negative runs,” head coach Bruce Arians said, “I have a tendency to get away from it, and I have to fight that as a play caller.”
Penalties have also been costly. For example, against San Francisco, Chris Johnson had a pair of runs, four and 13 yards, wiped out by holding calls on right guard Evan Boehm.
Plays like that are going to happen, however, and can’t be used as an excuse, according to running back Kerwynn Williams.
“Runs and stuff are there as long as we stay consistent on what we’re doing and do what we’re capable of doing, I think that’s the biggest thing we have to do. Stay focused on the task at hand and really not get discouraged by stuff like that happening. You’ve got to forget about that stuff,” he said. “All you can do is learn from what you just did, get better with your technique the next play and come back looking forward to doing something positive.”
As a former offensive lineman, Goodwin would like the Cardinals to run the ball more often, “but we do what we do. You guys have been here long enough and I’ve been around B.A. long enough, we do what we do no matter the circumstances or the situation. I don’t care what’s called, we’ve got to execute and that’s a problem right now.
“I just think we need to have some things go good early to get that momentum going instead of being in those situations of something goes bad and we’re like, ‘here we go again.’ I think we need some early momentum…to make B.A. feel more comfortable in calling more of them, so that’s our job as coaches and as players.”
Grades handed out
After two subpar performances, right tackle Jared Veldheer bounced back against the 49ers. He was the highest-graded offensive lineman, according to Goodwin.
“Competed, played his butt off,” he said. “I was proud of him that he fought. The biggest thing with him is just gaining confidence and maintaining that confidence but I was pleased.”
Asked how Boehm, who was called for holding a total of three times, graded out, Goodwin paused for a full three seconds.
“Could’ve graded out a little higher. Still learning on the job,” he said, making sure to mention Boehm played center in college. “Every day we’re working on something trying to get him better. As long as he’s giving maximum effort, we can work with that.”
Still not sitting well with Goodwin is the number of sacks and hits quarterback Carson Palmer has now taken in the past two weeks. The numbers are 12 and 27, respectively.
Overall, Palmer has been sacked 17 times and hit an additional 43 times.
“Mr. Bidwill is paying that guy a lot of money,” Goodwin said. “And we know as far as we’re going to go as a team, that guy’s apart of it so we got to keep him upright and do a better job. I take it personally and sometimes I can’t sleep.”
Goodwin mentioned there was one day last week when he arrived at the team facility at 4:30 a.m.
“That’s my job,” he said. “I embrace the pressure, though. It will never break me and it will never break my players. We’ve got to do a better job.”
Game balls handed out
Among the six game balls handed out after last week’s 18-15 overtime win, half went to defensive linemen, specifically backups Rodney Gunter, Olsen Pierre and Xavier Williams.
“They had unbelievable statistics for the amount of plays they played as far as productivity,” Arians said.
Gunter and Pierre each had three tackles, while Williams finished with two adding a half-sack and one quarterback hit. None played more than 25 snaps.
“One thing that ‘Buck’ stresses a lot is don’t count the plays, make the plays count,” Williams said, referring to defensive line coach Brentson Buckner. “That’s our end goal. Us young guys, we’re not starters so when we have an opportunity to go in a game, we want to do the best we can and if we can make a couple of plays while doing it, that’s even better.”
Larry Fitzgerald, a D-backs supporter
Spotted among the sold-out crowd at Chase Field for the National League Wild Card Game was wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
“That was amazing, man,” he said. “Watching Archie (Bradley) do something that’s never been done. A lot of energy in that building. It was fun to be apart of it and see the Diamondbacks come out on top, seeing my boy ‘Goldy’ (Paul Goldschmidt) go yard in the first inning. It was a great game, had me on the edge of my seat.”