Wilks: Sam Bradford needs help, Cardinals to scale back playbook

Sep 17, 2018, 2:35 PM | Updated: 2:41 pm
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the first hal...
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Reviews won’t be kind to Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford two games and two losses into the season.

He’s averaging less than four yards per passing attempt and in 37 completions has thrown five passes of more than 10 yards. The 30-year-old signed to a deal worth $15 million guaranteed this offseason has no touchdown tosses and two interceptions.

Blame can be shared across Arizona’s offensive line, running backs and receivers. And with so many problems through two games, the Cardinals don’t appear willing to ditch their veteran quarterback for rookie Josh Rosen just yet.

“I think Sam is doing well,” head coach Steve Wilks said Monday, after his team was dismantled 34-0 in Los Angeles by the Rams. “Is he inconsistent? Yes. Does he need to be a little more accurate? Yes. But that’s not just Sam. We need to be able to get a little more protection, he needs a little bit more time to go through his progression.”

A day after Wilks suggested that every player at every position will be evaluated, the coach added that final decisions about who will play haven’t yet been determined as of Monday. But he lent no signs that he was willing to go down a different road regarding his starting quarterback.

“If I thought it was just that one position, I would be more than willing to say, ‘You know what, we need a change. We need a spark. We need something to happen,'” Wilks added. “But it’s not just Sam.

“It’s just not that one position.”

Discussions during coaching meetings on Monday did involve relatively large changes.

The Cardinals want to scale back their playbook, allowing the players to think less and play faster. At the same time, Arizona wants to get more creative in putting its players in better positions to succeed.

An offense that’s been outgained 861-350 in games against the Rams and the Washington Redskins has more problems than at quarterback.

Wilks wants the team to work running back David Johnson into the gameplan more often, getting him in space out of the slot if the run game isn’t opening up. The offensive line needs to pass-protect more consistently, and receivers need to gain more separation, Wilks added.

But once again, Wilks wasn’t going to throw his receivers under the bus before anyone else.

He wants offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to be “putting guys in position to be successful,” using more rub routes and pick routes. Wilks wants the Cardinals to looks more toward matchups.

“If the run game is going, which you know the play action over the top, J.J. (Nelson) is a vertical threat for us, we’ve got to find ways to get him the ball down the field,” Wilks added.

“I have total confidence in Mike, total confidence in all the staff and what we’re doing. I’m not going to sit here and waver from what I consider to be a great coaching staff.”


— Among other criticisms of Bradford’s play that came up during Wilks’ meeting with reporters was the quarterback’s willingness to get rid of the ball when pass protection holds up. Wilks admitted there are “times right now where if we allow the receiver to continue his route, things become open …”

— Wilks generally addressed receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s hamstring grab that took him out of the game in the second half Sunday: “It’s going to be tough to keep Larry off the field,” Wilks said. “I’ve got to help Larry help himself.”

— Linebacker Gerald Hodges, who got the start in place of Deone Bucannon on Sunday, is among the players who remain in the mix at the position. Wilks said the staff must evaluate which combinations of Hodges, Bucannon, Josh Bynes and Haason Reddick will work best.

“All those guys are still in the rotation, they’re still in the mix,” Wilks said. “There’s no entitlement regardless of where you were drafted or status.”

— Defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (toe) and rookie linebacker Dennis Gardeck (ankle) enter the week prior to Arizona hosting the Chicago Bears on the comeback from injuries.

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