Cardinals’ Steve Wilks: ‘Our offense is getting ready to flourish’
TEMPE, Ariz. — Steve Wilks had the night to digest the bitter taste of a last-second loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The head coach returned to work Monday with less disappointment in his voice, even though his Arizona Cardinals sit alone as the only winless NFL team through four weeks. Not only did he sound refreshed heading into preparation for a visit to San Francisco this coming Sunday.
Wilks even, believe it or not, spoke with a hopeful tone.
It’s the same reason why Cardinals fans maybe, possibly could have faith in a 0-4 team after the 20-17 loss to Seattle. That reason is rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.
“I’m just so encouraged based on what I saw yesterday,” Wilks said. “We got to finish now. Those guys are wide open, they got to make those catches. His ability to get outside the pocket and buy time on the sprint-outs and the boots and to move the pocket. If we are having some issues as far as protection, we can help (the line) out there.
“And then you saw the glimpse of David (Johnson) and the things he can do as far as moving him around. I think our offense is getting ready to flourish.”
False optimism? Maybe.
Wilks time and time again during his Monday press conference went back to Rosen’s confidence in the huddle that opened up the playbook.
Rosen’s numbers didn’t jump off the page. He completed 15 of 27 passes for 180 yards, but considering six passes that could be considered drops and two throwaways, his accuracy was hardly represented in the numbers.
Wilks pointed to his command of pre-snap reads, citing Rosen’s adjustments that once led to a Christian Kirk screen pass on a 3rd-and-6 to set up Arizona’s first score, a field goal to pull within 7-3 in the first quarter.
“That was all him,” Wilks said.
So too were two 30-yard passes to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones fit between defenders and into tight windows.
It wasn’t just the rookie’s arm giving Wilks hope. After the game and again on Monday, Wilks spoke of Rosen’s athleticism that allowed Arizona to help its offensive line by running boot-legs.
He displayed that athleticism to keep plays alive, and Wilks even credited the athleticism on a play that began with a botched snap by rookie center Mason Cole; Rosen picked the ball off the turf, rolled outside the pocket and threw the ball away to avoid a loss of yards, or even the ball.
Even the opponents were impressed.
“I can honestly say he would check his first read, check his second read,” safety Bradley McDougald told 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton. “You could tell that he was groomed by a good quarterback coach. And he’s a lot more athletic than I thought.”
Meanwhile, Johnson’s expanded role that finally saw him surpass 100 all-purpose yards was storyline No. 2. Not only did he take a season-high 22 rushes, but the running back also lined up in the slot on a handful of plays.
Put those two key changes together, and maybe Wilks is realistic in being encouraged.
“Putting David out in the slot, putting him outside at receiver I thought opened things up a little bit — having him and Chase (Edmonds) on the field at the same time,” Wilks said. “You could even go back to look at some of the things we did when we did get into a rhythm, starting with that first boot, using Josh’s athleticism to get outside the pocket, then we came back with Christian (Kirk) on the jet sweep. That’s what I envision going forward … now that you have a real mobile quarterback to do those things.
“I loved the way he just commanded the offense and the way he went down the field.”
JOHNSON TAKES THE BLAME
David Johnson has made a habit of taking blame this year, fairly or not.
Sunday night, he again admitted to mental errors and a misread on the Cardinals’ third-down play just before kicker Phil Dawson missed a 45-yard field goal that would have given the Cardinals a lead.
“David is a perfectionist,” Wilks said. “He wants to do it right every time. When you have players like that that (are) not really concerned with the great plays but trying to make sure they make the corrections on the ones they messed up, that’s when you’re gonna see a difference in your team.
“Again just some of his protections in the pass-pro. That’s the biggest thing right now.”
— Andre Smith is expected to return (elbow) Sunday against the 49ers. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) and cornerback Bene Benwikere are day-to-day (spine).
— Wilks, on why Deone Bucannon played as the starting linebacker after playing a single defensive snap a week prior: “We just continue trying to find the right mix on defense. A guy that has good athleticism, can run, can move around. We wanted to give him an opportunity. He performed well in practice.”
— Seattle scored in the first quarter on a 20-yard touchdown run by back Mike Davis that saw the Cardinals break down in coverage.
“I would say we had an issue on that touchdown play where they substituted late with personnel, and we changed the call and that call was not executed or echoed throughout the defense so therefore we were playing two different coverages,” Wilks said. “That can’t happen.”
Defensive end Markus Golden said it was more of a focus issue than about a learning-curve four game weeks into a new system.