ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals OC swap to Leftwich comes with Rosen, Johnson in mind

Oct 19, 2018, 2:33 PM | Updated: 2:44 pm
FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, file photo, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) tal...

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, file photo, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) talks with quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich, right, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Pitiful offense from the air to the ground, from first down to third, led the Arizona Cardinals down this path.

Head coach Steve Wilks said it was his decision Friday to fire offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and replace him with quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich as the Cardinals ranked last or second-to-last in most key offensive categories through their seventh game of the year.

“As the head coach it’s my responsibility to make these tough decisions and try to do everything I can to make sure that I have the right personnel — most importantly the right coaches — in the right positions,” Wilks said. “I felt we needed a change.

“We wasn’t productive enough. Let’s just say that. That may be an understatement.”

But in considering the production, the offensive coordinator swap comes down to the individual players, too.

Star running back David Johnson is averaging 3.2 yards per carry seven games after inking a long-term contract extension. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen was sacked six times Thursday and turned the ball over five times in a 45-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, a game that the team hopes ends the crescendo of what looks like a threat to both his literal health and developmental health.

Rosen’s quarterback rating was the second-worst of any game played across the NFL so far this season, behind only a performance from the Bills’ Nathan Peterman in Week 1.

For the season, he is completing 55 percent of his passes, has thrown three touchdowns to go with five interceptions and has lost three fumbles.

Leftwich, Wilks hopes, can use his 10 years of NFL quarterbacking experience to connect with the 10th overall draft pick.

It starts with protecting Rosen.

Wilks admitted a banged up offensive line that was already struggling to protect the rookie may need to give more max-protection looks with help from tight ends and fullbacks. Arizona will consider using Rosen’s athleticism to run boot-legs and take pressure off the offensive line.

Due to protection issues, Wilks cited the inability of Rosen to go through his progressions as a key part in making the coordinator switch.

The head coach, who said he left play-calling duties to McCoy and will do the same for Leftwich, has already talked to his new OC about taking the thinking away from Rosen.

It’s not that McCoy put too much on Rosen, an intellectual player who Wilks again praised for being able to digest a lot.

It’s that Wilks doesn’t want things to get lost in translation.

Because overhauling the playbook at this point is out of the question, Leftwich will calls plays out of the same playbook that was constructed by McCoy heading into 2018. But Wilks wants to put Rosen — and his teammates — in better positions to succeed.

“It’s not the mere fact of making it easier,” he said when asked if the team will pull back things to help Rosen. “And I told Byron this this morning. Josh is a very smart and intelligent guy. He can handle a lot.

“I think it’s clarity. That’s what we need, and we didn’t have that.”

Meanwhile, Arizona will continue searching for the production from Johnson that saw him chase the 1,000-1,000 rushing and receiving yard marks in 2016. Leftwich, a holdover from former coach Bruce Arians’ staff, saw first-hand how the Cardinals utilized the running back in both the run and pass games under the previous regime.

Johnson has accumulated 335 rushing yards to this point, but even more flummoxing has been his disappearance in the passing game, something Arians openly criticized on the TD Fantasy Podcast a month ago. Targeted just 30 times in seven weeks of play, Johnson has 20 catches and 133 receiving yards.

“With Byron being here before and being a part of that and understanding some of the success he’s had in the past, hopefully we can tap back on to some of the things David was doing in the past,” Wilks said.

And with that, Wilks made his most difficult head coaching decision after Arizona’s 1-6 start. He didn’t shy away from a question about whether the McCoy firing was the first of many changes to come.

Wilks will continue to evaluate coaches and players every week, he said.

Asked if Leftwich’s title as the new offensive coordinator was permanent or if it came with an interim tag, the head coach had this to say:

“Right now it’s hard to say anybody is going to be permanent.”

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters (98) walks out before an NFL game between the Arizo...
Nikash Nath

PFF’s Doug Kyed advises Arizona Cardinals to bring back DL Corey Peters

With the Cardinals' current roster construction, PFF's Doug Kyed believes Arizona should bring DL Corey Peters back once more in 2022.
2 days ago
Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. (77) protects his quarterback during the fi...
Sam Graveline

Cardinals take OT Paris Johnson Jr. in ESPN 2023 NFL mock draft

ESPN's Matt Miller thinks the Cardinals will beef up the offensive line in his first 2023 mock by selecting Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr.
4 days ago
Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, right, and Byron Murphy Jr. (7) celebrate after an NFL foo...
Wills Rice

NFL.com’s Patra ranks Cardinals’ cornerbacks among weakest rooms in league

The Cardinals enter training camp with a few question marks personnel-wise on the defensive side of the ball, especially at cornerback.
5 days ago
Nick Scott #33 of the Los Angeles Rams tackles Zach Ertz #86 of the Arizona Cardinals after a recep...
Sam Graveline

PFF: Tight end shaping up to be biggest position battle for Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals head into training camp expecting to have healthy competition at a handful of positions, including at tight end.
6 days ago
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with fans after beating the Houston Texans 31-5...
Arizona Sports

Cardinals Corner: The timeframe of Kyler Murray’s contract extension

We haven't heard much lately when it comes down to Cardinals QB Kyler Murray and a contract extension. When will a new deal get done?
6 days ago
Markus Golden #44 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts to a defensive play during the first half against...
Nikash Nath

Cardinals LB Markus Golden among players with best team-friendly deals

Arizona Cardinals LB Markus Golden's contract cracked PFF analyst Brad Spielberger's top team-friendly deals ranking.
6 days ago
Cardinals OC swap to Leftwich comes with Rosen, Johnson in mind