Cardinals roundtable: What needs to change in last 5 games?
The Arizona Cardinals sit at 3-7-1 as a Week 12 bye comes to an end and the Los Angeles Rams await. With a first-year head coach in Kliff Kingsbury and first-year starting quarterback in Kyler Murray leading the storylines, let’s look ahead to the final five games of the year.
During the bye week, we asked our collection of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station hosts, producers, editors and reporters three big-picture questions.
First, we all graded the K1-K2 duo. Then, we tried to pinpoint what is going wrong on the defensive side of the ball.
Lastly, we pose this open-ended query: What one change do you want to see from the Cardinals (could be scheme, personnel or anything regarding an individual player) in the final five games of the year?
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo
I want to see running back David Johnson play. He’s not going anywhere next year so I don’t understand benching him. He obviously needs to be motivated, and hopefully he was embarrassed by getting no touches in Week 11 against the 49ers. But I don’t see how phasing him out of the offense helps the Cardinals be a better team. They need to get something out of him even if it is a position change.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo
I’d like to see David Johnson line up as a wide receiver more often. I suspect that’s the only way the Cards can remotely extract value from that albatross contract next year, so you might as well find out if he’s up to the task.
Jordan Byrd, producer of Burns & Gambo and host of Arizona Sports Saturday
This might be cheating a little, but I want the Cardinals to continue a trend that has already developed: the benching of David Johnson. Considering his contract status, this is a tough one but I have seen enough of Johnson this year to know that he’s not the best option for the Cards offense. He has routinely been out played by Chase Edmonds and Kenyan Drake and needs to earn any of his future playing time the rest of the year. Maybe D.J. will see the light this offseason and find a way to help this team, but until then and for the rest of this season, I’m fine with the benching and looking forward to seeing the running back duo of Edmonds and Drake.
Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter
I think the best analysis on the Cardinals all year was from Carson Palmer when he joined Doug & Wolf two weeks ago and said Murray could rush for 100 yards a game if he wanted to. We saw a slight version of the runner Palmer wanted to see in the most recent loss to the 49ers. If Murray is more aggressive in locating seams to run through and not always playing for the sideline first in order to go out of bounds, he can be electric. There are rules in place to protect him and he’s great at sliding already. It’s all about how he makes split-second decisions in those lanes to “trust his legs” more and how much Kingsbury calls designed runs for him.
Paul Calvisi, anchor of Doug & Wolf
Penalties. Through Week 11, the Cards are the league leader with 94 flags. Yes, more flags than the Raiders or Browns. The Cards aren’t seeing ghosts, they’re seeing the ghost of Ed Hochuli. Bottom line: penalties are self-inflicted. The Cards would be well-served to serve themselves a cease and desist letter.
Jarrett Carlen, producer of Bickley & Marotta
The biggest change I’d like to see is them figuring out a way to shut down, or at least slow down, opposing tight ends. I have had to come up with a Twitter joke every week about how bad they are at covering tight ends, and frankly, I am running out of ideas.
— Jarrett Carlen (@JarrettGC) November 17, 2019
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta
I think it would be very beneficial to find out what’s going on with David Johnson and if he’s fixable or tradable going into 2020. The decision to basically bench him in San Francisco was baffling, especially since Kenyan Drake wasn’t exactly conjuring up images of an in-prime Walter Payton out there. I don’t know if that was done to penalize Johnson, who hasn’t been a difficult player to deal with from a chemistry standpoint. If he’s healthy, he should play some. There’s too much guaranteed money on the books for next season to just let him languish.
Ron Wolfley, co-host of Doug & Wolf
I want to see this defense show signs of life — proof of life — over the last five games of the season. Finally, although the question asked for one change, I would be remiss if I didn’t say I want to see David Johnson compete for reps when the silks are on. I want to see David compete for his job and play with the desperation he did in 2016.
Luke Lapinski, host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski
I’d like to see a couple receivers really establish themselves so the team knows what they have at that position heading into 2020. Pretty sure we all know what Christian Kirk will be, but he’s still only played in 20 career games so it would be good to see him finish out the year strong. Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson have shown flashes, but both are rookies so neither has shown much consistency yet. The Cardinals are clearly being built to win games with their offense, so it’s important to know if they’ve found the right pieces for the passing game, or if they still need to go out and add more.
That, and I’d like them to figure out what to do with David Johnson. He’s not giving them much return on investment, but they’re paying him through next year anyway so it would be nice to find a way to get something out of him.
Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter
I’d like to see the combination of Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds used regularly in the running game to finish off the season. The duo has shown enough flashes in the offense to carry the load the rest of the way. Especially if David Johnson continues to regress on the football field. In just three games since joining the team, Drake has already amassed 212 yards and a score on 41 carries, while Johnson sits at just 302 yards and two scores on 82 touches in nine games.
The Cardinals aren’t in the same boat as teams like the Dolphins, who are trying to lose every game possible for a better draft spot. They want to see improvement in the win-loss column. And with how DJ has performed the last handful of weeks, the run game needs a new look to not only help in K1’s development at QB but to also give the team a legit look at what other backs — not named Johnson — can do in the offense with a more permanent role.
I see the team’s pinpointing defensive help in the offseason, so why not get a good grasp on the running back situation moving forward in 2019? Because the curious case of David Johnson seems like it’s not going away anytime soon.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter
I’m not sure there are immediate solutions for the defense, so how about this: To steal from my K1 Podcast co-host Rudy Carpenter, I want to see the Cardinals go full Air Raid. That means as much tempo as possible (without killing the defense) and going all-in on weird packages that get playmakers on the field. Throw Kyler Murray and all three of Arizona’s pretty darn good running backs on the field, and run the second play in this article created by one of Mike Leach’s students at WSU.Array