Cardinals pushing for offensive perfection behind strong leadership

Sep 29, 2020, 3:53 PM | Updated: Sep 30, 2020, 2:21 pm

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks with quarterback Kyler Murray (1) during the sec...

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks with quarterback Kyler Murray (1) during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

(AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

The Arizona Cardinals got through the first two weeks of the regular season doing just enough offensively to secure back-to-back victories.

Then came a rude awakening in Week 3, as the Cardinals’ offense sputtered against the winless Detroit Lions, falling 26-23 for Arizona’s first loss of the year.

That game saw second-year quarterback Kyler Murray toss a season-high three interceptions. It marked his fourth multi-interception game through 19 contests and brings his touchdown-to-interception ratio to 4-to-5.

Still, the improved play from a year ago to now is clearly evident. Murray has only been sacked six times compared to 16 at this point last season and the team is seventh in rushing yards per game (149.7). The Cardinals appear to be much more fluid in the game situations and look much more at home in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Just don’t say it’s prefect.

The Cardinals may be 2-1 on the season, but they know there’s still way more work to be done. With All-Pro wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald and Murray taking his next steps as an NFL signal caller, Arizona understands its just scratching the surface on what could be a well-oiled offensive dynamo in the league.

“I think we’ve got a ways to go, with all the potential that we have on our offense and all the stuff that we watch on film happen, it’s a lot of negative plays that we’re one person away from this or one block away from this,” offensive tackle D.J. Humphries said Tuesday on a Zoom call. “And I think it starts up front with the big guys. Once we get things rolling and we’re able to control everything our offense runs smoothly. As long as we don’t have negative plays, it’s hard to keep us on track, so we just got to get in that rhythm that we started trending to last year where we just get comfortable at working our stuff.”

Some of the mental lapses and penalties are squarely on the offense, but there’s obviously more in play in 2020 that has held back Kingsbury’s offensive attack.

Two of those factors have been the lack of a preseason and a shortened offseason. With hardly any time to replicate any sort of offseason from a year prior, the team has been forced to live on the fly, something they normally don’t do.

Luckily for the team, the leadership in the locker room has helped pick up where the offense has left off. With the addition of offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum and Fitzgerald, among others, the 2-1 ballclub seems hungrier than an 0-3 team looking for its first win. Players know what separates the good teams from the great, a grind-it-out mentality with only one goal in mind; get it perfect.

“We obviously have good leadership in the locker room,” running back Chase Edmonds said. “I think the important thing to do is just to take a critical look at yourself in the mirror after watching this film. Find out what we all could do individually to play better and find what we can do as a team to play better and just not to have those hiccups come around. I’m a fan of the NFL, I’m a fan of sports. One thing that all great teams do just around sports in general, is they don’t lose back-to-backs. We gotta find a way to really bounce back. We’ll look at this film and move on to Carolina.”

For Humphries, the leadership in the locker room not only keeps guys locked in, it breeds healthy competition. The men GM Steve Keim and Co. have brought in have two goals in mind and that’s to get better everyday while holding everyone accountable. That type of mentality and energy is infectious, said Humphries.

And once the offense starts clicking consistently, the Cardinals’ train will be hard to derail.

“We need to be a little more urgent just because we know the type of talent we have on this offense,” Edmonds said. “We know the type of numbers we can put up. Obviously from these first three weeks, it hasn’t been what we thought it could be. We honestly think we can be a top-3, top-5 offense in this NFL so we just gotta find ways to make it happen. Execute, not to have penalties. Just eliminate negative plays. Hopefully we can find a way to bounce back this week, really put some points on the board and help our team out.”

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