Dealing Cards: Cardinals not satisfied with blowout victory
TEMPE, Ariz. — On the surface, the Arizona Cardinals put together quite a performance in Sunday’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The final score of 40-7 would indicate a blowout, and a deeper look into the box score would reveal that the Cardinals bested the Bucs in yards by more than 100 and were plus-five in takeaways.
Yet, when speaking to the media on Monday, head coach Bruce Arians said there were a lot of things from the outing that need to be corrected, especially on one side of the ball (though he was disappointed in how the defense began the second half).
“The score doesn’t indicate, I don’t think, how poorly we played offensively,” he said. “We can get a hell of a lot better.”
Arians noted that his team’s communication was not good early in the game, and added there were too many mental errors by a couple of the team’s younger players.
Asked to give specifics, he pointed to right tackle D.J. Humphries, who he said struggled early with the team’s no-huddle offense, and running back David Johnson, whose mistakes he said cost the team about 100 more yards and two more touchdowns. Arians thought the team would have scored 50 points if the second-year pro had done things properly.
Arians said with regards to Johnson, mental errors have not exactly been an ongoing issue.
“A little bit last week; nothing to this extent,” he said. “He played poorly, other than he made a couple big plays.”
In the game, Johnson had 143 total yards, and in the process had a handful of jaw-dropping sequences. Apparently it wasn’t enough to please the head coach.
“That’s good, it’s good motivation,” Johnson said. “It’s good that he keeps us grounded, keeps us level-headed and lets us know that — especially me — I have some work to do.”
Johnson referred to his miscues as “bonehead plays,” and understands just how many yards were left on the field because of them.
“Definitely, after watching film and the way the DB and linebackers were playing me, I easily should have had, at least, more yards,” he admitted.
These kind of problems are always better to talk about following a win, and that the Cardinals handled the Buccaneers so easily while apparently not even playing well could be considered a good sign.
And an even better sign? Everyone on the team seems to agree that this was not a great outing.
“Everybody, they see the score and they see the big plays and the stuff like that, but they don’t see what we didn’t do right and they don’t see the mistakes that we made,” running back Chris Johnson said. “So any time you come back and watch the film, that really shows you what kind of game it was.”
It is important to remember that in the NFL, there really is no such thing as an ugly win — especially when it comes by 33 points. Could the Cardinals play better? They seem to think so, and knowing that, Chris Johnson said, will help keep the team from feeling too good about itself after win No. 1.
“You know any time things can go the other way, see we gave away the first one in Week 1 and sometimes things just go your way even though you have those mental mistakes,” he said. “A team like us, once we get in the playoffs and stuff, we can’t make those mistakes because it could come back to bite us.”
Arians said there were no actual injuries to come out of Sunday’s game. The normal bumps and bruises, sure, but everyone who suffered any kind of ailment should have no problem being ready to go this week.
Nkemdiche’s step back
Cardinals rookie Robert Nkemdiche missed a good portion of training camp with an ankle sprain, though he came back and played some in the season-opening loss to New England.
Things seemed fine, but then he showed up with an ankle injury on Friday’s injury report and then was not active for the win over the Bucs.
According to Arians, the ankle the first-round pick hurt was the same one he injured in camp, and they’ll have to wait and see if Nkemdiche will be good to go moving forward.
“Those other guys are playing pretty damn good,” the coach said.
Indeed, on Monday Arians heaped praise on the defensive lineman who played Sunday. He pointed out Calais Campbell, Ed Stinson, Xavier Williams and Josh Mauro specifically, but overall said it was one of the group’s better games.
That all happened without Nkemdiche, who it sounds like may not have suited up even if he wasn’t hurt.
“Yeah, he tweaked it Friday,” Arians said. “It wasn’t the best week of practice for him. There’s too much competition in that room to have a bad day and dress out and play on Sunday.”
Speaking with Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday morning, Cardinals GM Steve Keim said he did not see the injury being a major issue and expected Nkemdiche to be back on the field at some point this week. He did note, however, the depth the Cardinals have along the defensive line, which is exactly what Arians alluded to.
While much is expected of Nkemdiche in the future, the Cardinals may not need much from him this season. Did you notice he wasn’t out there vs. Tampa Bay?
Feeding a need (from Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan)
Every team talks about forcing turnovers. The Cardinals walk the talk.
Through two games, Arizona leads the NFL with seven takeaways (four interceptions, three fumble recoveries) after posting five takeaways (four INTs, one fumble recovery) against Tampa Bay on Sunday. In 2015, the Cardinals finished second in the NFL with 33 takeaways (19 INTs, 14 fumble recoveries).
“It’s just a mentality of wanting to get the ball, wanting to change the game, wanting to be a playmaker,” safety D.J. Swearinger said. “Lots of teams talk about, ‘yeah, we’re going to take the ball,’ but it’s a must and a need for us.
“Every day in practice we attack the ball and one thing that I always say we need to get more of is the punch-outs. There’s a lot of fumbles out there to be made because the running back is carrying the ball loose. We do a good job getting our hands on the ball and intercepting it but we can be better punching it out.”
The Cardinals secondary talked all of last season about the phenomenon of turnovers snowballing. Swearinger said that is still the case, and it showed up early in Sunday’s game when Patrick Peterson intercepted QB Jameis Winston on the Bucs’ first drive.
“When it rains it pours, especially when you see a leader like (No.) 21 start the game off with an interception,” Swearinger said. “It makes everyone else want to get their hand in and join the fun.”
Arians was quick to note that the offense has not turned the ball over, giving the Cards a league-high plus-seven turnover differential.
Brown staying patient (from Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan)
Receiver John Brown said he felt 100 percent against the Bucs on Sunday after missing time in the preseason with a concussion and then trying to shake off the rust.
“I had my speed back,” Brown said.
It didn’t factor on the stat sheet, however. He was targeted three times and caught one ball for 14 yards. Through two games, he has two catches for 22 yards and no TDs — a far cry from the first two games of his rookie season when he caught nine passes for 91 yards and a TD.
“I didn’t play as much,” Brown said. “(Receiver) Jaron Brown has been killing (it) since training camp. He had a great game and we have so many weapons so it’s like when the ball comes your way you have to take advantage of it.”
Brown said he knew before the game that he wouldn’t be that involved in the game plan.
“It depends on the play calling and what the defense runs,” the receiver said. “They try to get you the ball but the team switches up the defense and it opens so many things for everyone else.
“I was able to play fast again but I felt like they respected my speed and had help over the top. That was the main thing, but I feel good again.”
– Arians said Justin Bethel is “a long way” from seeing more time on defense.
– Long snapper Kameron Canaday’s performance was “a little bit erratic again,” Arians said, though he said there are no plans to look into bringing someone else to compete for the job.
– On Chandler Jones, who got a sack on the second-to-last play of the game, Arians said he would “like to see him get one in the second or third quarter when it counts more than when we’ve got a 30-point lead.”
– Arians was asked about Patrick Peterson taking an interception out of the end zone, to which the coach said he was pissed that the cornerback didn’t “take it to the house” because he ran out of bounds when there were at least eight more yards available. During the run back, Peterson pointed up in the stands, and Arians confirmed the player was signaling to his daughter.