One adjustment the Arizona Cardinals needed to make was taken care of during Sunday’s 31-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers. But three other areas still must be addressed in order to save their downward-spiraling 2012 season.
When Nate Potter entered for left tackle D’Anthony Batiste on the first play of the second quarter, his ability to keep an edge-rusher at bay was immediately evident.
Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, currently No. 2 in the NFL with nine sacks, rushed him and beat him initially. Potter’s athleticism allowed him to recover and get just enough of him to keep him out of reach of John Skelton.
Skelton hit Andre Roberts on a 40-yard fly, setting up the early game-tying touchdown.
Matthews beat Potter with inside moves on two instances. He gets a pass, however, as Matthews has one of the best—and quickest—inside moves around. The outside linebacker left the game shortly after that, but Potter performed well throughout the game.
The rookie played so well, in fact, that he has already earned his first career start in Atlanta to face the Falcons after the bye, as confirmed by coach Ken Whisenhunt during Monday’s presser and reported by Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.
Bench Adam Snyder/Sign Jake Scott
Continuing with the offensive line, we move to the other side to find another problem that needs to be taken care of. The signing of Adam Snyder was questionable during the offseason.
What was even more curious is the fact that Snyder, who turned 30 years old three months before signing a five-year, $17.5 million free-agent deal with Arizona, has been consistently rated at or near the bottom of offensive line rankings since at least 2008—the first season ProFootballFocus started grading “Every game. Every player. Every play.”
I already have highlighted what the better offseason move would have been in a recent article. Jake Scott, who is still available, has been one of the best offensive guards in the league since he was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2004 to protect Peyton Manning.
Signing Scott and playing him immediately would help the line immensely. After all, since Snyder left during the loss at Minnesota, the line play has improved. Scott would make it even better.
Leaving this position alone would give credence to fan grumblings that suggest Whisenhunt, GM Rod Graves and team president Michael Bidwill are failing the franchise by neglecting the protection of its quarterbacks.
Permanently Deactivate Early Doucet
Keeping with the offensive theme, we move on to the skill positions. Early Doucet has had a disappointing career since being drafted by Arizona in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft.
Entering play Sunday at Green Bay, Doucet had dropped five passes and was rated as the NFL’s worst wide receiver by PFF (paid info). If he could drop any lower in the rankings, he would after his Week 9 performance. By halftime, Doucet had dropped three catchable passes—two on third down, killing drives.
He did not play much in the second half, giving way to rookie Michael Floyd, who produced his best game as a pro for the second consecutive week. Floyd caught five passes for 80 yards—including an acrobatic 37-yard beauty from Skelton to convert a 4th-and-6 with less than four minutes to go and down 14 points.
Of the changes Whisenhunt hinted at during the postgame presser Sunday, this one makes a lot of sense. One may call it a no-brainer. Floyd should have been above Doucet on the depth chart from the get-go, but as the now clichéd saying goes, “Whisenhunt doesn’t trust rookies.”
Floyd has 10 receptions for 116 yards over the past two games. Doucet has two for 21 yards. It is time to sit the five-year veteran, give his place on the field to Floyd and activate undrafted rookie receiver LaRon Byrd.
With two rookies now starting at tackle and Floyd vastly outperforming Doucet, the team keeps getting younger by the week. This change must happen.
More Creative Play-Calling
It has been a problem since Todd Haley left to coach the Kansas City Chiefs. The play-calling has been predictable. It has been bland, boring and balky. We have seen a few gadget plays this season—the “PatCat” comes to mind. For the most part, however, the plays being called have been by the book, so to speak, and nothing else.
How predictable has the play-calling been?
This chart shows us what plays have been called on first downs. The first set of numbers represents plays called while the game is tied or the Cardinals have the lead. The second set represents plays called while trailing. Numbers in parenthesis represent percentage of total plays.
Some of the pass plays called when trailing came late in games, when Arizona was forced to drive the ball downfield. But the numbers are still revealing. When the game is tied or they have the lead, more often than not, they are going to run the ball on first down.
Many fans have griped about this since Mike Miller took over as the play-caller. His scheme is too old-fashioned—especially considering the team Arizona fields on a weekly basis. Plays that fit the strengths of the personnel on the field are to the offense’s advantage.
For instance: John Skelton performs well out of the shotgun (so does Kevin Kolb, for that matter). He does even better from the gun in hurry-up and no-huddle situations. Why not call more shotgun plays and allow him to hurry the offense more often?
Without mixing up the offensive play-calling more often, opposing defenses will continue to stuff the middle of the field when trailing and pinning their ears back on blitzes when leading.
This is not rocket science. Or so we think.
Overall, the team has had its ups and downs on the way to a 4-5 record. The bye week will allow some injured players the chance to get healthy enough—tight end Todd Heap and cornerback Greg Toler—to make their returns to the lineup when the team travels to Atlanta for their Week 11 matchup against the only undefeated team left in the NFL.
But these adjustments to the team—yes, all on offense—are important. The chances they all happen are slim, but Whisenhunt did ask with a smile for suggestions on what to do with certain personnel moves during the bye week.
Perhaps he should listen to the fans. Many of us tend to have a pretty good feel for what the team needs.