Possibly one of the biggest surprises of Week 1 came when the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots went to Arizona and took down Carson Palmer and the high-flying Cardinals offense. The Patriots were led by a strong performance from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, as well as a balanced offensive attack, and a defensive effort which held the Cardinals to just 21 total points.
While the outcome was obviously disappointing for the Cardinals, it’s only one game, and they’ll look to rebound next week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The question is, what needs to happen for the Cardinals to really bounce back and get into the win column for the first time in the 2016 season? Let’s take a look at the three key areas that must improve heading into Week 2.
The downfield passing
Carson Palmer wasn’t bad, completing 24-of-37 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald was brilliant, as we’ve all come to expect throughout his career, catching eight passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns. The problem? The downfield passing game. Palmer and the Arizona air attack didn’t open up the field all that much, and specifically, speedy wide receiver John Brown was essentially non-existent on this night.
Brown caught just one pass for eight yards but was targeted four times. He was unable to get behind the Patriots defense, and in turn, it wound up really slowing down the Arizona offense quite a bit. Look for Brown to try his best to stretch the field early and often against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2.
More David Johnson
While Johnson’s stat line wasn’t bad, as he rushed 16 times for 89 yards with a touchdown, and caught four passes for 43 yards, he was one of the biggest headaches for the Patriots (aside from Fitzgerald). Now, what’s important is that if you take away Johnson’s 45-yard run, he had 15 carries for 44 yards, which obviously isn’t great.
The Cardinals need to find a way to open up holes in the run game for Johnson, largely because that will open up the field for Brown and the passing game. The more Johnson can get the ball and produce, the easier life gets for the entire offense (and also the defense). Expect Johnson to see close to 20 carries next game, as well as his fair share of catches as well.
Generate more pressure
While it wasn’t a bad bringing down Garoppolo twice on Sunday night, the fact is, Arizona had just four total quarterback hits in this game. Two of those hits, as well as one of the sacks, came from former Patriot Chandler Jones. While Jones was brought in to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, someone else along that defensive line needs to step up and help to apply pressure.
Jones is a superb pass-rusher, but if they want to keep opposing quarterbacks from being able to go through their progressions the way that Garoppolo was able to on Sunday, the defensive line production needs to be at a higher level. This also goes along with the fact that the Cardinals will be facing a quarterback in Jameis Winston who just tossed four touchdown passes in Week 1, while absolutely dominating the Atlanta Falcons’ secondary.