Published October 22, 2013
TEMPE, Ariz. – After a rare weekend off, the Arizona Cardinals donned pads and went through what was described as an intense practice on Monday.
They need the work, especially on offense, following losses to San Francisco and Seattle in a five-day span.
Coach Bruce Arians said there is no simple cure for what ails Arizona on that side of the ball.
"You wish it was one guy," Arians said. "That would be easy to fix. But it's still guys finding roles that should have already found them."
An anemic running game, receivers who run the wrong routes, linemen who miss blocks, a quarterback who makes bad decisions.
All are factors that have made the offense inconsistent and often ineffective for a Cardinals team that carries a 3-4 record into Sunday's home game against Atlanta.
Since the team played last Thursday night, a 34-22 home loss to Seattle, the players got the weekend off, then under CBA rules, were allowed to practice in pads on Monday in what amounted to an extra workout.
"It was intense," right tackle Eric Winston said. "I think the guys brought a good mindset out there. I wouldn't say it had a training camp feel to it, but it had a little urgency to it, that's for sure."
Arians came in with an offensive pedigree. The 62-year-old coach has been in the NFL for two decades — as a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator until he took over as interim head coach in Indianapolis last year while coach Chuck Pagano was treated for leukemia.
He brought in veteran Carson Palmer at quarterback, but the offense has not progressed the way the coach envisioned.
Palmer has thrown 13 interceptions, second-most in the league behind Eli Manning's 15. Palmer, who has eight TD passes, has a quarterback rating of 69.5. Among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 100 passes, only three are lower — Brandon Weeden, Christian Ponder and Eli Manning.
Arians has gone out of his way not to criticize Palmer much, blaming all four of the interceptions the last two games on the receivers not being where they're supposed to be.
As for the mistakes, Arians said Monday, "Some are his and some are the 10 guys around him.
"It's the receivers being in the wrong spots, running the wrong routes and not being in the reception areas, and then again the protection," Arians said.
Why are players making those kinds of mistakes seven games into the season?
"That's a very good question," Arians said. "You should ask the receivers."
Wide receiver Michael Floyd said that the team does get frustrated "but there are times when everything is clicking."
"We're not going to blame each individual position," Floyd said. "It's a group, all together, all 11 guys on offense. If the tackle doesn't make a block, that's not a downfield throw, that's a sack, even though you're wide open as a wide receiver, or receivers not getting off a press coverage for us."
Palmer threw 45 times against the Seahawks, completing 30 for 258 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. He was sacked seven times.
Arians likes to throw the ball downfield, but the Cardinals have only 15 pass plays of 20 yards or more. Only Carolina and Oakland have fewer. Arizona has three plays of 40 yards or more.
Against Seattle, the Cardinals managed just 30 yards on the ground in 18 carries, an average of 1.7 yards per attempts. For the season, Arizona is 26th in the league in rushing at 77.7 yards per game.
"Anytime you put yourself in position where you've got to pass in this league and they know what's coming, you're going to be in for a long day," Winston said. "Against a crew that prides itself on rushing the passer and went out and got a lot of good rushers, you're going to be in some trouble."
Winston said the team tried to run the ball in the first half without success.
"We got ourselves in a lot of third-and-longs. That doesn't do yourself any favors, too," he said. "We've just got to do a better job of getting up and getting the lead in games. We haven't done that much this year."
The Cardinals see this section of the schedule as an opportunity to right the ship.
After Atlanta (2-4), Arizona has a bye week, is home against Houston (2-5), then travels to Jacksonville (0-7).
"We have some winnable games coming up," Winston said. "Not to say that any of them aren't winnable, but let's face it, these teams have struggled and we've got to take advantage of that."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org