TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals offense did very little in their season opener, a 24-6 home loss to Washington.
They promise improvement, but it will have to come Sunday against a team with maybe the best defense in the NFL, the Rams, and in Los Angeles yet.
“If you look at them on paper,” Arizona quarterback Sam Bradford said, “they’re probably one of the more talented units in the league. The way they played the second half last week, they played really well. So, I think it’s definitely a big challenge for us, but we’ve accepted that. We’re putting in the work getting ready for them.”
This will be the first time Bradford has faced the Rams, the franchise that drafted him No. 1 overall and gave him the last of the huge rookie contracts ($50 million guaranteed) before he went on to an injury-plagued career in St. Louis. Bradford left the Rams after missing the entire 2014 season with a knee injury. That was two years before the team moved back to Los Angeles.
So the game has no special meaning to him, he said.
“I think if it would have happened sooner in my career,” he said Wednesday, “maybe there would be more, but the staff there is completely different. There’s only a handful of guys on that roster that were there when I was there. So there’s just really not a lot of connection that’s still there for me.”
What does grab his and the rest of the offense’s attention is the need for improvement. Arizona had the ball three times, two of them three-and-outs, and ran 14 plays in the first half against the Redskins, falling behind 21-0 and throwing out the game plan, which was to have been centered on the running of David Johnson.
“We’ve got to come up big on third downs. We’ve really got to focus on third down and picking that up,” right guard Justin Pugh said.
Arizona converted 1-of-8 third down opportunities in Sunday’s loss, 0-for-3 in the first half. For the game, the Cardinals managed 213 yards of offense to the Redskins’ 429.
“The encouraging thing, when we looked at the film, is there weren’t any major glaring breakdowns,” he said.
Just a lot of little things that went wrong.
Now bring on the potent Rams, who scored 23 unanswered points to wrap up a 33-13 win at Oakland on Monday night.
First-year Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said his offense remains a work in progress.
“Early in the season, I think it’s still learning,” said Wilks, the defensive coordinator at Carolina last season who’s turned the offense over to coordinator Mike McCoy. “I think we’re still learning each other. Players are (learning) the timing. ... It’s a process you’ve got to continue to go through, and we’re still in the early stages.”
Against Washington, the only wide receiver besides Larry Fitzgerald to catch a pass was rookie Christian Kirk, who caught a four-yarder. That has to change, Bradford and Wilks said. The team needs to get Kirk and second-year pro Chad Williams more involved.
“I think there are some things we can probably do game plan-wise to get them going a little bit,” Bradford said, “some easy completions, some things out there, just get the ball in their hands and then kind of build from there.”
Of course, they will have to do it against that bruising Rams defense.
The Cardinals quarterback smiled when told that defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh marks the calendar every time he faces Bradford because he wants to hit him.
“Great,” he said. “I get it. I think everyone wants to hit me. I think that’s kind of how it goes.”
Notes: DE Markus Golden, recovering from major knee surgery, worked out on a limited basis. He said he was following trainers’ orders and didn’t know if he’d be ready to play Sunday. ... Starting RT Andre Smith has a sore elbow and it’s not known if he will go Sunday, either. An MRI showed no structural damage. ... S Antoine Bethea, S Tre Boston and DL Corey Peters met with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday to discuss the criminal justice system. “We’re all human beings. We all live in this world,” Bethea said. “We all see what happens, especially with the camera phones nowadays. We’re all smart people. We all see what happens. We all know there’s inequality in this world so we can’t be naive to that even though you want to be. ... We were able to sit there and talk about those problems yesterday.” The meeting was set up by Cardinals President Michael Bidwill.
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