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Thoughts On The Cardinals’ Early Lethargy

The Arizona Cardinals will face the Carolina Panthers Week Four. Breaking early season trends will be key for the Cardinals going forward.

As the Arizona Cardinals look ahead to Week Four’s game with the Carolina Panthers, there does seem to be a theme building in the early part of their 2022 season. The team doesn’t start playing seriously until the second half of games. Coming back from 20 points down against the Las Vegas Raiders Week Two provided the NFL’s most exciting moment so far this season, and the team almost staged another comeback against the Los Angeles Rams Week Three.

Wide Receivers

The Cardinals have fallen into predictable patterns throughout the first three weeks of the season in other areas as well. Without the presence of DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore to utilize in the passing game, it’s been tough for Kyler Murray to push the ball downfield. The most consistent wide receiver in the first three weeks of the season has been Greg Dortch. His place on the offensive so far has been that of a playmaker, which has been welcome for the team.

The offense has nonetheless been sputtering throughout the season so far, looking mostly out of sync and lethargic, with certain moments of things working out well. A.J. Green has struggled out the gate, only adding to the difficulties in the receiving core without Hopkins and Moore. But what’s even more disappointing so far is the lack of designed run plays for Murray. One of the strengths of his game is the designed run and it opens the offense up greatly.

Kyler Murray

Murray is one of the most versatile, elusive quarterbacks in the NFL, and it’s a detriment to the success of the Cardinals when he isn’t allowed to utilize those capabilities to their fullest extent. When the team came back to beat the Raiders, he was allowed to use these skills to bring the team back from the dead to win the game. Instances like this are when the team is at its best, which has been shown time and time again.

The hope for the Cardinals in the immediate moment is that Moore will be ready to return either for this week’s game against the Panthers or for next week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. His return should allow for the offense to open up in terms of its passing capabilities and give Murray another option that isn’t Dortch or Ertz. This will also bring more of a consistency to an offense that’s been stuck in sputter mode for the first three weeks of the season.

James Conner / Defense

The good news for the Cardinals is that the Panthers’ defense has had some struggles of its own in the early part of the season, showing strength in the pass rush and the secondary last week against the New Orleans Saints but struggling mightily in their opening game against the Cleveland Browns. It’s possible the Cardinals’ passing game takes off while in Charlotte this Sunday. The Panthers have also struggled against the run so far, spelling more good news for James Conner and Co.

The Panthers have had the edge on the Cardinals in recent history, dating back to the 2015 NFC Championship. If the good guys are going to get the edge this time they’ll need to strengthen the holes in their defense, like they were able to do in the second half against the Raiders and at times in the game with the Rams. J.J. Watt has made a big impact on the defense since his 2022 debut because of the attention he draws from the opposing offensive line which has given the defense a moral boost in addition to a tactical boost.

It’s unclear whether Isaiah Simmons will be taking on more of his usual role this week for the Cardinals. It’s also unclear whether Trayvon Mullen will be taking on a larger role anytime soon, but each week this team gets a little closer to its potential. Watt needs to stay healthy; Simmons needs to fulfill his potential, Mullen needs to get acclimated, Moore needs to get healthy. The Panthers are a good opponent to have this week before a huge test against the Eagles the following week.

 
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