When Carson Palmer retired after the 2017 season, the Arizona Cardinals entered a state of bedlam at the quarterback position.
Their starting quarterback was suddenly not on the roster anymore. All of their backups - Blaine Gabbert, Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley - signed with different teams. Needless to say, Arizona was in need of a facelift at the most important position in football.
To replenish their talent at the roster, the Cardinals dished out big bucks to sign both Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon in free agency, and they traded up five spots in the 2018 NFL Draft to select UCLA signal-caller Josh Rosen. An aggressive approach to ensure that they had found their franchise quarterback, Arizona has opted to give their rookie two players with starting experience to learn behind.
While this strategy could very well benefit Rosen and, as a result, the Cardinals as a team in the future, it hasn’t proven to be fruitful in terms of current results.
Through two weeks, Arizona is 0-2 and has scored a combined six points in those contents. They have the fewest total offensive yards in the league by 96 yards, the fewest passing yards per game, the second-fewest rushing yards per game, and the fewest points per game by 8.5 points. Bradford has averaged four yards per passing attempt, which is also the lowest average in the league among starting quarterbacks.
So, yeah. Things haven’t been ideal in the Copper State.
The Cardinals have only allowed three sacks to start the year, but make no mistake about it: this is an offensive line that the Bears should run right through. Their starting offensive tackles are D.J. Humphries and Andre Smith, but Smith is out with an elbow injury. John Weltzel will be starting in his place at right tackle, projecting a major mismatch against Khalil Mack and a club-less Leonard Floyd. Without starting center A.Q. Shipley, Arizona boasts rookie Mason Cole in the lineup. While a solid athlete with potential, Cole lacks the functional strength to be able to contain Eddie Goldman on paper. Guards Mike Iupati and Justin Pugh have played at a high level in the past, and the former has proven to be a great run blocker in recent years. Pugh has had a rough start to the 2018 season, though, and Iupati hasn’t been stellar.
Larry Fitzgerald, who has been playing at a high level since his rookie year in 2004, hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down with age. His impact, though, has been slightly downplayed to start the year with a lack of offensive talent around him. If rookie Christian Kirk is able to play after injuring his back in a car crash on Thursday, then Fitzgerald will have another solid weapon in the passing game around him. If not, though, then the Cardinals will have to rely on the likes of Chad Williams and J.J. Nelson - neither of whom having made a catch in the first two games of the year - to step up at wide receiver. Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones and running back Chase Edmonds have served as reliable weapons in the passing game, but neither has averaged greater than 5.1 yards per catch thus far.
A major x-factor in Arizona’s offense is running back David Johnson. Despite being the bonafide top offensive player, Johnson has only 28 touches to start the year. His longest run to start the year is only 11 yards, and he has averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Although his performance in 2018 hasn’t been up to par with what many have expected of him, he is still a proven, Pro Bowl-caliber talent. Even though the Cardinals haven’t used him very well, he is still a threat to break out and have a big game.
Luckily for the Bears, they have more than enough pieces to contain Johnson. Roquan Smith displayed incredible direction-changing abilities in coverage against the Seattle Seahawks, and Danny Trevathan has gotten off to a hot start to the season thus far. Though neither Adrian Amos nor Eddie Jackson have been fantastic to start the year, neither has been necessarily bad, either.
All in all, though, the Cardinals won’t be able to consistently move the ball down the field if Bradford and the offensive line don’t show up. So far this year, they haven’t been able to do so. Their performances directly affect how the likes of Johnson and Fitzgerald do. Given their recent inefficiencies, the Bears could be in for their best defensive performance yet.