Arizona Cardinals: 5 Bye Week Suggestions
Usually I hate bye weeks.
It means your team isn't playing. They aren't on TV, so unless you're really into fantasy football (like I am), it's difficult to watch another game (unless it's a team you love to hate!).
But this time around, I'm very thankful for the bye week.
I imagine the Cardinals are as well.
The Cardinals are in a tailspin right now, whether they realize it or not, and the bye week has the ability to stop that nosedive...hopefully.
Now, I know that Ken Whisenhunt, who was visibly irritated after the loss on Sunday, has already come out and said they aren't making a bunch of changes.
The problem with that?
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results," or something like that.
So, if the Cardinals are to expect anything different in the last half of the season, they've got to make some changes.
Here are five humble suggestions from a fan.
1. Run Beanie Wells More
I'm actually proud already of the Cardinals in this area. They have run better this season than any season in recent memory.
Wells especially has impressed, as he is tied for the league lead in touchdowns with six. He's also just behind the league leaders with 381 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per game. He would be among the top 10 if he hadn't missed a game.
So, yes, the Cardinals have done better at running it. They've given it to Beanie just a shade under 20 times a game.
And even when Wells was out, they still ran it close to 30 times against Seattle.
But I'm suggesting they run it even more.
If that means making sure that they give Beanie 20 carries a game, do it.
I should also add they need to settle on a second running back, whether that's LaRod Stephens-Howling, Chester Taylor or Alfonso Smith. My vote is for either Smith or the Hyphen, or some combination of the two.
Between all of them, they need to run 30 times a game. But more so than that, they need to be a run-focused team in my opinion.
It's not easy in the now pass-oriented NFL, but I believe it has advantages that the Cardinals need, most notably taking more time off the clock and thereby keeping the defense off the field and fresh.
We know Whisenhunt can do this—it's what Pittsburgh did for years. They finally have the capability and the personnel to do it, and it would take the pressure off of Kevin Kolb.
2. Implement a Shorter Passing Game
I think I, along with many Cardinals fans, overestimated Kolb's abilities.
Is he accurate? Sure. Does he throw a pretty deep ball? Sure.
The problem? Many times he just doesn't have the time to throw.
Now, granted, he has missed some throws badly (like the one to Rob Housler this past week), and he has held on to the ball too long (see: next play), but many of the issues in the Cardinals' pass attack are due to lack of pass protection.
So, change the game plan up Mike Miller.
I'm not sure what it would be, but it was frustrating seeing a combination of Kevin Kolb under pressure (one which lead to a fumble) and having many of his passes tipped (one which lead to an INT).
Maybe more screen passes. Andre Roberts and Early Doucet would help there, along with LaRod Stephens-Howling.
Maybe even more passes to the tight ends. Maybe more quick outs and hitches.
The point is that Kolb throws accurate passes. Granted, he's still not used to the offense, but I think he'd probably be familiar with shorter timing routes. He's got a big physical receiver in Larry Fitzgerald to throw at.
My point overall is that a four or five-yard gain on second down or third down is better than an incomplete long downfield pass or, even worse, a sack while waiting on something to open up downfield.
3. Use Rob Housler...Now
I know that Housler may or may not be ready.
But one thing that he would immediately provide the Cardinals with is another huge target with great hands down the middle of the field.
Kolb already likes throwing to his tight ends, and while Todd Heap has been good for the Cardinals, as has Jeff King, Housler has the chance to be very good.
If the Cardinals can further establish their run game, Housler could be very useful on play-action passes.
Either way, I'm all for the Cardinals getting all their younger players opportunities, especially if the season gets away from them.
But overall, I'm very much in favor of Housler getting more and more action as the season progresses.
4. Play Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield...Now
I've been a little hard on Clark Haggans and Joey Porter.
But can you blame me?
The biggest problem with the Cardinals defense is not the run defense or the pass defense.
It's the pass rush.
Sure, the Cardinals have had some decent pass rush at times, and actually have 11 sacks on the year.
But let's take a look at a defense that hasn't had many sacks—the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills have thrived with solid secondary play and a ball-hawking defense.
So even though the Cards actually have some sacks, their pressure is not consistent. They need to find a way to do that.
My suggestion is to allow the two young pass rushers a chance to learn over the last part of the season. I have two reasons for this:
1. They can't possibly do worse than Haggans and Porter.
2. They need to know whether these two are the future at OLB, or whether they need to pursue another option via the draft or free agency next season.
Look, I'll be blunt: Porter and Haggans are old—they aren't the future.
The Cards need to know if Schofield and Acho are.
5. Start Stewart Bradley
I realized yesterday I misspelled Stewart's first name in my previous article.
Hopefully he stuck in your mind nonetheless.
I know that he may be trying to play catch up in getting familiar with the defense, but Paris Lenon, however well he did last season, isn't the Cardinals' future.
Bradley may be.
The Cardinals need someone with the speed and intensity to play alongside Daryl Washington, who right now is the Cardinals' best linebacker, despite being a second-year player.
The Cardinals need to make a change somewhere on the defense.
The defensive line is too talented (although maybe playing David Carter more would help) and isn't to blame.
There isn't depth at cornerback and safety to make a change, and not all of the defense's problems lie in the secondary.
I believe the focal point of the Cardinals' defensive issues lie in the linebacking corp.
Something has to change.
Otherwise, the first five weeks could end up being the best five of the season.