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Cardinals Won't Just Take Passing Glance At Problems

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald pulls down a 27-yard reception Sunday against Washington.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald pulls down a 27-yard reception Sunday against Washington.

Steve Wilks drove back from State Farm Stadium Sunday night to the Cardinals’ Tempe facility so he could re-watch his team’s difficult season opener.

As he evaluated – and then as he talked about the game again Monday – there wasn’t much different than his initial thoughts following the 24-6 loss to Washington. Defensively, the Cardinals were stunningly bad against the run, something Wilks again saw as poor technique, poor run fits and players “trying to do too much.” The offense started OK, especially with David Johnson running the ball, but that was short-lived as the Cards fell into a deep halftime hole.

Wilks was not surprised when he heard some boos.

“It was well deserved. Well deserved,” Wilks said. “I’m disappointed in the mere fact we couldn’t put a more productive game together for our fans.”

While the Cardinals are going to be in a bad place if they cannot stop teams from running at will – and they face the Rams and Todd Gurley this weekend – the offense is going to have to find a way to help, both with scoring points and merely generating some time of possession so that the defense isn’t on the field.

The struggles of quarterback Sam Bradford – notably his inaccuracy after a training camp and preseason that highlighted the opposite – were obvious.

“It was very surprising because he’s usually pretty accurate in this throws and putting it where it needs to be,” Wilks said. “Why was that, I couldn’t tell you. But it’s the first game. We have a lot of football left.”

In a first half during which the Cardinals only ran 13 offensive plays (plus a kneeldown to end the half), Bradford threw seven passes, completing three for only 11 yards – career-low yardage in a half for Bradford. Only one of the passes was for more than five yards downfield, save for a throwaway.

Bradford’s first pass of the second half was down the field, a gain of 27 to Larry Fitzgerald. By then, the Cardinals already trailed, 21-0. Wilks said one of the reasons deep threat J.J. Nelson only played one offensive snap (it came in the first half) was because the big deficit changed the offensive plan and Nelson’s place in it.

Bradford was 17-for-27 for 142 yards in the second half.

While Bradford needs to be better – “I just felt like I never really got into rhythm,” he said – the Cardinals’ pass catchers also had issues at times getting off press coverage.

“We have to do a good job getting open, creating separation and making (Bradford’s) job easier,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.

Wilks said he didn’t think a lack of passes down the field impacted the offense.

“We are just very methodical in the way that we move the ball and trying to really run and play-action behind that,” Wilks added, saying that the idea is to get the ball into a receiver’s hands quickly and let them gain yards after the catch.

“I’m not going to sit here and harp on the fact of where we are throwing the ball, how short it is, how far,” Wilks said. “I just want to make sure we execute it.”

Wide receiver Chad Williams said the Cardinals have much more in the passing playbook to unveil down the field, and Wilks said he was “happy” with his current five wide receivers on the roster.

Running back David Johnson had the second-most targets (nine, behind Fitzgerald’s 10) and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones had six. Williams and Christian Kirk were the only non-Fitzgerald wide receivers targeted. They made one catch for four yards (Kirk) on five tries.

Optimism remains with Wilks, though. “I don’t think this is a situation where you say, that’s all we have on offense,” he said.

And like the defense, Wilks is confident the Cardinals will be able to fix problems heading into Week Two.

“It starts with me,” Wilks said. “We’re going to have a nice plan going forward.”

EXTRA POINTS

Wilks said right tackle Andre Smith (elbow) was getting an MRI on his elbow on Monday. Smith came out in the fourth quarter and was replaced by John Wetzel. Wilks said the Cardinals suffered no other injuries. …

Wilks addressed the receivers the Cards had in for tryouts last week – Braxton Miller and Corey Coleman – saying it was just part of the ongoing work to bolster the back end of the roster. This week, Wilks added, the Cards will work out some tight ends and linebackers.

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