Was Steve Wilks surprised? "Very so," the coach said after an 18-point loss to Washington that didn't feel that close. Look, it was hard to really know what the Cardinals were after the preseason. They didn't face any starting quarterbacks. Their offense showed little. David Johnson barely played.
But the prevailing feeling was, even if the offense wasn't perfect at first, at least the defense would be there to keep games close and create havoc -- and maybe some turnovers. It was somewhat fitting that the one turnover the Cards got Sunday -- Tre Boston forcing an Adrian Peterson fumble that Boston grabbed -- came only after a long catch-and-run by Peterson. The first half couldn't have gone more poorly on both sides of the ball. There is much to, as the cliche goes, clean up heading into Week Two.
"There's some things that we definitely have got to go back and correct and that's going to start with me," Wilks said.
Yes, true. All that can be done is see how it plays out. Not surprisingly, I've already heard from some fans looking for their pound of flesh and, incredibly, looking for major changes. I get frustration, but blowing it up after one game doesn't seem very prudent. (Not that it would happen, anyway.)
-- The running defense was something Wilks and defensive coordinator Al Holcomb emphasized every possible moment. But it was not nearly good enough in the opener. The Cardinals knew Adrian Peterson was going to work hard, and he hurt them too much early. Chris Thompson is a good back, and perhaps it's a benefit the Redskins didn't run him more. But Wilks knows it's going to be a long season without holding up on the line. Next week is Todd Gurley, and with all due respect to Peterson and Thompson, he's way better.
-- Larry Fitzgerald was effective. That was no surprise. But those concerned about the passing game beyond Fitz got some fuel. Ricky Seals-Jones was targeted six times but his three catches gained only 19 yards. Wide receivers not named Fitz were only targeted five times, with one catch -- Christian Kirk's four-yard reception on a third-and-5. There were reports the Cards were looking at receivers late last week; we will see if they sign one.
-- Wilks and Holcomb again played mostly nickel the whole game, with Budda Baker as the third safety in the box with Antoine Bethea and Tre Boston. "I've played smaller guys in there before, so size is not an issue," Wilks said. "We just have to use our hands. use our technique, get off blocks, penetrate up front, try to hold a double-team and when a double-team comes off, the D-line has to make plays."
-- The special teams were good, following on the preseason, and yes, that's looking for silver linings. But after the struggles that part of the team has had the last few years, it's meaningful. Punter Andy Lee was great, and Kirk broke off a 44-yard punt return.
-- More silver linings: The 49ers and Seahawks both lost. So the Cardinals are still even with division brethren.
-- "I don't think anybody got hurt," Fitzgerald said. "That's a positive."
One game down. Fifteen to go.