Offensively, the Cardinals have done well. No, it hasn't been perfect, and coordinator Drew Petzing is the first to say so.
"I think I am encouraged by the progress, but I know we still have a long way to go," Petzing said. "That is always going to be the message in that room regardless of outcome."
The Cardinals have run the ball well, and James Conner is top-three in the league in rushing. Petzing and the staff have helped Joshua Dobbs become one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL and the guy didn't even get to the Cardinals until the end of the preseason. The Cardinals are sixth in the NFL in offensive DVOA (a metric that stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), and teams No. 7 and 8 are the Eagles and Chiefs.
Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that, despite a small sample size for a coordinator who had never coordinated before, Petzing's name has already been floated a couple of times as having potential as a head coach candidate.
It seems a bit soon for such talk, but there is little doubt of Petzing's impact. The offense – which hasn't even had Kyler Murray yet – looks much different than Kliff Kingsbury's version. According to Next Gen Stats, the Cardinals run play-action 32.6 percent of the time, tops in the NFL (the league average is 22.5).
Last year, the Cardinals only ran play-action 16.6 percent of the time.
"He's done a great job of being creative," Dobbs said. "He does a great job of putting our playmakers in positions to make plays, and that's all you can ask for as a player and as a quarterback from your OC. Throw different looks at the defense to make it efficient, make it an easy game, and figure out ways to get the ball in the playmaker's hands. We've done that."
The offensive line – which has stayed healthy thus far – has been solid. The Cardinals lead the NFL after four weeks in yards before contact per rushing attempt at 2.4 yards, which speaks to both the line and Petzing's scheme. Conner has been a horse. Both Hollywood Brown and Michael Wilson have been good at wideout. Dobbs has been good, and eventually, we will get to see what Murray looks like in this offense.
Petzing has made that an intriguing possibility.
-- The Cardinals are 1-3 but have shown more than a lot of people expected through the first month. The Bengals, who visit State Farm Stadium Sunday, are 1-3 and have shown a lot less than expected. Much of that is attributed to the lingering calf issue of quarterback Joe Burrow, who said this week the calf isn't bothering him passing but does make it hard to move in the pocket or scramble. Interestingly enough, Burrow is not listed on the injury report. We'll see what that looks like this weekend.
-- Wide receiver Hollywood Brown is looking better and better in this offense (he leads the team with 21 receptions and 239 yards.) He is in the last year of his contract, so maybe it wasn't surprising to see a rumor pop up that the Carolina Panthers might have interest in trading for him.
"I didn't see that," Brown said. "That's not my focus. My focus is on the Bengals. I'm a Cardinal. That's all I'm worried about."
-Brown did talk about his efforts in getting more involved in the community, noting that he wanted to do so if he was around long-term but acknowledging he didn't know if that would be the case.
-- The Cardinals are creeping too high on the penalties list, something Jonathan Gannon certainly hopes to get under control. The Cardinals have been flagged 39 times, tied with the Packers for most in the league, and 34 have been accepted, which is tied for the Panthers for most in the league.
-- After four weeks the Cardinals have attempted four two-point conversions but have only been successful once. "We haven't been quite as successful as we want to be there, so we've got to make sure we're spending a little time on that and putting our guys in the right spots to get those points," Gannon said.
-- As for the fake punt the Cardinals ran deep inside their own territory to success – it was close, special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said, adding that the 49ers played it perfectly (and differently than other teams) – there is always a rhyme and reason for such a choice.
"There's got to be some form of confidence," Rodgers said.
-- Rodgers was also asked how many fakes he had in his playbook. "Hundreds," he deadpanned. "Hundreds. Hope they are preparing for all of them."
-- Today is National Coaches Day. All coaches, at any level, need to be recognized – especially the youth coaches out there who give their time so kids can play their games. I did that at various times when my sons were younger, and now, while were on the subject, a shoutout to my sons Aric and Alec, who respectively will be the head and assistant coaches for the Corona del Sol freshmen basketball team this season.
-- If you somehow missed it, the Cardinals are wearing the black-over-black uniforms this week.
-- For those going to the game on Sunday, there are new security screening machines for which you do not have to empty your pockets or put down your clear bag – hopefully helping streamline the process. If you want to get an idea of what it looks like, here’s a video.
-- I know everyone has gotten into the Deion Sanders-coaching-Colorado hype machine, and since he'll be in town this weekend as the Buffaloes visit Arizona State, I have a Deion-adjacent Cardinals note. In his career, Sanders played against the Cardinals 16 times – the most of any team in the NFL. His team won nine of those games, also the most any of Sanders' teams against a single opponent. That note is a Craig Grialou special.
-- The last word comes from Brown, who was asked how crucial a win would be Sunday.
"A win would be big record-wise," Brown said, "but I feel like the morale of the team and what we know what we've got going on is unwavering."
Brown added about the coaching staff, "I love these guys. I just feel like we're all on the same page. We all have the same wants."
See you Sunday.