Monday, November 26, 2012

How's That QB Change Working Out For You, Arizona?

I'll tell you how it's working: Like shit.

Arizona lost again. To the Rams. Again. 31-17 this time. I don't blame the defense. Well, I do a little bit. Bradford threw for almost 200 yards on only 8 completions, in no small part because Arizona allowed 30+ yard completions to Chris Givens, Danny Amendola, and Lance Kendricks. They also let Steven Jackson run for 139 yards, at 5.8 yards a clip, but I've resigned myself to their run defense being ass.

Still, I'm pinning this loss on Ryan Lindley, and Ken Whisenhunt and his offensive coaching staff. Lindley threw 4 picks, 2 of which were returned for TDs. As you might notice from the score, the Cards lost by 14 points, which just so happens to be how many points they got off those INT TDs.

But here's the question: Why the fuck was Lindley throwing 52 times?! The cards were either leading or tied through the first 35 minutes of the game. The Rams didn't go up by double digits until the 2nd INT return late in the 3rd quarter. Arizona had Beanie Wells back, even got 2 rushing touchdowns out of him, but he only managed 17 carries. At less than 3 yards a carry, yes, but you can't put it all on the fucking rookie.

And where the hell was LaRod Stephens-Howling? He gets one carry, and one pass thrown in his direction? Did the coaching staff completely forget how much he's been giving them lately? He makes a pretty good change of pace from Wells, why not use him? And how the hell does Lindley target Fitzgerald 12 times, but only connect on three of them? Even Derek Anderson could do better than that, and he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a tractor.

This season has absolutely gone in the shitter. Scratch that. It's at least in the septic system by now.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Way To Screw The Pooch There, Arizona

The Cardinals forced 6 turnovers yesterday. They still lost 23-19, because they totaled less than 200 yards of offense and 7 first downs. Keep in mind, that's less than 200 yards even with LaRod Stephens-Howling rushing for 122 yards on 22 carries. Everyone keeps saying he can't hold up indefinitely as the primary back, but I'm certainly impressed with his attempt.

The passing game was abominable. Skelton started 2 of 7 for 6 yards, and when he missed Fitzgerald in the end zone, Whisenhunt benched him. For rookie Ryan Lindley. Who promptly went 9 of 20 for 64 yards. Oh, and he lost a fumble Atlanta returned for a touchdown. But you know what? It isn't his fault. It's Whisenhunt's.

Why put a rookie QB in, one who has never taken a snap in a regular season game? Against an 8-1 team, in said 8-1 team's stadium? When you're leading 13-0?!

I could understand if this had been like the last meeting between Atlanta and Arizona, when the Falcons lead by 3 TDs at the half. No reason not to try a rookie there (except you'll have to pass, and the Falcons' D will be bringing the house, and perhaps you want the rookie to survive the game). But they were actually winning. The defense was holding. Yes, it might be just a matter of time until Ryan and the Falcons broke through. But they'd have to do it twice to take the lead. While there was still plenty of time (it was the 2nd quarter) for them to do that, there was also plenty of time for Skelton to get it together. He's done this before. Played lousy for 3 quarters, then found his rhythm in the 4th quarter. Look at all the 4th quarter comebacks last year.

Now sometimes he doesn't find a groove. He's just terrible the entire game. But there was at least a chance, based on past history, he'd get it together. What chance was there Lindley wasn't going to be awful? Not much.

But Whisenhunt was making a point about accountability. Skelton played poorly, so he got benched. Swell. Where's Whisenhunt's accountability? Do I, as a Cardinals' fan of 20 years, one who has been willing to show patience with Skelton, get to punch Whisenhunt in groin for his poor decision making? Because it sure seems to me like he cost the team a win because he wanted to make some p.r. move of showing he's as frustrated as the fans are. You know what would make me less frustrated, Whiz? If the team stopped losing.

I have no idea if Skelton will ever amount to anything. I know his interception rate is down considerably from last year, but so is his TD rate, and his completion percentage is basically the same. I also know this was only his 17th NFL start, and the third he hasn't finished, whether because of injury or Whiz yanking him. Is that enough time to know what he's really capable of? I don't know. Skelton was a project when he was drafted, 2 to 3 years away from being ready, according to Whisenhunt himself. Well, this is year 3, so maybe Whisenhunt figures he ought to be "ready" now, whatever that means. I know QBs take time to develop. Sure, some of them, you know almost instantly they're good to go, or conversely, that they aren't. But not all.

Look at Cam Newton. #1 overall pick, he's made a half-season more starts than Skelton, and even after his tremendous rookie year, there are questions. Does he take too many sacks, is he self-centered, is he accurate, do losses bother him too much (which seems like a ridiculous complaint, but some people are ridiculous). Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Christian Ponder, all young QBs, all with more starts than Skelton, all of whom have their good games and their bad. We don't know yet whether any of them will ever be top-flight QBs (though the evidence leans strongly towards "No" on Sanchez).

Maybe that's the answer right there. If they were top-flight QBs, we'd know by now, and since we don't, they aren't. It seems like more of a consistency issue, which feels like something solved with time. I remember years ago, when Marty was still coaching the Chargers, there were complaints he was starting Doug Flutie over Drew Brees (I was annoyed by these at the time, because I'ma Flutie fan, but they're valid complaints). Not because Brees was a super-awesome, all world QB. Because people knew what Flutie was after 70+ starts, but after roughly 30 starts, we weren't sure what Brees was. Seems kind of silly now, to doubt whether Brees could hack it as a starting QB, but there were questions at the time.

I'm not saying Skelton is Brees. There's very little chance of that, though I suppose the possibility exists. The point is, Whisenhunt told us Skelton would need time. I've seen enough flashes out of him I'm willing to give him time. It doesn't mean I don't get frustrated. If you've read these weekly reviews, you know I do. But I don't think we're far enough in his career yet to issue the final verdict. And I don't think there was any need to bench him in a game the Cardinals were still winning.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let's Take Advantage Of The Bye Week To Talk Baseball

I haven't talked baseball in quite some time. I meant to do a end of the year post for the Cardinals, but first they got the second wild card, then they beat Atlanta, then they beat the Nationals, so I kept waiting. Then they fell apart against the Giants in the NLCS, and I found myself curiously unmotivated.

I mean the way they lost was a bummer, but it wasn't a complete surprise. They did largely the same thing in an early June series against the Mets (the series where Santana threw his no-hitter, except it wasn't really a no-hitter because that double of Beltran's was a FAIR BALL). They were swept, getting outscored 15-1.

The results against the Giants were worse both in terms of the lopsided nature (it was 20-1), and the stakes (a trip to the World Series), but it was basically the same show. The starting pitching crapped out. The offense went to sleep. It didn't matter what the bullpen did, because by the time they got in the game, the Cardinals were well behind and they were never gonna get close it for it to matter. So having seen this show before, it wasn't quite as crushing as it otherwise might have been.

So now it's the offseason. I don't think the Cardinals will be very big players, because they're set at most positions, and the places they aren't - second base - are ones that aren't likely to be readily fixed by trade or free agency.

The rotation should be a bit of question mark since the first four are Wainwright, Carpenter, Westbrook, and Garcia (assuming he's ready to go). Those guys are all potentially good pitchers, maybe even in great in the case of everyone except Westie, but they also all come with injury concerns. Westbrook missed the last 6 weeks of the regular season and the playoffs. Garcia now has rotator cuff problems to go with his past Tommy John surgery. Wainwright will be 2 seasons removed from his TJ surgery by Spring Training, which qualifies him as the least troubling. Carpenter has had enough procedures to fill a phone book.

The good news is the Cardinals don't lack for potential starting pitching depth. Lance Lynn would be my guess for next year's #5 (assuming Garcia is good to go). Then there's Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, guys like Tyler Lyons, Brandon Dickson, John Gast. Those are just the guys who were in AAA or the bullpen this season. Some of those guys will be bust, but I don't think the team will need all of them at once, so they ought to be able to find a couple who can carry the load in case of trouble.

And if you don't need them in the rotation, they could always go to the 'pen, though the Cards' primary concern there is finding a useful lefthander, assuming Scrabble can't get his act together. That might be something to investigate in free agency, even if I'm leery of making relievers a priority.

In the field, Molina's under contract for 5 more years, Holliday for 4, Beltran and Furcal another year each. They have Craig at first and Freese at third, with Matt Carpenter capable of subbing for either (or Beltran or Holliday, though defensively it might be better to shift Craig to the OF and let Carp play first). Jay's in center. Second base is the weakest spot, with it likely being some combo of Descalso and Schumaker at this point, assuming the Cardinals haven't been sucked in by Kozma's brief MLB stint. I really couldn't understand why they bothered to call up Ryan Jackson, the AAA starting SS, then never used him there, even when Furcal was hurt. They used him at second instead, even though that isn't his position.


Monday, November 05, 2012

Feel Free To Put The Brakes On Any Time, Arizona

And that's five losses in a row. At least they can't lose next week. It's their bye.

The game was notable in the sense I got to watch it. Which I only wanted to do for a short time. Once it was 21-7, and Early Doucet dropped another fucking pass on that drive at the end of the first half, Id seen enough. Yeah, I know. It was 3rd and 15, he wasn't going to get enough for the first. But he might have gotten close enough for Whisenhunt to go for it. What the hell would he have to lose? They're already down 2 touchdowns, they need to score points every chance they get. Go for it!

Alas, it was not to be.

It's funny how much more invested I get when I can watch the game, rather than read recaps and box scores. It's that much more frustrating watching Jamal Fletcher get burned for another touchdown, or watch Doucet drop a pass, or see Skelton get sacked right before that. The sack was especially depressing because even though Green Bay pulled a stunt, the two linemen weren't fooled. They each stayed with their guy. It just didn't matter. The defensive lineman went right around the guy.

This is depressing because if they were fooled, I could at least tell myself it was a learning experience and he'll do better. As it is, it serves as a stark reminder that the Cardinals' linemen aren't good enough. Even when they know what's coming and take appropriate measures, they still can't stop it.

The rest of schedule isn't pretty. They have to go on the road for Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, and the Jets. They get the Rams, Lions, and Bears in Arizona. I could see them maybe beating Seattle or the Jets, and maybe the Rams or Lions. I know the Lions are getting their act together gradually, but I'm not impressed. That's best case scenario, short of catastrophic injury to one f the other teams.

Worst case, is, naturally, they lose all of them. Which might cost Whisenhunt his job. At the very least, there ought to be some questions about why the Cardinals haven't spent even a 3rd round pick on an offensive lineman in over 5 years. What the hell is that about? Did the braintrust think that had a Jimmy Johnson Dallas offensive line? They don't have two guys as good combined as Larry Allen! I know they spent a first round pick on Levi Brown and he sucked, but they can't let that stop them. They spent a first round pick on Bryant Johnson at wide receiver, he was lousy, but that didn't stop them from drafting Fitzgerald.