Cardinals not ready for drastic changes yet


Cardinals not ready for drastic changes yet

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have one of the NFL's worst offenses, injuries and ineptitude preventing them from running the ball effectively, protect the quarterback or score more than a handful of points.

So what can the Cardinals do to fix their problems at the midpoint of the season?

They could try to bring in new players, but that might be tough; most of the ones available have been cut by other teams.

They could revamp the offense, try something new. That might just make things worse, adding another learn-on-the-job element to players who have already been thrust into unfamiliar roles because of the injuries.

Changes on the coaching staff? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

For now, the plan is to stand pat, stick with the players and coaches they've got and try to get better together.

``Let's not get into panic here and start changing things up,'' Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``We're going to continue to do what we do and we're going to do it better.''

Arizona managed to play just well enough on offense during a four-game winning streak to open the season, getting a few big plays while protecting the ball as its stingy defense shut opposing teams down.

The offense has done nothing but get in the way during the Cardinals' current four-game losing streak, averaging 11.5 points per game while turning it over seven times.

Arizona is 31st in total offense with 289 yards per game and 29th in scoring at 15.9 points.

Many of the Cardinals' problems have started up front.

Arizona lost starting tackle Levi Brown to a torn triceps muscle before the first game and more injuries have led to plenty of shuffling on the line, moving players to new positions while trying to find someone on the practice squad or waiver wire who might be able to help.

The Cardinals have allowed 39 sacks - nine more than anyone else in the NFL - and their quarterbacks have been battered, with John Skelton and Kevin Kolb both missing games with injuries.

``As any professional, you don't want to use injuries as an excuse,'' Cardinals guard Daryn Colledge said. ``We've got guys backing these guys up that are paid professionals and they expect to come in and play at a high level. It doesn't help our continuity having that many guys out, but we expect that guys behind them to step up and play well.''

Arizona's inability to get much of a ground game going hasn't helped the offense.

The Cardinals have been wracked by injuries at running back, losing Ryan Williams for the season to a shoulder injury after six games and Beanie Wells until after Thanksgiving with turf toe. LaRod Stephens-Howling also missed two games with a hip injury.

With a shuffled offensive line and down to its backup running backs, Arizona's running game has been stuck in the sand, ranking 31st in the NFL with 79 yards per game. The Cardinals were so ineffective running the ball against San Francisco on Monday night they all but gave up, rushing for seven yards - second-worst in franchise history - on nine carries in the 24-3 loss.

Without having to worry about defending the run, opposing defenses have been able to drop their safeties deep and keep the Cardinals to short gains underneath. The lack of a running game also has allowed opposing defensive linemen to charge up the field after Arizona's quarterbacks without hesitation, putting them on the run or on their backs seemingly every play.

``We have to be able to run the ball,'' Skelton said. ``It hurts the offense as a whole if you're not able to run the ball. It's frustrating for everyone involved.''

With an inconsistent offensive line and little help from the running game, Skelton and Kolb have struggled while running for their lives.

Skelton opened the season as the starter and went down with a sprained right ankle in the opener against Seattle. Kolb took over for five games and went out just as Skelton got healthy, injuring his ribs and chest on a punishing hit by the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 14.

Skelton has started the past two games and has thrown for just one touchdown with four interceptions. Kolb had a little more success, throwing for 1,169 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions, but still isn't close to even practicing.

After Arizona's loss to San Francisco, fans started calling for Ryan Lindley, a rookie from San Diego State who started the season third on the depth chart and has never taken an NFL snap.

``I'm sure there are a lot of fans saying a lot of things,'' Whisenhunt said. ``We're all frustrated with where we are because we feel like we're better than what our record indicates right now. We're going to continue to stay the course.''

The Cardinals don't have much time to get things figured out. They have a short week to prepare for Green Bay at Lambeau Field on Sunday and have the undefeated Atlanta Falcons after that.


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Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Here is what you need to know on Sunday, August 19, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

A year ago, there was tremendous concern about the Redskins’ rushing game. In their first two preseason games in 2017 when the games were the Redskins’ first-team offense against the other team’s starters on defense, Washington gained 13 yards on 13 carries. In the first halves of those games, which were played mostly with players on both sides who would end up making the roster the total was 21 attempts for 20 yards. 

At the time, the company line was to downplay the problems. 

“I’m just not worried,” said Trent Williams.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”

As we now know, the Redskins rushing game never really got going. Certainly, injuries to backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson and to the entire offensive line contributed heavily to their No. 27 ranking in rushing yards. But a look at the preseason could indicate that the building blocks for an effective rushing game just weren’t in place. 

Things are looking better this year. In two preseason games, the Redskins have rushed for 216 yards. In the first halves of the games, they have 31 attempts for 109 yards. That’s not a great average (3.5 yards per carry) but it is a vast improvement on the sub-one yard per carrying average they had through two games last year. 

Let’s not get carried away here. Preseason numbers aren’t rock-solid indicators by any stretch and even if they were we are looking at a small sample size. Still, the preseason stats are what we have to look at right now. We will see how things develop.  

Bureau of statistics

In 2017 the Redskins averaged 123 rushing yards per game in their first five games. In their last 11 games, they averaged 76 per game. 

On the record

Jay Gruden on the returns of RBs Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine from ankle injuries: "There are no reports really, we'll just wait and see. Every injury is different, and we'll play it by ear and see how long it takes . . . The injury report will come out Week 1 on - when is it, Wednesday? And there you have it."

Comment: Yes, this really was Gruden and not Bill Belichick. The whole organization has been tighter with injury information in general this year. We’re getting a lot of descriptions like “lower leg” rather than ankle or toe. If that’s the way they want to do business that’s fine but be advised as a fan that you are not going to get much information. 

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:50; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 5 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 13 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 21 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler