As helpful as playing the New York Jets might be for a team needing a funk-eliminating elixir, the Arizona Cardinals still have work to do.
Before Monday and Tuesday night games to wrap Week 5, the Cardinals were tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by averaging 8.4 penalties per game, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he believes the team’s practices need to focus on stamping out bad habits.
“We just have to practice better. The wins we’ve had more penalties than the losses, which is a little unique,” Kingsbury said.
“We have to practice penalty-free and practice cleaner and then that will translate to the games. Right now, I think we’re letting some stuff go on the practice field, expecting it to get cleaned up on Sundays, and that’s not how it works.”
The Athletic’s Buccaneers reporter, Greg Auman, found that Arizona leads the NFL with 15 stalled drives, a statistic that specifically notes penalties that kill a drive. Kingsbury referenced that stat when he spoke with reporters Monday.
“We’ve stalled so many drives through penalties,” Kingsbury said. “Haven’t put together a consistent game yet.”
Le’Veon Bell likes tweets about him liking tweets
The fallout on the other sideline of Arizona’s 30-10 win seems significant.
The Jets dropped to 0-5, and while head coach Adam Gase remains on the job, he admitted he may consider handing off play-calling duties to get things turned around.
Remember: Gase and Kingsbury were two of the hot names for the Cardinals and Jets to hire after the 2018 season, as New York wanted to develop Sam Darnold and Arizona wanted to help then-starting quarterback Josh Rosen.
The Jets had interest in Kingsbury before he landed with the Cardinals.
Gase’s seat only got hotter with Kingsbury’s team blowing past it on Sunday.
It didn’t help that franchise running back Le’Veon Bell, in his return from a hamstring injury, spent the hours after the loss liking tweets criticizing Gase for taking him out of the game with his play-calls — or others suggesting the Jets trade Bell. A few samples are below:
He even liked the tweets mentioning how he had liked those criticizing his boss.
“I hate that’s the route we go with all this instead of just talking to me about it,” Gase told reporters Monday, “but it seems that’s the way guys want to do it nowadays.”
Bell carried it 13 times for 60 yards with one catch for seven more.
After having a night to watch the film, here’s Kliff Kingsbury’s grade of outside linebacker Dennis Gardeck’s dancing following his sacks: “Not good.”
Hopkins back in front
After a six-catch, 131-yard performance, Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins has the NFL lead with 528 receiving yards on 45 catches through five games.
Isaiah Simmons slowly getting there
Isaiah Simmons has lined up as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, as a third inside linebacker against heavy packages and as a dropping coverage man. He played 13 defensive snaps, the second-most defensive snaps so far in his career, against New York. Seven times he was defending running plays and Simmons was in coverage for six more.
He did not rush the passer against the Jets, and it’s now a wonder if he will take advantage of any more such opportunities with outside linebacker Chandler Jones potentially out with a biceps injury.
Kingsbury told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta that the rookie first-round pick remains “right on schedule.”
“He is a heck of a football player and we need to find a way to get him on the field and boost his confidence,” the coach added.
PFF likes Humphries’ day
Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries had elite pass- and run-blocking grades by Pro Football Focus in the 90s.
And while the Cardinals lost Jones to injury, they got two sacks from backup outside linebacker Dennis Gardeck on just 10 defensive plays. Meanwhile, fellow backup outside backer Kylie Fitts posted the best overall defensive grade with two hurries and three total tackles.
Backup guards get some run
Max Garcia played 17 snaps at left guard in place of Justin Pugh, while Justin Murray spent 38 snaps (50% of the snaps) at right guard for J.R. Sweezy, who injured his elbow.
Murray was in and appeared to hold up well on two late scoring drives when the Cardinals put the game out of reach with touchdowns.
“He did a nice job,” Kingsbury said. “We were all so impressed with the way he came in and got thrown in the fire last year and handled himself and continued to progress. We’ve seen more progression this year through training camp and being able to play inside, I think he’s found a home. He’s athletic in there and did a nice job when he was called upon yesterday.”
No thumb, no problem
Safety Budda Baker made his return from thumb surgery to nonchalantly lead Arizona with 10 tackles and a sack.
“Thumb felt great,” he said. “I was in a cast so I didn’t feel it. It’s kind of an adjustment when the ball comes but other than that, I’m able to use my shoulders more. It was good. It was fun just to be back on the field with teammates and come out here and get the W.”