The road for the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) doesn’t appear to be getting any easier as the Arizona Cardinals (2-0) come to Duval for a 1 p.m. kickoff at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday. The game will be broadcast (to a very small audience) on Fox.
To help us get better perspective on what to expect from this 2021 Cardinals squad, we spoke with Seth Cox, site manager for Revenge of the Birds — SB Nation’s quintessential website for all things Arizona Cardinals.
1. The Cardinals have started out the season 2-0. What has worked well for Arizona so far? What would you like to see the team improve upon moving forward?
Seth: The Cardinals offense has been steady through both wins this season, amassing points and yards at a high clip. The defense was phenomenal against the Titans, while it struggled mightily in the first half and really all game against the run against the Vikings. So, to answer your question the Cardinals have been good with moving the ball and getting in the end zone. A lot of that is the dynamic playmakers they have now blessed Kyler Murray with.
What can they improve upon? Consistency. Like I said, the defensive effort in game two was lackluster against the run, while the offensive line play against the Vikings also left something to be desired. If they want to be a true contender, they’ll need constant effort on both lines this season.
2. Quarterback Kyler Murray has played well through two games, outside of throwing three interceptions, as he has completed 73.5 percent of his passes, thrown seven touchdowns and is making ridiculous throws like like this one or like this one. What has Murray’s progression been like over the years, and what is the best way for a struggling Jacksonville defense to try to contain Murray’s effectiveness on Sunday?
Seth: Year one was obviously about learning and adapting to the NFL. In year two, he became a more complete player, while also unleashing his legs more often. The problem was once he got hurt and wasn’t as big of a threat to run, the team and the offense slowed down.
So, what was his goal this year? To start winning more from the pocket. It’s happening and that is going to make him pretty darn tough to stop.
The key to Murray is that you still want to ask him to beat you from the pocket because when he’s running around that is when the insanity happens. He’s a very good quarterback right now from the pocket as opposed to an average one, but he is virtually unstoppable when he gets out of the pocket and can make plays with his legs or arm.
3. Now in the third year of the regime, how do Cardinals fans generally view head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his staff?
Seth: Coming into the year there was probably 60-70 percent of fans who were done with him. Which is sad, but as Jaguars fans, you know the fast food approach to coaching success. If it’s not now it’s not good.
After two weeks people are now much more willing to give him more rope. They like the offense, still have issues with penalties and discipline at time, but if the offense is humming most people are happy.
4. Are there any lesser-known players on the Cardinals who could impact the game on Sunday? Give us one on offense and one on defense.
Seth: Byron Murphy Jr. has been phenomenal this season at cornerback. He’s taking the next step on year three to being a big time player in this league. Jalen Thompson had a dynamic rookie year in 2019, was battling injuries in 2020, and has come out and played very well at safety again in 2021. He’s a sure tackler and does a nice job on the backend of the defense.
Offensively, Maxx Williams is typically a bulldozing blocking tight end, but had a career day receiving against the Vikings. He’s again an injury-plagued player who has played well early.
Finally, rookie cornerback Marco Wilson, who I am sure many Jags fans are familiar with (he played collegiately with the Florida Gators), was fantastic in game one. He suffered an ankle injury in game two, and his exit was obvious. If he is back this week, he’s a fun player to watch.
5. Chandler Jones had five sacks and two forced fumbles against the Tennessee Titans in the opener, but was quiet against the Minnesota Vikings last week. How were the Vikings able to neutralize Jones and do you think the Jaguars will be able to do the same thing?
Seth: Jones adjusted well in the second half and made plays in the backfield against the run, while not getting to the quarterback. If you want to continue to hold him down, make sure you get the ball out quick, use the rollout and boot game away from him, and if you are going deep, send two to three guys his way. It worked well for the Vikings. If you try and single block him every play, it’ll be a rough day for Trevor Lawrence.
Bonus: Score prediction?
Seth: As a Cardinals fan, we are not accustomed to the idea of being good. That means this game feels like a true test of where they are. Come in and take care of business and you are moving into that playoff team category. Struggle or lose and it feels like Week One was a mirage, and Week Two was all luck.
So, since it is early and we still have hope, I’m going Cardinals 35 Jaguars 20.
Good luck and let’s have an injury free game.
A huge thank you to Seth for taking time out of his busy schedule to provide great insights and analysis into Arizona. You can follow Seth on Twitter, and for all things Cardinals, be sure to follow Revenge of the Birds as well.