We’re back again with the next segment in the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Seth Cox of Revenge of the Birds answers 5 quick questions before the Week 8 matchup on Sunday: the New Orleans Saints hosting the Arizona Cardinals and #1 overall pick Kyler Murray.
The Cardinals have won three straight, but those wins were against the 1-6 Falcons, the 0-7 Bengals, and 2-5 Giants. Beyond just the record, what is the current status of this team? Are the playoffs in sight or is this a rebuilding year?
This is a rebuilding year where they are hoping to compete against the good teams and beat the bad ones. That’s really what they have done outside of a bad fourth quarter against the Panthers and a bad game against the Seahawks. I think that is what you do when you are on your second head coach and rookie quarterback in two years.
It seems like the Cardinals got it right this time, at least with Kingsbury and Murray. The team has done quite well offensively, especially when you consider that they were one of the worst offenses in NFL history in 2018. To see them use a number of different game plans in almost every game, it makes you excited about the future and you hope to not get overly excited and expect too much too fast. If you remember this is a 6-7 win team at best, then you feel like they are heading in the right direction.
How has Kyler Murray looked when forced to air it out? The Saints have been an above-average rush defense the past two years, so is Murray in a position to beat opposing teams with his arm?
One of the most amazing things about Murray this year is how good he is at protecting the football. He has four interceptions despite throwing the ball 259 times on the season (that is the sixth most attempts in the NFL). In the games against the Lions and Falcons, Murray has really done a great job of leading the team on offense. Add in the fact that the Cardinals have began to use his legs a bit more in the last three games, and you can see that he is creating the 11 on 11 offensive matchup that the Cardinals hoped he would.
The biggest issue right now is that they lack talent around Murray in the passing game. If David Johnson and Christian Kirk are out, they are probably the top two receiving options on the team, then it begins to be the Larry Fitzgerald show.
Fitz is a no-doubt Hall of Famer, but he is also 36 and more Jason Witten than Michael Thomas at this point in his career.
That’s not to make too much of an excuse, but if the Cardinals hold DJ and Kirk out, it may be a bit too much for a rookie to overcome, even one as good as Murray has been against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
What about the defense? If you were Sean Payton, how would you game plan to attack the Cardinals’ defense?
Do you have five skill players on the field? That’s legitimately the only question the Saints will have to ask in this game because of how great their offensive line is.
The Cardinals are not bad at stopping teams for a drive or two, but if you have a good offense, you’ll look great. I can’t imagine what the Saints will look like, especially if Drew Brees plays and is trying to get back into rhythm heading into the bye week.
Patrick Peterson being back should “help” a bit. Maybe they hold Michael Thomas under 100 yards? However, whether it is Alvin Kamara or Latavius Murray, they’ll get yards on the ground, opponents average 28 carries for 129 yards a game. Although they don’t give up many rushing touchdowns, only three on the season.
That’s because the pass defense, much of which was without their projected top two corners in Patrick Peterson (back from a six game suspension) and Robert Alford (on IR and may return but has not played a game) missed the first six weeks. However, they are giving up staggering numbers in the passing game:
263 yards, over two touchdowns per game, completing 69.7% of pass attempts and they have ONE!!!! Interception on the season. One. As in the least in the NFL while having given up the most passing touchdowns in the NFL.
Through seven games, you can roll out anyone and put up numbers on the Cardinals defense. Which is why when you go back to the first question, the growth on the offense is extremely exciting but has to be tempered with the defensive woes that stem from just a lack of talent. Or scheme. Or both.
Anyways, the game plan is to show up.
Who is one player on each side of the ball that Saints fans might not be familiar with who you expect to make an impact on the final outcome of the game?
I assume people are aware of Chase Edmonds now since Matthew Berry ranted about him?
If not Edmonds is a really, really dynamic running back; just shifty, quick, and explosive in the ground game. He’ll likely get the bulk of the running work. From there it is a mashup of guys who are probably playing a bit over their head.
Trent Sherfield has shown some things the last several games, but that is a guy who was a projected WR6 and key special teamer and has four catches for 80 yards on the season.
KeeSean Johnson has 17 catches for 151 yards.
Honestly, if the Cardinals are going to be successful in this game (meaning keep it close) it will be from Murray and Fitz doing the heavy lifting in the passing game and Murray and Edmonds doing it in the rushing game.
The little secret this season has been Maxx Williams. The former second round pick of the Baltimore Ravens has been healthy and he is just fantastic in the running game and then has done enough in the passing game to keep him relevant. He is only seeing about 55% of the snaps in a game, and he is on pace to put up career numbers receiving.
On defense it has been rookie cornerback Byron Murphy. He has had up and down coverage grades every week, but now he is not being asked to cover the best receiver on the opposition as a rookie, and he can use his physicality as the second corner and against the run.
There is also Corey Peters, who Saints fans I assume are familiar with because of his time in Atlanta, he has really been the only consistent performer on the defense. He is great in the run game and has started to add some pass rush push this season. I don’t expect it to matter this week though.
What is your prediction for the game? Who wins? Final score?
If the Saints offensive line, like the entire offensive line, gets food poisoning then maybe the Cardinals. Outside of that, this is one of those games where as a Cardinals fan, you want to see the team compete and keep it close. Don’t get blown out, show that you are heading in the right direction and that the gap is less than it was last year in a similar game where the Cardinals lost to the Chargers 45-10 and lost to the Falcons 40-14.
I like to think that will be what happens this week, the Cardinals lose, but look like they are heading in the right direction.
Thank-you, Seth, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Seth and the work his guys are doing over at Revenge of the Birds. You can follow Revenge of the Birds on Twitter @RevengeofBirds, Seth @SCoxFB, and of course you can follow me @dunnellz.