We ask about the Cardinals’ run defense, why Kyler Murray hasn’t been running as much this season, and more.
On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns’ take on the Arizona Cardinals. To help preview a few topics from the Cardinals’ perspective, we reached out to Seth Cox from Revenge of the Birds and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “The Cardinals’ defense ranks 28th in the NFL in rushing yards and 31st in yards allowed per carry. Are those stats valid indicators that the Cardinals are bad at stopping the run?”
Seth: “It’s funny, because if you go back to game one against the Tennessee Titans and what they did to Derrick Henry you’re like… damn this run defense is good.
Since then they’ve been bad to awful, allowing 177 yards to the Vikings, 159 yards to the Jaguars, 122 yards to the Rams then 152 yards to the 49ers. How do you only allow Derrick freaking Henry to rush for 58 yards on 17 carries but James Robinson and Carlos Hyde combine for 23 for 132?
I wish I had a solid answer for you but the only thing I can say is they stop them when it matters so far. They get gashed in between the 20’s then seem to tighten up inside the red zone. Despite giving up yards at a premium in the run game, they have allowed three rushing touchdowns all season. One to Ryan Tannehill, one to James Robinson and one to Deebo Samuel. I know it counts all the same, but only one running back has scored a rushing touchdown all year. I wish I could explain it, but it makes no sense.”
Chris: “The Browns might catch a break this week with Chandler Jones unlikely to play. How has J.J. Watt performed for Arizona, and who will fill Arizona’s pass-rushing void with him gone?”
Seth: “J.J. started slowly but the last two weeks has been a dominator. He’s making a ton of plays in the backfield and or getting consistent pressure. He hasn’t closed the deal on a sack yet, but he was close four different times in the 49ers game and drew two penalties.
Without Jones the Cardinals will rely on Markus Golden, Zach Allen, and newly healthy Dennis Gardeck who posted the most insane pass rushing season anyone has ever seen last season. He rushed the passer 94 times last season and finished with seven sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Basically every fourth snap he was getting to the quarterback. I don’t know if he’ll have that again this year coming off a knee injury, but he did well in 2020.”
Chris: “Kyler Murray has run the ball in the past a lot, but looking at the stats this year, he seems to be doing it far less often. Has there been a concerted effort for the offense to not rely on him taking off as much?”
Seth: “I think it is a combination of him growing and the team not needing it. Against the Rams he scrambled for a couple big first downs, but outside of that he tends to scramble to make a play with his arm. The Browns present a unique challenge though because Myles Garrett is a freak and they have Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah that can spy Murray as well if he does scramble. It’ll be interesting to see if they use him a little more in design runs against the Browns or if they continue to let him only run when he feels it is there.”
Chris: “Which rookie from the Cardinals’ 2021 draft class has made the biggest contribution this season?”
Seth: “Second round pick Rondale Moore is a flat out problem for other teams. The biggest issue is he doesn’t get used a ton because the Cardinals offense has been so good. Yet he is second in total yards for all rookies this year and seems to make 1-2 impact plays a game. However, fourth round pick Marco Wilson is the easy answer. Wilson has been a gem of a day three pick, starting four games (he was injured and missed the 49ers game) and holding his own much better than expected. Wilson’s emergence has made the Cardinals secondary something to watch with all of the youth they have back there.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player who Browns fans may not have heard of, but who could have an impact on this Sunday’s game.”
Seth: “I’ll give you two. You probably know who Byron Murphy Jr. is but if you do not, learn the name because he is one the brink of becoming a star. He’s taken his game to a whole new level in 2021, and with that has come more responsibilities and higher expectations. He’s been phenomenal in 2021.
The other is Jalen Thompson, another of the young secondary. He gets lost in the shuffle because of playing with an All Pro in Budda Baker, but he has emerged as the perfect safety to complement what Budda does. Thompson is flying around this year and making his presence known.
Good luck to the Browns and I hope for health coming out of the game for both teams.”
Thanks again to Seth for taking the time to answer my questions.