Faster start key for Cardinals against Patriots
The Arizona Cardinals boast the NFL’s top offense in terms of total yards and the league’s second-ranked rushing attack.
While those rankings should put a smile on a coach’s face, Kliff Kingsbury found himself pondering why his high-powered club is often sluggish out of the gate.
“That’s a great question and one we’re trying to figure out,” Kingsbury said as the Cardinals (6-4) prepare to face the New England Patriots (4-6) on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.
“Like I’ve said all along, we’ve had some really positive moments offensively, (but) we still lead the league in negative plays, which is something we have to get cleaned up as we enter the back half of the schedule.”
Arizona has found itself trailing after the first quarter in each of its last four games.
The Cardinals potentially have another question on their hands, and that is the health of Kyler Murray. The dynamic dual-threat quarterback was testing his right throwing shoulder during Wednesday’s practice, six days after injuring it during Arizona’s 28-21 setback to Seattle.
While Murray officially was listed as limited in practice, star wideout DeAndre Hopkins (illness) joined tight ends Maxx Williams (illness) and Darrell Daniels (ankle), safeties Jalen Thompson (ankle) and Charles Washington (groin) and defensive end Josh Mauro (hamstring) in sitting out the session.
Hopkins, who has an NFL-best 912 receiving yards, likely will be looking into the eyes of 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore on Sunday.
“I think everybody knows,” Gilmore said on the Patriots’ flagship radio station, when asked who he would be covering on Sunday.
Fellow wideouts Christian Kirk (team-high six receiving touchdowns) and 11-time Pro Bowl selection Larry Fitzgerald could also pose problems for the Patriots, who will have to limit an offense that has averaged a league-best 414.3 total yards per game.
Running backs Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds join Murray (10 rushing touchdowns) in helping Arizona average 157.7 yards per game on the ground.
New England quarterback Cam Newton was quick to praise Murray, who is off to a fast start toward changing the game.
“Kyler is a person who is electric,” said Newton, who has seen his fair share of electric quarterbacks of late.
“You know, I’ve had the opportunity to see Lamar (Jackson, Baltimore quarterback), I’ve had the opportunity to play against, obviously, Deshaun (Watson, Houston quarterback) last week. Kyler this week, it’s just fun to play against a guy like that. As well as knowing that the game is turning to that style of quarterback, who can not only attack you with their legs, but as well as – as potent with his legs as with his arm as well.”
Newton’s Patriots won their second straight game at the expense of Jackson and the Ravens on Nov. 15 before dropping a 27-20 decision to the Texans last Sunday.
Newton threw for 365 yards against Houston, with Damiere Byrd enjoying a breakout game with six catches for a career-best 132 yards and a touchdown. Byrd leads the team in receiving yards (469), while his 32 catches are one shy of versatile running back James White.
Fellow wideout N’Keal Harry, who had five receptions versus the Texans, was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a shoulder injury.
He wasn’t alone as the Patriots listed 11 players with that designation — including Gilmore (hand), linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (groin), defensive end Lawrence Guy (shoulder, elbow, knee), offensive guard Shaq Mason (calf), special teams ace Matthew Slater (knee) and kicker Nick Folk (back) among others.
–Field Level Media