Arizona struggled against the Lions Week 1, losing the game 35-23. But the biggest loss of the game was not in the win-loss column; running back David Johnson went down with a dislocated wrist that needed to be surgically repaired Thursday. Johnson’s timetable to return was originally put at 8-12 weeks, but that is now said to be a bit optimistic. The biggest factor in how quick Johnson will return to the field will be based on the relevance of the Cardinals later in the season. If Arizona can’t stay in playoff contention, Johnson will most likely take his time getting back to the field, and perhaps not return at all in 2017. So can the Cardinals stay in the hunt for the playoffs, or will they be unable to bounce back from this big loss?
Week 1 Recap
The Cardinals had a hot start against the Lions, with Justin Bethel intercepting Stafford’s first pass of the game and taking it back to the house. Arizona led 10-0 at the end of the 1st quarter after adding a Phil Dawson field goal.
Late in the 3rd quarter, the Cardinals held a 17-9 lead and looked in control of the game. Then the wheels fell off the wagon. Detroit rattled off 26 straight points and never looked back, with Matt Stafford leading his team with four touchdowns and 292 yards through the air.
Obviously, the biggest disappointment for the Cardinals was the loss of David Johnson, but Johnson struggled before leaving the game, rushing for just 23 yards on 11 carries before going down. The Cardinals as a team only earned 45 yards on the ground on 18 attempts, for a pitiful average of 2.5 yards per carry. Carson Palmer threw the ball 48 times, which is way too many for a team that had the lead for most of the game, and threw three picks in the process. If Arizona’s winning strategy involves that many passes from Palmer, then the Cardinals can call it a year right now. One bright spot was Larry Fitzgerald, who looked young as ever, leading Arizona with 13 targets, catching six for 74 yards.
The biggest concern for the Cardinals moving forward is definitely their running game. Their inability to run is what got them into trouble in Week 1, and now with Johnson out, running the ball just got even harder. Kerwynn Williams is taking over as the feature back in Arizona; Williams has averaged 5.4 yards per attempt in his limited 103 career rushes, and will now get his chance to step up in Johnson’s absence.
The Cardinals’ immediate schedule should give them an opportunity to adjust to life without David Johnson. Arizona will play the Colts and 49ers in two of the next three weeks, which should be easy results for Bruce Arians and the crew. After that, the Cardinals go up against some tough defenses with the Seahawks, Rams, Texans, Jaguars and the Giants. If Arizona is unable to run the ball against these harsh opponents, it’s going to be tough sledding this season for them.
Bruce Arians knows how to run an offense, that is enough for me. Losing David Johnson is tough, but I believe Arians is going to figure out how to get his run game going. Carson Palmer’s three picks don’t worry me because normally he won’t be asked to throw the ball that many times. Most importantly the defense looks good, and when you lose a guy like Johnson, you need a defense that you can lean on at times. The Cardinals won’t win the division, I still think that will go to Seattle, but a wild-card berth is still very possible in Arizona this year.
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