JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2021 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Arizona Cardinals senior writer/director of editorial content Darren Urban on the Cardinals' matchup with the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Q: The Cardinals are 2-0, having beaten the Minnesota Vikings in dramatic fashion, 34-33, Sunday. How do the Cardinals feel about themselves – and their season – as they prepare for the Jaguars?
A: You can't complain about being 2-0 and that was the message from almost all the players Sunday. It doesn't matter how you get to the win, you just get the win. They absolutely know they have to fix some things. They probably should have won by a bigger margin Sunday; they didn't frankly because of [the sort of] mistakes they have made over the last couple of years. [Quarterback] Kyler Murray talked about it. [Head Coach] Kliff Kingsbury knows it. Ultimately, if the choice is 2-0 or not 2-0, you want to be 2-0. But they're very aware there are things they need to fix.
Q: Where does this team need to improve the most?
A:This goes back to even last year: consistency. They started well last season and they hit these lulls on both sides of the ball that feel kind of unexplainable. You came out in Week 1 and looked like you might have one of the better defenses in the NFL with the way you handled the Tennessee Titans and running back Derrick Henry [in a 38-13 Cardinals victory] – then Sunday, they looked like they weren't ready to play. Kingsbury after the game admitted, "We were flat for some reason." They just didn't seem locked in for whatever reason. You can't have that defensively on a week-to-week basis. Offensively, they do so many good things – and then they'll do little things at the end of the game. Murray looked like they lost Sunday when he first came in to talk to the media. He knew they had had opportunities to win on their own and they didn't. That's frustrating to him. They ended up winning the game. They did do a lot of really good things. If they can just get a little bit better, they can be in the thick of things. You see flashes for long enough that you think they should be able to do these things more often. That's where they're trying to figure some things out.
Q: What is this team offensively when it's right?
A:When the Cardinals are right, it's a tempo-type offense. You're spreading the ball around. They want to get the ball to [wide receiver] DeAndre Hopkins a lot more than they did Sunday; he had four early catches and a touchdown, then wasn't targeted the rest of the game. I expect that to change. When they're right, a lot of guys are getting the ball and Murray is running only in specific situations. They would like to get their running backs a little more consistent than is showing. This is a team that can get 400 yards and 30 points and when it's over you think, "How many more yards and points could they have had if they had played a clean game?" It boggles the mind a little bit, but they can get yards and points with the best of them, yet they never have seemed to have found their nirvana on offense just yet.
Q: Assess Murray. Where is he in his development?
A: He's getting there. There are still some things he needs to improve upon. The interceptions against the Vikings … Kingsbury made the point that it's a fine line because there are times high-level quarterbacks want to let it loose and to be able to make a play. We've seen that with a lot of quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre or whoever. Murray can fall into the trap where he thinks his talent will get the play done – and a lot of times it will, but there are times when it bites him. He's still learning on that, but after two games he looks more comfortable in the pocket. He's still really good outside the pocket, but he looks like he's better in the pocket and he looks like he's better maneuvering intermediate, middle-of-the-field throws than he was last season. He's definitely smarter at the line of scrimmage. You can tell he understands defenses better than he did two seasons ago. He's comfortable making the call where he wasn't before. That obviously has benefitted this team.
Q: Where are the Cardinals defensively?
A: They looked like game wreckers in Week 1; they looked anything but that Sunday. They're going to have to figure out something. [Defensive end] Chandler Jones isn't going to get five sacks every game (which he did in Week 1). [Defensive end] JJ Watt has been solid if not spectacular. They got run over on the ground Sunday. You have to be more sound defending the run. If they do that, everything flows off that. That's what really hurt them Sunday. That's what they're definitely going to work on this week.
Q:What does success look like for the Cardinals this season?
A: There's always a nuance there. You can't get away from the fact that this team started 6-3 last season, thought they were going to the playoffs and didn't. There is a certain amount – for lack of a better term – pressure to get there, but it's tough when you're in arguably the toughest division in the NFL (the NFC West). It's going to build as the season goes in. There are so many things that go into it. If Murray gets hurt, it's tough to say, "Well, you should have made the playoffs" if he misses part of the season. But if everybody stays healthy, yes … I think it will be a disappointment if they don't make the playoffs. What happens off that, we'll see. But they're definitely feeling the postseason is somewhere they're supposed to be.