Still room for improvement: 3 things the Arizona Cardinals must do better

Posted at 5:51 PM, Sep 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-20 20:51:24-04

The Arizona Cardinals bounced back from an embarrassing Week 1 loss with a 40-7 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

It's the kind of stomping that should satisfy Cards coach Bruce Arians, a notoriously difficult man to please.


Arians has a point: As dominant as the Cards were Sunday, there definitely remains some room for improvement heading into their first road game of the season this coming Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Here are three areas in which the Cards need to get better -- one on offense, one on defense, and one on special teams.

1. David Johnson's route running

This sounds a bit ridiculous since David Johnson is the Cardinals' most dynamic player on offense...

...but Arians singled Johnson out for criticism Monday, noting the second-year pro made some "mental errors" that cost the Cardinals a pair of touchdowns, including an incorrect route he ran that nearly led to a Carson Palmer interception in the end zone.

The exceedingly humble Johnson, who's as dangerous a receiver as he is a running back, took responsibility for those mistakes and said he has some work to do. If he corrects those mistakes in the future, just imagine how good the Cardinals' offense could become.

2. More pressure from Chandler Jones

After Sunday's win, Arians handed out two game balls -- both to members of the Cards' secondary. Safety Tony Jefferson, who has led the team in tackles each of the first two weeks, and newly-signed cornerback Marcus Cooper (two interceptions) were the recipients.

But in terms of getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the Cardinals have just been OK. In particular, Arians would like to see more from linebacker Chandler Jones, a 2015 Pro Bowler whom the Cards acquired from New England in the offseason to boost their anemic pass rush.

Jones recorded his second sack of the season Sunday, but he did so in garbage time when the game was no longer in doubt. "I'd like to see him get one in the second or third quarter when it counts more than when you've got a 30-point lead," Arians said.

3. Shore up the long snapping

It sounds like such a small thing, but as the Cardinals know, it can loom very large. Quality snaps on field goals and extra points is critical to kickers' accuracy; a bad one can cost a team points and, as it did in Week 1 for the Cardinals, the entire football game.

Cards rookie long snapper Kam Canaday has had his struggles early in the season, most notably on a poor snap that led to a miss by kicker Chandler Catanzaro on a potential game-winning 47-yard field goal in the final minute of the Cards' Week 1 loss to the Patriots. Canaday struggled again against the Bucs, producing another bad snap on an extra point that Catanzaro was nonetheless able to cope with.

SB Nation's Rodger Sherman did an excellent job of dissecting Canaday's bad snap against the Patriotsand outlining just how important long snappers are to a team. Canaday must cease being a liability to the Cardinals going forward. As we know, it's not an overstatement to suggest that one poor snap could be the difference between winning or losing the Super Bowl in four months.