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*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
Well, 45-10 Denver about says it all. Arizona under the gun as a staff, and a big solo night spotlight game to kinda send a message that they would mix up the offense and come out and attack…and the Cards get the ball first, run up the middle to nowhere with David Johnson for the millionth time this season, and then can’t lineup on play #2, forcing them to call a timeout – a timeout on the 2nd play of the game. It was a sign of the disastrous onslaught to come.
I was torn watching this because I wanted David Johnson to have a nice game for FF, but I also needed the Cards to humiliate themselves to get Mike McCoy fired from the NFL once and for all. The latter happened. Now we have hope going forward with DJ & Friends. I’ll get to new O-C Byron Leftwich and the ramifications at the very end. I’ll clear the other notes and then open all that up for the finale.
Denver stops a 4-game skid to jump to 3-4…two wins this season over arguably two of the three worst teams in football (OAK and ARI). 7-9 is our current projection for them with a tilt towards 6-10. Denver has talent…they’re just poorly coached. Fortunately, they’ve faced a couple even worse coached teams this season/this game.
Arizona is a joke. From the stadium, literally, solid orange with Denver fans…so much so when Arizona butchered things, and you expected a chorus of ‘boos’…there was an odd roar/cheering from the heavy majority Denver fans who took over the stadium. I wonder what the Cardinals’ players thought looking up into the stands of a TNF game at Arizona and seeing nothing but orange? The way they played was probably my answer.
The Cardinals might get 3 wins this season, if they’re lucky. My minor bet on them surpassing 5 wins this season looks up in smoke. However, their schedule breaks the next 3 weeks (SF, at KC, OAK) + a new, no-history on O-C…Arizona might sneak two home game wins against weak opponents and jump to 3-7 after 10 games. Not sure there is two more wins after that on their schedule though.
OK, clearing minor game notes first and then we tackle the new O-C…
Fantasy Player Notes:
-- This game was out of hand quick, defensive scores, a trick play TD. The Broncos just needed to run out the clock. Royce Freeman (13-37-1) was in a split, but as a ‘lead’ early but then he got nicked up and Phillip Lindsay (14-90-1, 1-6-0/1) started taking more work.
This game was so unnatural/not normal…hard to say Denver was ready to throw to Lindsay more as a ‘Kamara’ or not…as they were last week. I’m interested in Lindsay as a ‘Kamara’ not this 10-13 carries and 1 target a game stuff, but this was not a normal game, so the targets may be coming.
Freeman is going nowhere fast in this offense.
-- For what it is worth, I think Josh Rosen (21-39 for 194 yards, 1 TD/3 INTs) is playing well. I see sparks of a talent, a lesser ‘new age’ QB. Don’t blame him for this Mike McCoy/Steve Wilks disaster offense.
-- Use this game to buy all the cheap Christian Kirk (3-57-0/6) stock you can. Dynasty or redraft, to sit on to see if he’ll breakout fully with the new O-C. Kirk is going to be a steady WR1.5 in PPR in the future…WR2-2.5 in 2018, WR1.5 in 2019+.
-- Courtland Sutton (1-28-1/3) made a beautiful catch on that ‘Philly Special’ TD…and then had no catches the rest of the game from the real QB.
This win gives Denver false playoff hope, so they will likely not trade Demaryius Thomas…and thus Sutton is nothing much for redraft. I’m holding him as a last roster spot where I can, in case they do make a DT deal, but as soon as the trade deadline comes and DT is still there…I’m done in redraft. In dynasty, he’ll be a superstar one day.
If you want in for the future in dynasty…maybe, wait for DT not to get traded, and then Sutton is a boring WR3-4 every week the ROS and you can ‘buy low’.
-- Bradley Chubb (3 tackles, 2 sacks) now has 5.0 sacks the past two games and 6.5 sacks on the season. I agree with Ross Jacobs’ assessment…he hasn’t looked ‘awesome’ but he’s getting the sacks, some off created pressure by others. For IDP it’s working.
Chubb’s just a really good, smooth player…so, he looks low key but he’s really just super talented.
-- Cardinals SAF Rudy Ford (3 tackles, 1.0 TFL) started his first game. He’s a pretty solid player but was a bit over his head here. He’ll be interesting if he gets more starts and gets his footing.
How Deone Bucannon is barely playing and Rudy Ford is starting is just so ‘Steve Wilks’ being outta touch. Boy, what a nightmare his early HC tenure has been. He’s not long for the head coaching world it appears. He may be lucky to get to 2019.
-- OK, Byron Leftwich. Here’s what I know about him…
His journey to coaching:
He was a college star QB at Marshall, known for his odd (lumpy) body but had everything else – the arm, the skills, toughness and was a leader. Became a 1st-round/top 10 pick for the Jaguars in 2003.
Was hot and cold as an NFL QB, more ‘cold’/disappointing with some hot moments. Mostly, his NFL bio is him breaking bones in games…bad breaks, literally and figuratively. It would take a while to list all his broken bones in his career that halted his stint wherever he was at…with multiple teams in the NFL.
He became a coveted backup QB because he was a ‘coach on the field’ type. He was a key backup QB to Ben Roethlisberger in 2008. So good, he parlayed that into a 2-year/$17M deal to be Tampa Bay’s QB in 2009. He was an instant failure and then broke a bone and went on IR. Was cut and went back to the Steelers in 2010, broke a bone and was cut. Went to Atlanta 2011, broke a bone and was cut. Back to the Steelers in 2012, his final NFL season (a backup…and broke a rib when pressed into duty and was gone for good).
Leftwich was gone from the NFL scene 2013-2016.
Bruce Arians, who was the QB coach and O-C for the Steelers during Leftwich’s time there, LOVED Leftwich. Predicted he’d be an NFL head coach someday. Leftwich had no such plans post-playing days. Arians kept chasing Leftwich to join him in Arizona. Eventually, Leftwich relented and came in 2016 as an intern working with the QBs. He must have done well as an intern…he was named QB Coach six months later in the beginning of 2017. Arians said Leftwich would be a head coach soon, upon his promotion.
Respected enough that when Arians left, Leftwich was retained by Steve Wilks as QB coach under the ‘hack’ Mike McCoy. Now, just 2.3 years from the time he started as an intern for Arizona…he’s an offensive coordinator. That’s quite a coaching career so far.
What we know about Leftwich as an O-C = nothing. He’s barely been an NFL coach for two years, but he obviously knows the game in and out as a player-coach type back in the day, playing under multiple coaches and O-Cs in his career.
What do we think we know?
Well, the good news is…Leftwich probably doesn’t have a notebook of plays he’s been working on since 1977 when he started interning for some ancient college coach decades ago. Leftwich is a blank slate, of sorts.
We also know he’s a Bruce Arians ‘guy’…and he was there when David Johnson became a star. He probably leans towards Arians’ offensive philosophies and playbook. A good thing for those of us longing for the old DJ to reappear.
However, there’s this thing I think you’ll like… I’ve read and seen some interviews with Leftwich – he’s been asked about his offensive philosophy and plays, etc. He refuses to answer, and responds by saying he isn’t giving away any info and doesn’t understand why NFL head coaches reveal so much of their plans to the media.
He said what?
Thank God someone in the NFL has some sense about them. It takes an ‘outsider’ to this game to change it…Leftwich may be that guy. He strikes me as anti-establishment but with the gravitas of a guy who did this (Spend 12 minutes with this when you can. You won’t regret it: https://youtu.be/Oa1JhHcGD7g ).
My gut feel from the way Leftwich has conducted his life…he’s not coaching because he needs the money. He’s not coaching because he has a borrowed philosophy to force in. He was a ‘Brett Favre-ish’ QB without the high-end talent of Favre. I don’t think he’s a slam the ball up the middle kinda O-C…he’s likely more of an Arians – let’s let it rip and get the best players the ball. I don’t think Leftwich is the run a bunch, punt often, play not to lose kinda guy. He’s strikes me more as a go-for-it guy…not afraid to lose by trying to win.
There’s hope for a real offensive shift here, but it won’t be easy. Steve Wilks is still the head coach…a guy who lives to run to nowhere and punt often and tries hard not to lose. It will be interesting because if Wilks turns things over to Leftwich…I think Byron will do what he wants, and it will be counter to what Wilks wants. I don’t believe Leftwich will cower or bow to Wilks either. If it’s HIS offense, his job, his call…Leftwich is going out his way or he’ll walk away. If respected Leftwich walks away because he doesn’t want to work with Wilks…Wilks is done as a head coach forever. Leftwich actually has more gravitas and sway with the players than Wilks, so Wilks may have to just shut up and watch…that’s what he did with awful Mike McCoy…so, maybe the same with Leftwich.
Anything is better than Mike McCoy but there’s real hope here as Leftwich puts his stamp on it…has the Arians playbook/style to work from and knows exactly what David Johnson can do in that offense. It’s a bad O-Line and a rookie QB, but that means all the more they should hide behind DJ…in different alignments, not running up the middle every play.
This move has to help DJ, and Josh Rosen…which then helps Kirk-Fitz. How fast and to what degree? We’ll see. We have hope and change now, that’s all I could ask for after watching Arizona Weeks 1-7.
Snap Counts of Interest:
59 = Reddick
52 = Ford
34 = Golden
25 = Mayowa
22 = Pierre
07 = Bucannon
35 = Lindsay
18 = Freeman
06 = Booker