After continually suggesting the Cardinals wouldn't carry their preseason struggles into the opening week of the regular season, Arizona's offense floundered in the first half against New England, amassing just seven points in an uninspiring effort.
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he expects Arizona to improve in the first half this week, especially considering he doesn't think the Cardinals' offense can get any worse than what it showed against New England.
"It can't get any worse than what we saw last week in my opinion," Goodwin said. "We're way too good for that, we have way better personnel than we had in the past compared to some of the early teams we had when I first got here. We're just talented at every position, so we've got to play a lot better than that."
Goodwin suggested Arizona eased itself into the game against New England, as the Cardinals' offense started the game with three consecutive punts.
"Big game, especially coming off of last week, we'll do a better job offensively, starting off fast, coming out of the gate," Goodwin said. "We cannot ease ourself into the game, we have to make sure that we're executing at a high level at all positions, make sure we're all on the same page, but I would anticipate a better start than we had last week."
Starting running back David Johnson had 11 rushing yards after the team's first three series, and Johnson notched seven of those yards on a single carry. Arizona's offensive line failed to get push until the second half against New England's defensive front, which contributed to the team's struggles.
Goodwin said Thursday that Tampa Bay's defensive line will once again challenge Arizona in the run game, and said the Cardinals need to do a better job establishing a physical tone early in the game.
"Their front seven is some of the best in the business. Kwon Alexander, you've got (Gerald) McCoy inside, they're a very good defensive front, so we've got a tough task ahead, especially in protection. We've got to try to slow them down just by hammering them in the run game so it's going to be key that we get off to a good start."
The Cardinals only called 17 run plays Sunday night against New England, as quarterback Carson Palmer attempted 37 passes. Goodwin said he hopes Johnson and backup Chris Johnson, who was limited to just one carry for two yards in the shortest outing of his NFL career, receive more carries this week against Tampa Bay.
"A little bit out of my control, but we ran it last week, I thought David (Johnson) had a good game running the football," Goodwin said. "Selfishly, me as an O-line coach, I'd like to get him more touches but sometimes the way the game goes, it dictates what happens. For me, yeah, I'd like to, because we all know it's a long season, especially if we're trying to get to where we'd like to go. So I'd like to see Chris (Johnson) out there, but at the end of the day, that's still BA's (head coach Bruce Arians) call and it's all based off the flow of the game. It's hard when you've got a guy that's hot, and David is going to be hot a lot, but obviously Chris wants to play, he's earned the right to play so we'll see how it goes."
The disparity in carries was mildly surprising considering the Cardinals have touted their running back depth as a team strength, but earlier this week, both Arians and Palmer indicated Arizona is adopting a featured back approach that will showcase David Johnson and have Chris Johnson spell him only when David needs time off.
This is a stark contrast to the direction most NFL teams are moving toward in terms of sharing repetitions in the backfield, but the Cardinals have been outspoken in their belief that David Johnson is one of the league's premier backs.
"He (David Johnson) did, after he had that long run, he tapped out," Goodwin said. "And then I think there was a timeout, or a TV timeout or something and BA (Arians) said, 'get your butt back in there,' so yeah, he knows when to tap out because at the end of the day, he knows it's a deep room from a position standpoint as far as having guys that are quality backups."