It’s Friday morning. I’m feeling great and just as I’m settling into my morning routine, the news breaks. Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has been fired. Many people felt that this was coming for the past few weeks. The news comes in the wake of a horrible Thursday night performance against the Denver Broncos.
Through the first six weeks of the season, the Cardinals ranked 32nd in total offense averaging just 220.7 yards per game. Week seven was more of the same. The Cardinals racked up just 223 total yards in last nights blow out against the Broncos. Rosen and the offense also coughed up the rock with five costly turnovers, two for pick sixes. Every time the offense came on to the field it seemed like they were turning the ball over.
The offensive line has been dealing with injuries. The rookie phenom Josh Rosen has struggled mightily. The coaching staff refuses to use David Johnson to his strengths. Ironman Larry Fitzgerald has seemingly lost a step. All huge problems for fantasy owners right now. So, the question becomes: Is the firing of Mike McCoy the answer to all these problems? In short, no. It isn’t. But it is a start. A more important question is, how does this affect fantasy owners going forward? Can we expect more production from some key players going forward? I’m not so sure.
Fantasy Implications: Arizona Cardinals
Coming out of the 2018 draft the Cardinals looked to have found their franchise QB. Although they may have, this season has been nothing spectacular for the rookie. Since getting the start over Sam Bradford in week four, Rosen has averaged just 196 passing yards per game. In that span, he has three touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s averaging 7.8 Fantasy Points Per Game (PPG) as seen in the chart above. Three of which came last night against the Broncos. In college, Rosen relied heavily on a strong offensive line to give him a good pocket to throw from. His athleticism is average at best but he succeeds the most when being able to work through his progressions.
In Mike McCoys West Coast-ish system, Rosen should have been able to dice defenses. In the above heat map, we see that Rosen has been fair when passing at short lengths but rarely ever pushes the ball down the field. However, poor offensive line play rarely gives Rosen a clean pocket to work from. We saw last night when he was sacked six times. Pressure getting to Rosen has created some ball security issues. He fumbled the ball three times last night, two of which were recovered by the defense.
Much of this comes down to more variables outside of just Mike McCoy. With no real resources being put into the offensive line, Rosens struggles are going to continue. Defenses will continue to force Rosen to throw and put pressure on him. Byron Leftwich, Rosens QB coach now takes over as OC. He’s very new to the coaching scene with only one year’s experience. He likely isn’t the savior for the Cardinals offense. For much of these reasons, Rosen is not a viable option for your fantasy team. Not now, at least.
Twitter is already flying with “Free David Johnson!” tweets. Let’s not get hasty here folks. For much of the reasons I explained above in the Rosen section, I believe Johnson will continue his ways for this season. Last night we saw Arizona run the ball just 21 times. 14 of those carries went to Johnson for just 39 yards. Under Mike McCoy, the offense has struggled to find any consistency with David Johnson. Mostly because they just don’t use him to their benefit. Johnson has only seen 20+ touches just three times in six games. But Johnson isn’t having a necessarily “bad” season so far.
through seven games in 2018, Johnson has 106 rushing attempts and 20 receptions for 501 yards from scrimmage and seven total TDs. For context, in the first seven games of 2016, Johnson had 143 rushing attempts and 28 receptions for 974 yards from scrimmage and eight total touchdowns. That’s a pretty big gap in terms of usage and production from then until now. The chart above shows just how big of a drop Johnson has had in average fantasy PPG from 16′-18′.
The heat map above gives us a visual of how the Cardinals have botched Johnsons production this far. As you can see, most Johnsons attempts have gone straight up the middle. More often than not, those boxes are stacked with eight-plus defenders. 33.02% of the time to be exact, Per NextGenStats. A combination of bad play calling and opposing defenses forcing Rosen to drop in the pocket have staggered Johnsons production this season. With the outing of McCoy, Johnson’s usage could go up a bit. How they use him remains an issue. I expect Johnson to see similar fantasy production moving forward.
Larry Fitzgerald & Christian Kirk
Neither Fitzgerald or Kirk have made a great impact this season from a fantasy perspective. Many thought that drafting Kirk would help open things up for Fitzgerald a bit more. So far, That hasn’t been the case. The pair has yet to establish themselves as centerpieces of the passing attack. Arizona ranks 31st in passing yards per game this season and it’s showing up in these receivers stat lines. We can take this back to the top and say its Rosen’s lack of ability to push the ball down the field and the offensive line. The fact is, it IS. The lack of passing production is linked directly to QB inefficiency and bad offensive scheme.
Larry Fitzgerald has been a target monster his entire career. In the past three seasons, he has averaged 152 targets per year. So far this season he’s on pace for just 93 targets. That’s a huge problem. Some of that is due to Christian Kirk receiving some love from Rosen. Kirk has garnered 39 targets so far this season. The chart above shows the percentage of weekly finishes for both Fitzgerald and Kirk. Only Kirk has finished inside the top 24 this season. But neither have been great fantasy options.
What’s even more puzzling is that Arizona ranks 13th in passing plays per game. 61.96% of their plays in seven games have been through the air. The Cardinals have also struggled to reach the red zone this season. A place where Fitzgerald has made hay in past seasons. The change at OC is not going to fix the problems through the air. However, we don’t know how Leftwich will scheme up ways to get the ball to both Fitzgerald and Kirk. Right now, owners should be wary.
The struggles of the Cardinals stem far deeper than the inept abilities of Mike McCoy. The 2018 season is likely a wash for the Cardinals as they seemingly don’t have the pieces on offense to be high powered like they once were. Rookie QB Josh Rosen will continue to go through growing pains making all offensive options around him ineffective. David Johnson will likely see more usage but continue his production stat line due to bad offensive line play. However, he may end up being the one bright spot down the road if he sees more touches. The receiving core will also be capped by Rosen’s inability to move in the pocket and go through his progressions. From a fantasy perspective, this team scares me. They become extremely match up based from here on out. Reluctance will be a factor when looking to play any of these players going forward.
As always, you can reach me on Twitter @JesseReevesFF. Feel free to hit me up in regards to this article or any other fantasy related topics you may have. Thanks for reading!