What We Saw: Week 4

The What We Saw team recaps everything you missed from Sunday's NFL action

Cardinals @ Panthers

Final Score: Cardinals 26, Panthers, 16

Writer: Jason Wolf (@J_Wolf_Picks on Twitter)


The Cardinals and Panthers faced off in what was probably the ugliest game of the week, featuring turnovers, laughable offensive play-calling, and a battle of giants between the famously short-statured quarterbacks of the league. The game was stuck at 10-10 for most of the game with both teams seemingly equally disinterested in winning until the Panthers’ costly turnovers gave the Cardinals the game on a silver platter, eventually folding to the second-half road warrior Cardinals, 26 to 16.


Arizona Cardinals 




Kyler Murray: 23/32, 207 Yards, 2 TD, INT | 12 Carries, 26 Yards, TD, 1 Fumble (Recovered)


Kyler Murray‘s stats don’t look too bad on paper, but it’s really a classic case of stats don’t tell the whole story. If it were not for the Panthers mistakes and offensive miscues gifting Kyler and the Cardinals incredible field position, Kyler might have had a miserable day. After the first quarter, the Cardinals had 45 total yards of offense and were 0 for 3 on third downs. The Arizona offense produced more first-half points for the Panthers than for their own side when Murray threw a pick-six early in the second quarter. The interception was an inexcusable decision from Kyler, who was facing pressure in the pocket but had no one open. Instead of tucking the ball and trying to make something happen with his legs (or simply going down), Kyler forced the ball to a heavily covered check-down option, and the Panthers’ LB was all over it, jumping in front of Hollywood Brown and returning it 30 yards to the house.

Other than that awful interception, Kyler was decent if not unspectacular. He certainly looked the part of former Heisman-winning QB more than his former OU teammate (and also Heisman winner) Baker Mayfield. Murray did have some trademark magic Kyler moments, escaping pressure in the pocket regularly and making plays using his feet to either scramble for a few tough yards or to buy a little extra time for his receivers to get open. Outside of a few of these moments, Kyler was sort of unimpressive. He was decently accurate with the ball, going 23/32, but it never felt like he was in a rhythm, methodically marching down the field. The nice plays and throws sporadically appeared here and there, mostly in the 2nd half on incredibly favorable field positions, scoring their offensive touchdowns after taking over at the Panthers’ 5-yard line and 31-yard line after two Panther turnovers. Kyler might not have played spectacularly but credit given where it is due, he made the throws when it mattered most, including this absolute dime on the touch pass to Hollywood Brown for a TD.



Running Back


James Conner: 15 Carries, 55 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 22 Yards

Eno Benjamin: 5 Carries, 36 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 9 Yards

Darrel Williams: 4 Carries, 19 Yards | 1 Target


The Cardinals’ run game was actually pretty consistently successful against the Panthers, which is something we have not seen from this offense in quite some time. Last year, James Conner amassed impressive counting numbers through sheer volume on pedestrian efficiency. In this game, however, Conner was regularly picking up yardage on run after run. His longest run only went for 8 yards but nearly every run seemed to be a success as they regularly picked up 3-4 yards on early downs from the run game.

Conner ran tough, chewing up yards in the short game and hitting holes hard. His most impressive run included a powerful stiff arm to Panthers’ CB Jaycee Horn, easily throwing him out of the way. Conner isn’t an explosive runner but he is a good fit for this offense as someone who can reliably get the tough yards to make Kyler’s life a little bit easier.

Eno Benjamin is definitely the more explosive RB of the two, and his burst is evident nearly every time he touches the ball. Benjamin appears to be spring-loaded every time he gets the ball in the backfield as he cuts quickly and bursts through holes with speed. His carries were more successful on a per-yard basis, amassing over 7 YPC on five carries compared to Conner’s middling 3.67 YPC on the day.

Before the season started, most assumed that Darrel Williams would be the change of pace back coming in after Conner but that role seems to solidly belong to Eno with Darrel Williams only coming in on the occasional snap to mix things up. Benjamin is simply too explosive to keep off the field and he provides a great lightning element to Conner’s thunder.



Wide Receiver/Tight End


Marquise Brown: 11 Targets, 6 Receptions, 88 Yards, TD

Zach Ertz: 6 Targets, 6 Receptions, 47 Yards, TD

Rondale Moore: 1 Carry, -4 Yards | 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 11 Yards

Greg Dortch: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 6 Yards


Marquise Brown has looked exactly as promised since his move to the Cardinals, immediately becoming Kyler’s main weapon and go-to receiver in a pinch during the absence of DeAndre Hopkins. “Hollywood” Brown was oft-criticized and questioned when it came out that he wanted out of Baltimore due to his perceived lack of involvement in the offense, but it seems that he found his home on the Cardinals where he is soaking up targets left and right. Murray looked to Brown early and often, with Brown nearly doubling up the Cardinals’ next-most targeted receiver on the day, Zach Ertz (11 targets to 6 for Brown).

Hollywood was peppered with targets in all areas of the field, including numerous short out/slant routes in addition to intermediate fades and deep post routes. His touchdown came on a beautifully placed long ball from Kyler, and their connection seems to be top-notch despite only practicing together over the offseason. At least while Hopkins is sidelined, Hollywood looks to be one of the premier WR1’s in the league at least in terms of reliability of targets and target share.

Zach Ertz continues to operate as Kyler’s second read and the team’s de facto WR2. Ertz is soaking up targets in the middle of the field, with most of his catches coming in between the hash marks. Ertz is ol’ reliable at this point, a slow but steady presence who knows how to beat 1-on-1 coverage but is not going to explode for those monster games anymore. Ertz’ target share could dip now with Rondale Moore back on the field as well as the imminent return of WR1 Hopkins.

So much hype was (still is) centered around Rondale Moore and his potential usage in a Kingsbury offense, yet nothing of the sort has really materialized in his young career just yet. In only his first game of the season, Rondale saw 5 targets and one lone carry. The carry is encouraging as the coaching staff will surely still try to get him the ball in creative ways. The main concern with his usage is his incredibly low aDOT (average depth of target) from last year, which did not seem all that improved in this game. Kingsbury needs to figure out how to get the ball to Rondale in space (and past the line of scrimmage) in order to unlock his potential, but the return of DeAndre Hopkins could also alleviate any pressure the rookie sees from defenses, potentially allowing him more space to do his thing than he had in this game.

Greg Dortch, a popular fantasy pickup + play after last week’s nine reception outburst, was nearly invisible on the day, coming down with his only target on the day, for a quiet six yards. With Rondale Moore back and Hopkins due soon, it seems that Dortch’s breakout was a one-night show only.


Carolina Panthers




Baker Mayfield: 22/36, 197 Yards, TD, 2 INT | 2 Carries, 1 Fumble (Lost)


We are only four games into the Baker Mayfield experience in Carolina, and already, Panthers fans everywhere are calling for HC Matt Rhule to be fired and for Mayfield to be replaced by another QB, whether it be an injured Sam Darnold, a washed up Cam Newton, or someone from next year’s draft class. Hey, what can be worse than Mayfield at this point?

Last week, I wrote about how a lot of Baker’s early struggles can be attributed to the Panthers’ poor offensive scheming as well as the “positional battle” that took place at QB over the summer. Coming into Week 4, the Panthers’ coaching staff needed to do a better job of putting Baker and the skill players in a position to succeed by opening up the playbook, and try they did. After this week however, it is starting to become more clear that a lot of the Panthers’ offensive woes are coming from Baker himself. This week, HC Rhule did his best impression of “opening up the playbook,” and tried calling more plays for DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey outside the numbers and in space, yet Mayfield simply was not consistently hitting his guys, open or not.

Baker was consistently inconsistent throughout the game. He did a better job this week of staying in the pocket and attempting to hit his receivers down the field instead of looking to flee the pocket unnecessarily. Instead of ditching a still composed pocket like he was doing the first few weeks, Mayfield made a visible effort to stand tall and try to deliver strikes in the pocket. While he did do a good job of staying in the pocket, he did not do a good job of delivering the ball to his receivers. All too often throughout the game, Baker would have a guy open enough to make a catch down the field for a first down but would be just inaccurate enough to where the receiver could not make the play on the ball.

This was never more evident than during Baker’s interception with less than two minutes left to go in the first half. The Panthers were driving down the field after getting the ball with just three minutes and change left in the first half when on a crucial 3rd & 5, Baker slightly misfired on a long shot to open DJ Moore who had enough separation to come down with it, overthrowing the ball just a little too high and too behind Moore to where it was tipped in the air and intercepted by the defense. Baker did a good job of staying in the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield on the open man but the ball was just thrown too poorly, an issue he was repeatedly having all day.



Interspersed in between these painfully “just-off” enough throws were some quality throws that gave you a glimpse of Mayfield’s talent. But for every one of those throws, there was a misfired ball to an open man or a batted down pass at the line of scrimmage, of which he had five batted down at the LOS today. At some point, not being able to get the ball out over the defensive line becomes more the fault of the undersized quarterback and less the offensive line protecting him, especially considering that famously small-statured QB Kyler Murray was on the other side having no issues getting the ball out.

I was never a Baker “truther,” but I did see his talent and thought that he might have succeeded in Carolina. The door is not shut quite yet on this early season but the early returns are not promising. It is starting to look like Baker was a product of the very QB-friendly environment in Cleveland and that he might not have realized how good he had it operating behind that dominant offensive line.



Running Back


Christian McCaffrey: 8 Carries, 27 Yards | 9 Targets, 9 Receptions, 81 Yards, TD

D’Onta Foreman: 1 Carry, 2 Yards


Coming into this game, there were question marks around HC Matt Rhule’s usage of RB Christian McCaffrey in the Panthers offense. McCaffrey is famously one of the best + most dangerous receiving backs in the history of the NFL, but the Panthers have been hesitant to use him as such thus far. Questions about CMC’s usage in the passing game were temporarily answered as he caught a season high nine balls on nine targets in this one. Of course, CMC looked great running routes and with the ball in his hands. He is far and away their most dangerous weapon and valuable player on offense, it’s amazing that they only ran the ball eight times with one of the best skill players in the world. Sure, the run game wasn’t working like you would hope, but the Panthers are so quick to abandon the run game which really limits the upside of CMC and puts a hamper on his potential to create big plays out of nowhere.

The Panthers’ lone offensive TD of the day went to CMC on a little go route out of the backfield from the Redzone where he ran past his man one-on-one and then made an impressive catch, jumping up and high-pointing the ball while twisting in mid-air to come down with the ball in the endzone. CMC’s receiving work is a highly encouraging sign for Panthers fans and fantasy owners, but the overall ineptitude of Baker + the offense in addition to the highly questionable coaching environment unfortunately caps the overall upside of CMC on a week-to-week basis. McCaffrey has successfully come back from injury and again looks like one of the best players with the ball in his hands but unless he is traded, he probably won’t be reaching peak CMC stat lines with regularity anytime soon.

D’Onta Foreman saw a lone carry, again solidifying that any backup to CMC is purely there for insurance reasons and is only worth rostering in any fantasy format as a strict handcuff to CMC.



Wide Receiver/Tight End


DJ Moore: 1 Carry, 11 Yards | 11 Targets, 6 Receptions, 50 Yards

Robbie Anderson: 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 26 Yards

Laviska Shenault Jr.: 1 Carry, 0 yards

Tommy Tremble: 6 Targets, 3 Receptions, 34 Yards


The connection between QB Baker Mayfield and starting WR DJ Moore is still way off four weeks into the season. Last week I wrote about how the “QB competition” that Matt Rhule ran in the offseason must be partially (if not mostly) to blame for the lack of chemistry between Baker and his new #1 receiver. I still do believe that a few extra weeks of starter reps with Moore and the first-team offense would have put Baker in a much better position to succeed but it is time to start considering the fact that Mayfield just might not be very good at feeding receivers.

DJ Moore’s usage is highly encouraging as he is being lined up all over the field, taking snaps from the outside on the left and right, as well as lining up from the slot occasionally. The great news is that you can see DJ Moore running free on such a high percentage of his routes. He seems to have taken a next step this year in terms of gaining separation from his man. The bad news is that Baker is seemingly unable to deliver it to Moore with regularity, open or not. Short game, medium, or running deep, DJ Moore is finding separation but not being rewarded.

On Baker’s crucial interception late in the first half, Moore was running open down the field with a couple of feet of separation between him and his man. Baker misfired just a bit too high and behind Moore, and the ball was deflected and intercepted. A more accurate quarterback delivers that strike to DJ in momentum for a huge gain, an unfortunate theme so far in this young season.

Robbie Anderson was quiet, hauling in three of his five targets for 26 yards on the day with a long of 13 yards. For all the negative that can be said about Baker, he does like to take deep shots, something that could be lucrative for Anderson sporadically throughout the year, but good luck predicting the week they actually connect on a long bomb because he is not a reliable source of production outside of those boom plays.

You could be forgiven for not seeing big play specialist Laviska Shenault at all throughout this game, as he was not targeted once in the passing game, and he only received one look on a carry that went nowhere. After his explosion last week, Shenault barely played any offensive snaps today as he was a complete afterthought in the game plan. TE Tommy Tremble got a healthy six targets, coming down with three catches for 34 yards. Many thought Ian Thomas would be the main pass-catching TE but so far it has been Tremble who is Baker’s preferred pass-catching big man. Thomas is capable of catching some balls too, so it would not surprise me at all to see this be a platoon TE situation when it comes to both blocking and receiving.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.