Fixing David Johnson one of four priorities for 0-4 Cardinals

Getting David Johnson back to his 2016 form is the first item on the Cardinals' to-do list, but it's not the only one for the NFL's only winless team. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals are one-fourth of the way through their season and not much is going their way.

They're 0-4 for the first time since 1986 and are currently the only winless team in the NFL.

The offense is ranked last in yards per game, first downs per game, time of possession and points per game -- and second-to-last in yards per play and rushing yards per game. The defense is ranked second-to-last in rushing yards per game allowed, and last in point differential and yard differential per game.

"Lack of production, I would definitely say that. An opportunity to make plays, and we're not," coach Steve Wilks said when assessing the first four games. "Big plays [Sunday] that could have resulted in at least six points, maybe 14, if we catch those balls. Same thing on the defensive side of the ball. When given the opportunity, we've got to make plays. There were several times the ball was on the ground. We've got to be there to get the football. Again, just the missed tackles. I think [quarterback] Josh [Rosen] is going to perform well moving forward. I think he's going to give us that spark that we talked about. Defensively, we're improving. We've got to shore up our run fits. So, I'm encouraged."

So, where are Arizona's biggest issues? They're not concentrated in one place. Here are four areas the Cardinals need to fix to get into the win column.

David Johnson hasn't looked like the same David Johnson from 2016: The expectations on Johnson heading into this season were high. Maybe insurmountably high. The entire football world saw what he did in 2016, when he led the NFL in all-purpose yards with 2,118, and expected him to come back from last year's fractured wrist as that same player. After missing 15 games last season with the injury, Johnson hasn't been close to matching his 2016 stats. And that may not be all his fault. A week ago, this would've been about how David Johnson had fewer receiving yards in three games than he did in less than three quarters a year ago. But offensive coordinator Mike McCoy finally figured out how to use Johnson in the passing game against Seattle, lining him up as a receiver on four snaps. He ran three routes and made one catch for 6 yards, but had three catches for 41 yards overall. He finished Sunday's game with 112 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.

Johnson has caught 13 passes for 104 yards in four games, less than half the yards he had at this point in 2016 when he had 14 catches for 210 yards a quarter of the way through the season.

Johnson has also rushed for only 187 yards on 56 carries in four games. Two years ago at this point, he had 300 rushing yards on 64 carries.

Johnson believes that if he gets going, then the offense will get going. And he may not be wrong.

"We talked about it and really just trying to get the guys in position to be successful -- putting David out in the slot, putting him outside at receiver, I thought opened things up a little bit. Having him and [running back] Chase [Edmonds] on the field at the same time," Wilks said.

Cornerback inconsistency: Well, one corner position in particular: The one opposite Patrick Peterson. Jamar Taylor began the season as the starter but he was replaced last week by Bene Benwikere, who injured his spine early in Sunday's loss to Seattle. Inconsistency at corner opposite Peterson has plagued Arizona since Jerraud Powers last played for the Cardinals in 2015. But Wilks appears to be mostly pleased with Benwikere for now.

"I thought Bené played well, I thought he played decent enough," Wilks said. "Again, we're talking about missed tackles. He had a critical one that allowed Seattle to get inside the 10-yard line. We have to make sure we clean up those things."

Peterson continues to lock down his side. Arizona needs to find some consistency opposite him this season -- and that might come with Benwikere -- in order for offenses to think twice about targeting on that side of the ball.

Receivers besides Fitz and Kirk: Setting aside running back David Johnson and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, who are third and fourth on the team in receiving, as pass-catchers for a moment. Only two of Arizona's six receivers have made any sort of impact this season. Rookie Christian Kirk leads Arizona in receiving yards with 149 while Larry Fitzgerald is a close second with 141.

Beyond them, the receivers have been nearly non-existent. Chad Williams has two catches for 30 yards and J.J. Nelson has one catch for 4 yards. Rookie Trent Sherfield, the fifth and final receiver on the roster, hasn't played an offensive snap yet this season.

Arizona is relying on two running backs -- Johnson and rookie Chase Edmonds -- and a tight end to be the complementary receivers to Fitzgerald and Kirk. And it's showing. Arizona is ranked 29th in receptions and last in the NFL in receiving yards.

Run defense: What was once the calling card for the Cardinals' defense is now its primary liability. Arizona is ranked 31st in rushing yards allowed per game -- a category in which Arizona never dropped below 13th in the last five years. Offenses have figured out that they can pound the ball on the ground against Arizona. The Cardinals are ranked 32nd in rushes allowed. Seattle was the latest example, rushing 34 times for 171 yards compared with quarterback Russell Wilson throwing for 172 yards on 26 attempts. Offenses facing Arizona know they're going to run the ball. Arizona has the highest designed run percentage from shotgun called against them in the NFL and the third-highest designed run percentage from under center called against them.

The Cardinals have also given up the most rushing touchdowns in the league with seven and most rushing first downs with 36. But stopping the run isn't Arizona's only problem; they also can't bring rushers down. The Cardinals have allowed the second-most yards after first contact with 264.

More than 54 percent of the rushing yards that Arizona has given up have come outside the tackles.

"It's what we're not doing," Wilks said. "We've got to execute the technique. There are times where we should line up outside the tight end based off the call. We're not doing that, and we'll get that corrected. So, a lot of times, we've got to use our hands to get off blocks. We've got to play downhill to get the double team off.

"So, again, they're doing some great things, but there are a lot of things that we're not doing. We've got to make sure we get back and execute the fundamentals and technique."