Can Mike McCoy adjust the offense to succeed with Josh Rosen?

Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has lost nine games in a row dating back to his days in Denver, and the numbers this season are not good. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

TEMPE, Ariz. -- For a few minutes Sunday afternoon, Cardinals coach Steve Wilks thought he had found the offense he'd been looking for the first two weeks of the season.

Sam Bradford led Arizona on two textbook touchdown drives, capping both with throws that reminded you just how good a passer Bradford can be.

"I saw the offense that I had envisioned the 2018 Arizona Cardinals looking like," Wilks said.

It didn't last.

The unit didn't score again and re-assumed its role as one of the worst -- if not the worst -- in the NFL in 2018. After two interceptions, a lost fumble and just 81 yards of total offense over a little more than two quarters following those scores, Wilks attempted to light a fire by turning to rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.

Rosen finished the game and, on Monday, was named the Cardinals' starter moving forward.

But will it matter?

Rosen's youth and athleticism will allow the Cardinals (0-3) to do things Bradford could not. They can roll Rosen out of the pocket more, get him on the move, let him create and gain yards with his feet. The hope is that Rosen will be the spark the offense needs, Wilks said.

"I just think just his mobility, being able to buy time in the pocket. I think he's accurate. I think he has a strong arm. I think he can put the ball where it needs to be," Wilks said. "Inexperienced? Yes. He's a rookie. So, we're going to have to do a great job with the communication, making sure that the offensive line and he are on one accord from a standpoint of protections, but that's going to be the most important thing right there, the communication."

Can Rosen kick-start an offense that has yet to find its footing?

History says no.

Wilks has preferred to not place blame for the offense's ineptness on an individual; however, Arizona's offense, aside from those two touchdown drives, has been dismal under offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

A week ago, Wilks announced that the Cardinals would scale back their offensive playbook. Throughout the week, players talked about working with a more manageable number of plays, despite it not changing the outcome of Sunday's game.

Last season, McCoy was fired as the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator after 10 games because offensive ineffectiveness led to a six-game losing streak. The Cardinals' 0-3 start has given McCoy a personal nine-game skid.

The offensive woes were magnified Sunday.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was targeted just twice, the second time in his career that's happened. And on a crucial third-and-2 play late in the fourth quarter, on Rosen's first drive, rookie Chase Edmonds, David Johnson's backup, was on the field instead of Johnson -- Arizona's $39 million running back. Johnson was on the sideline talking with running-backs coach Kirby Wilson after missing a block in pass protection the play before.

The similarities between McCoy's rocky tenure in Denver last season and the Cardinals' season thus far are telling.

When McCoy was fired last season, the Broncos were ranked 18th in the NFL in total offense but were 24th in scoring and 30th in touchdown efficiency. These Cardinals rank last in total offense and scoring and have scored on one of their two red zone trips.

Denver's offense scored 17 touchdowns in 10 games, which was tied for second-worst in the league; the Cardinals sit at the bottom, with three touchdowns through three games.

Denver failed to score at least 20 points in seven of its final eight games with McCoy directing the offense. Arizona has scored 20 points total this season.

And, similar to the Cardinals, the Broncos went through a quarterback change, when they benched Trevor Siemian in favor of Brock Osweiler.

Will all that change with Rosen under center? Only time will tell if McCoy can adjust accordingly.

Arizona has run a designed pass play 69.4 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, compared to Denver running designed passes 61.6 percent of plays. Part of that has been out of necessity for Arizona. The Cardinals have trailed for 93 minutes, 54 seconds out of a total 180 minutes. They have led for just 52:41 -- all coming Sunday against the Bears.

The Cardinals' passing game has been limited thus far. Arizona's average pass length this season is 6.6 yards, 24th in the NFL. The Broncos' average pass length last season was 8.0 yards, good for 17th.

On Sunday, Fitzgerald had just 9 receiving yards on his two targets. It was the fifth time in his career he was held under 10 yards. He's currently on pace for 602 receiving yards this season, the fewest of his career after three straight 1,000-yard seasons.

Johnson, meanwhile, has 34 rushes for 116 yards and a touchdown, and 10 receptions for 63 yards.

He's on pace for 618 rushing yards this season, less than half of what he ran for in 2016, and five touchdowns. He had 16 in 2016. His receiving yardage thus far is less than the 67 he had in less than three quarters of last season's opener before he got hurt.

Johnson believes he can be the difference in the offense finding its rhythm.

"They expect me to be the playmaker, the guy who does everything they can and the guy who they lean on to do and make those plays," Johnson said. "So, I think if I do what I need to do, do what I'm told, do what Kirby has me do throughout the week, I think it'll uplift the team."

As with Rosen's impact on the offense, only time will tell if Johnson's influence can make a change.