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Arizona Cardinals Finally Have The Explosive Offense That Was Promised With Kliff Kingsbury

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 4, 2021

The Arizona Cardinals boast the league’s best offense. With a deep stable of receivers, they are finally delivering on head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s promise of an explosive spread offense in the NFL.

The Cardinals are 4-0, averaging 35 points per game, the best in the NFL, and are averaging the second-most yards per game. Arizona is also second in the NFL in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play on offense, only trailing the Kansas City Chiefs, according to nflfastR. In their Week 4 game on Sunday, the Cardinals dominated the Rams in LA, moving up and down the field at will against 2020’s top-ranked defense.

That is due to the balanced nature of the Cardinals’ passing attack and quarterback Kyler Murray’s ability to spread the ball around to those talented receivers. Murray is averaging 9.5 yards per attempt this year – the highest of his career – and FanDuel now lists him as the betting favorite to win MVP.

Take a look at the Cardinals’ top four receivers statistically this season and you can see that their numbers are virtually identical. Through four weeks, DeAndre Hopkins is third on the Cardinals in receiving yards, which is telling of how balanced their passing game has been.

That is a far cry from the 2020 season, when Hopkins was the only thing working for the Cardinals offense. Arizona’s passing game only produced when Murray made off-script plays outside of the intents of the scheme (often by utilizing his legs) and relied on Murray to force the ball to Hopkins no matter the situation. Hopkins had 80 more targets than the second-most targeted receiver on the Cardinals last season. He had 160 targets total, which doubled that of No. 2 receiver Christian Kirk.

It actually worked early in the year, as the Cardinals sprinted to a 5-2 start, but that approach proved to be unsustainable. Arizona finished the season 8-8 and ultimately missed the playoffs. Kingsbury’s reputation as a talented offensive play caller was built on how he could spread defenses out by heavily utilizing three-receiver sets to explosive results. It was a system he had failed to truly implement in the NFL prior to 2021, but had successfully implemented at the college level.

Kingsbury was known for designing an inventive offense in the high-flying Big 12 Conference during his time at Texas Tech University. Although he had a losing record as head coach of the Red Raiders, it was his ability to scheme up an explosive passing game – most famously led by Patrick Mahomes – that made him an enticing choice to pair with first-overall pick Kyler Murray in 2019.

The spread offense, of which Kingsbury employs a modified version of, is about putting the quarterback in shotgun formation and giving him as many pass-catching options as possible all over the field. That usually means three wide receivers, a tight end and even a running back running a route out of the backfield.

It leads to easy reads for the quarterback and can put pressure on a defense in the deep passing game, given that the offense has the right receivers at its disposal. Up until this season, the Cardinals didn’t have the right receivers to run that offense but they do now.

Seven-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green currently leads the team in receiving yards in his first season with the Cardinals. Arizona signed Green in the offseason to a one-year, $8.5 million deal, which included $6 million guaranteed. It seemed like a steep price given what he showed the last couple of years.

Green regressed significantly in Cincinnati in 2020 and missed most of the 2019 season due to injury, leaving many to wonder if the former All-Pro was closer to retirement than an 1,000-yard season. That one-year deal might end up being one of the year’s biggest free-agent bargains however if Green continues playing at this level.

Christian Kirk is now playing almost exclusively in the slot, which was previously occupied by late-30s Larry Fitzgerald, and he has dominated from that spot in the offense. Kirk ranked first in slot receiving yards entering Week 4, according to Pro Football Focus.

Arizona also found a wide receiver in this year’s draft, taking the blazing-fast Rondale Moore in the second round out of Purdue. Moore had the third-fastest 40-yard dash time of any prospect in the 2021 draft, and has made the most of that speed early on. Moore already ranks top-five in the NFL in yards after catch and will continue to be an X-factor for Arizona as the No. 4 receiver for what might be the league’s deepest receiving corp.

Even tight end Maxx Williams is getting a healthy share of the targets, already with 16. The run game is getting it done as well with a two-pronged attack featuring strong performances from Chase Edmonds and James Conner.

Whether Kingsbury needed time to apply his spread and air raid concepts in the NFL or general manager Steve Keim needed time to find the right players to maximize that approach, Arizona has finally found a working formula.

2021 was seen as something of a make-or-break year for Kingsbury to install the type of offense in Arizona that was promised, and so far he has done it.


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