The Arizona Cardinals offense found themselves in unfamiliar territory last week against Chicago. For the first time in 2018 the Cardinals held a lead, one which lasted into the game’s final quarter. Ultimately the offense was unable to make the plays needed to close out the victory. This week brings a division rival in the Seattle Seahawks. The week also brings a change at quarterback with rookie Josh Rosen taking the helm. Today we take a look at how the Cardinals can take advantage of the Seahawks defense.
Get Rosen Comfortable
Rosen is making his first career start in the NFL. The rookie quarterback was thrust into action late against Chicago and tasked to win the football game. Rosen showed glimpses of why the Cardinals selected him with the 10th overall pick in last April’s draft. During the preseason and training camp many Cardinals players and coaches raved at how quickly Rosen was picking up the offense. Now the team enters week four with Rosen looking to help the offense turn things around.
Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy now has a quarterback who looks ready to stand in the pocket and move along his reads. One of the issues with Sam Bradford was his unwillingness to sit in the pocket and progress through his reads. Bradford was often early on throws, choosing to expedite the throw regardless of whether the read was open. Rosen showed a propensity to stand in the pocket and move from his first read if it wasn’t available.
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Expect the offensive approach to focus on keeping things simple for the rookie starter. Quick throws that are designed to have one or two reads, typically on the same side of the field, are what many teams do with inexperienced quarterbacks. Rosen was a four-year starter at UCLA and was no stranger to big games and situations, but the NFL is a much faster and athletic monster. While the Seattle defense no longer employs the Legion of Boom, the unit is still stocked with talented players. McCoy can protect Rosen with the quick throws as well as keeping the route concepts simple. Two or maybe three options on deeper throws, leaving something underneath as the lease valve, the offense can be successful even with Rosen’s inexperience.
Calling David Johnson
With a rookie quarterback under center, the smart call would be to feed David Johnson until he gets tired, then feed him a bit more. Through three games Johnson has 34 carries for 116 yards on the ground. He has added 10 receptions for 63 yards in the passing game. The lack of touches for Johnson casts doubt on the Arizona offense to make the smart call. Behind Le’veon Bell, Johnson is arguably the most dangerous running back in the NFL. The best offensive weapon on your team needs to be used early and often.
Arizona’s offense needs to revolve around David Johnson. He is the most explosive player on offense and needs to be treated as such. Of Johnson’s 10 receptions, only one has come from being lined up out wide as a receiver. The rest have been coming out of the backfield. Rookie running back Chase Edmonds has a third as much carries than Johnson and just over half as many targets in the passing game. If the Cardinals are looking to use Edmonds more, the least they can do is use Johnson as a decoy and take some eyes with him.
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The best way to use Johnson is as the bell cow. He needs 25-30 touches a game to take control and keep the offense going. Ideally this comes from the ground game. A healthy ground game allows for the play action and to help buy time for the rookie Rosen. It also allows the Cardinals defense to rest on the sidelines. The game plan should be simple, run the football with Johnson, get him involved in the passing game as a receiver, and use him in a decoy if needed.
Can it Work?
Arizona’s offense needs to score points and take care of the football. Finally taking advantage of the presence of David Johnson needs to be the priority. Johnson can be the best friend for Rosen in his first start. The Seattle defense remains tough but it can be beat. Arizona will need find a balance on offense. Part of that balance involves running the football. It also means Rosen will need to take his time and find the open receiver. Take advantage of the offensive weapons on the field. Get the football to Johnson, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald. Go over the top once in a while with J.J. Nelson. Make Seattle’s defense uncomfortable. Keep them on their toes and attack rather than be reactionary .The offense has the tools, they just need to execute and make the plays count.