The season has arrived. On Sunday afternoon the Arizona Cardinals welcome the Detroit Lions, for a battle in the desert. Sunday’s game is the first regular-season contest for new head coach, Kliff Kingsbury. The Cardinals’ new-look offense face off against a talented Lions defense. Ahead of Sunday, we take a look at the matchup of offense and defense. Today we preview what the Cardinals’ offense needs to do, to be successful.
Tame Lions Pass Rush
Detroit added to the defensive line during the offseason. Dipping back into the Patriots pool, the Lions signed free agent pass rusher Trey Flowers. The defensive end joins Da’Shawn Hand, A’Shawn Robinson, and Damon Harrison. A fifth member of the line is former Packers defensive tackle, Mike Daniels. Put simply, the Lions have quite the defensive line.
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The offensive line needs to give quarterback Kyler Murray, time to run the offense. An Air-Raid inspired offense is predicated on timing. Without timing, most plays are dead on arrival. One way to negate the pass rush is with quick throws. Quick slants or throws to the flat help get the ball out quickly. Also, expect to see a tight end or running back help in protection. Regardless of how they attempt it, the Cardinals need to keep Murray upright for as long as possible.
Get DJ Mixing
As bad as the Cardinals offense performed in 2018 (last in total yards and points scored), David Johnson had a relatively successful season. The running back finished the season with 940 yards rushing and 446 yards receiving. Johnson is the epitome of the every-down back, capable of running between the tackles and running routes out of the slot. He is a unique weapon that can be used all over the field. Kingsbury would be wise to lean on his talented running back early while getting a feel for what the Lions are doing defensively.
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Two years ago, the Cardinals visited the Lions to open the 2017 season. It was a hard-fought battle with the Lions coming out on top. However, the biggest loss on the day was the season-ending injury to Johnson. A fractured wrist doomed the Cardinals season in 2017. On Sunday, the man who lost a year to injury has the chance to get deserved revenge.
Crooked Letters on the Scoreboard
Arizona ranked last in points scored during the 2018 season. They did so by scoring just 225 points, all season. When adjusting for defensive and special teams scores, the Arizona offense put up 204 points in 2018. A lack of offensive output played a key factor in the hiring of Kingsbury. Arizona’s new head coach led a high-scoring offense as both Texas Tech’s quarterback then later as head coach. As Red Raiders’ head coach, Kingsbury’s offenses never averaged less than 30 points per game, twice finishing above 40 points per game average.
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The Cardinals hope to find their scoring touch against the Lions. Murray and the offense enter Sunday without significant injury concerns. Arizona kept the offense simple during training camp and the preseason. In limited action, the first team showed the ability to move the football but failed to score a touchdown. On Sunday, the Cardinals need to learn how to finish drives with six points.
What to Expect
No one, outside the members of the organization, can say what the offensive game plan will be on Sunday. The Cardinals have been secretive. We do however know which areas the offense will need to focus on. Kingsbury’s offense can be explosive but has the potential to stall in the red zone. The threat of Murray using his legs to get yardage should elicit a spy from the Lions defense. This should open things up in the passing game. Ultimately, the game will come down to how effective is the offensive line.
Join us tomorrow as we preview the Cardinals defense and what to expect against a potent Detroit offensive attack.