The 2018 season was a bit of a lost year for the Arizona Cardinals. They finished with a 3-13 record, couldn’t figure out the quarterback position, and booted Steve Wilks after just one season as head coach.
General manager Steve Keim responded to the poor 2018 campaign with big headline moves. First by hiring 40-year old, offensive guru Kliff Kingsbury (freshly fired by Texas Tech). Then he traded Josh Rosen in favor of number one overall pick, Kyler Murray. It is now up to Kingsbury and Murray to jump-start the rebuild of the franchise.
Turn Around the Offense
The duo is first tasked with turning around an offense ranked dead last in total points, passing yards, and rushing yards. Kingsbury brings the Air Raid offense that has been one of the best in college football for nearly a decade. Since Kingsbury became a collegiate offensive coordinator in 2011, his offenses have averaged 550 yards and nearly 42 points per game. By comparison, the Cardinals averaged just 241.6 yards and 14.1 points per contest last season.
Arizona isn’t just going to instantly turn into an offensive powerhouse overnight. The system will take some time to develop and learn, but with some of the explosive weapons they drafted in the fall the offense can expect an uptick in big plays. Rosen had just 13 pass plays go for 25+ yards last season, a number that Murray should easily be able to top.
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But it’s not just Murray that was added to the offense, Arizona drafted speedy wide receiver Andy Isabella out of UMass and six-foot five-inch wideout Hakeem Butler from Iowa State. The two of them should be excellent compliments and learn well under the future hall of famer Larry Fitzgerald. Isabella could very well end up being Murray’s best friend as he fits the offense perfectly. With his five foot eight inch 188lb frame and elite speed, he can be a threat in the slot with plenty of opportunities to run option routes and sneak past the defense for some deep balls.
The Kingsbury Air Raid
In the Air Raid system, the receivers must be able to be football players and be able to read the defense on the fly. Route concepts are designed to confuse man or zone coverage, depending on the ability of the receivers and quarterback to be on the same page.
This image here is a staple of the Air Raid, often referred to as the “Mesh” play. The quarterback first looks for one-on-one coverage on the outside. If that is taken away and the safety is drawn that way, it creates a favorable matchup over the middle where two receivers cross and there, they make the reads of how they need to run their routes.
Former All-Pro running back David Johnson is excited about the new offense as well. Johnson hopes to replicate his 2016 form when he led the league in touches, yards, and touchdowns from scrimmage. He set out a goal of 1000 yards rushing and receiving in a single season.
Johnson told reporters in April, “My biggest motivation is still 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving,” he said. “That’s what I’m always going to try to strive to just because I was so close in 2016. … I think I still have the same mentality of trying to get that.”
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You have to be able to win in the trenches. Something the Cards could not do much of the last few seasons. This offseason Arizona didn’t do much to improve the line once again. They signed Guard J.R. Sweezey away from Seattle, but the Seahawks line hasn’t been anything to brag about at the last few years either. The team also traded for veteran tackle Marcus Gilbert from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Those two will slide in and protect the right side of the line.
Overall the offense will improve in 2019. The team will surely score more than two touchdowns a game. The Cardinals will surprise many early in the season. Teams lack sufficient game film.
I have the Cardinals going 5-11 with wins versus Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and New York. The results won’t be the prettiest, but rest assured, they will be fun to watch.