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Thunder and Lightning (Power Running Game A Fit in Arizona)

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Training Camp Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals welcome the return of a new position player this year—-the fullback. And with the fullback, comes a commitment to the power running game. Steve Wilks has vowed that the Cardinals will do everything they can to run the football and run it effectively.

In yesterday’s segment we took a close look at a finesse “zone scheme” sweep to Chase Edmonds run from a shotgun formation. The conclusion was that cutesy, finesse running plays that require difficult reach blocks and multiple linemen pulling does not in the least fit the Cardinals’ offensive personnel.

So, today, on the first play, let’s get out of the shotgun and come right after the defense in a power I formation.

  • I Formation (#3-Josh Rosen at QB, #31-David Johnson at RB and #48-Derrick Coleman at FB: Unbalanced left (2 TEs). The play call is the old “32 Iso” (the 3 back through the 2 hole—-the FB is going to isolation block on the ILB or take out first flash of color)—-the wrinkle is that the Cardinals are running to the opposite side of the unbalanced formation, which is away from the strong safety.
  • The initial key block on the play comes from LG Evan Boehm (#70) who pops DT Robert Nkemdiche (#90) and then seals him to the inside. This is Boehm’s strength. Like Domino’s Pizza, he delivers.
  • C Mason Cole is uncovered on the snap, so he first checks for an A gap blitz, and when he sees no LB coming he swiftly gets to the second level to block the ILB Josh Bynes (#57). Cole takes Bynes out of the play. This is exactly what is exciting about Cole—-his athleticism and mobility at the center position.
  • QB Josh Rosen is a little sloppy in his footwork and ball handling here and has to reach out at the last second to hand the ball off to Johnson. He gets away with it. But Josh knows better and will be more precise the next time.
  • RG Justin Pugh (#67) does a good job of pinning DT Corey Peters (#98) to the outside, thus widening the running lane up the 2 hole (right side A gap).
  • FB Derrick Coleman bursts off the snap and gets to ILB Haason Reddick (#43) in a hurry and seals him off. Reddick is slow to react to the play and gets hung up in traffic. Coleman easily wins the battle. By the way, Coleman shows surprising speed for a FB.
  • RB David Johnson hits the hole hard and finds himself one-on-one with the FS Antoine Bethea (#41). Johnson lowers his shoulder—-something he’s been doing much more of this year, which is the part of his game ne needs to improve the most—-and it will help him protect the ball better.

Now let’s take a look at a more traditional sweep to Chase Edmonds.

This is a 37 sweep left (3 back to the 7 hole)—-with a “trips” WR-TE-WR overload to the left.

  • QB Josh Rosen is under center. His ball handling here is textbook—-he reverse-pivots and flips a strike to Edmonds that leads him on the sweep.
  • Notice the wide splits by the offensive linemen. This is superb. We haven’t seen splits this wide in quite some time, What it does is it stretches the defense out and it gives the blockers more room and better angles to pin their men to the inside.
  • Pre-snap, LT D.J. Humphries is uncovered on the play—-so he’s the one they are going to pull. The TE knows he needs to down block on DE Chandler Jones (#55) and the TE does the job—-it looks more like a chip than a block, but it pins Jones to the inside and allows Humphries to pull. Jones has to feel the flow and try to string the play out, but does not.
  • Humphries looks great off his pull, but when no defender is threatening he doesn’t turn the corner to escort Edmonds upfield and basically quits on the play.
  • Edmonds showcases his speed here and blows right past Humphries, then Edmonds shows good wiggle in the open field in juking out the late arriving CB.
  • SS Budda Baker (#36) reads sweep immediately and knows the he has contain on the play so he runs outside to turn the play inside. Baker may have run too wide, but he didn’t want to be pinned inside so he was trying to beat the WR to the block.
  • The ILB Josh Bynes (#57) waits too long and gets taken out by WR Brice Butler (#12). Good block by Butler. Poor pursuit by Bynes. Man—-the linebacking play on too many of these videos is atrocious.
  • As it turns out, this is a tackle the unblocked CB has to come up and make, but RCB Deatrich Nichols (#39) reacts way too late to the play, gets caught in no man’s land and then gets embarrassed in the open field by Edmonds. When you are an unblocked CB (as Nichols was) and you see sweep to your side, you have to explode out of a cannon and be there to clean up the play. I have seen Nichols do this numerous times at South Florida—-but on this play his mind went awol.
  • Good Grades: QB Rosen (2nd play), RB Johnson (1st play), RB Edmonds (2nd play), FB Coleman (1st play), C Cole (both plays), LG Boehm, RG Pugh (both plays), WR Butler (2nd play), TE Seals-Jones (both plays), FS Bethea (1st play)
  • Poor Grades: LB Bynes (both plays), LB Reddick (both plays), CB Nichols (2nd play) , DT Nkemdiche (1st play), DT Peters (1st play), DE Jones (2nd play), LT Humphries (2nd play).