All good things must come to an end, and this time it’s the end of the 2019 edition of Cardinals Flight Plan.
Flight Plan has been the Arizona Cardinals’ behind-the-scenes look at the offseason, from inside closed door meetings to the locker room to practice and beyond to give fans a look at the team’s progress toward opening day. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, check it out below right now, or on Facebook Watch:
What were the top 10 takeaways from the season finale?
Here we go:
#1. High, high praise from the Cardinals personnel people for Kyler Murray
“Very few guys even in round one where the first day on the field you’re like WOW, this guy is as advertised.”
That’s a quote from the new VP of Player Personnel in Quentin Harris, and while some mentioned that he’d make rookie mistakes it was clear that Murray was the one thing they seemed to not be unable to shift the focus from for long.
Keim mentioned Murray’s “release, accuracy and ability to escape and avoid”. And it’s not like he’s a brand new, first time GM who’s new to all of this. He’s been evaluating for over two decades and approaching three.
Murray was impressive on the field as well, in drills throwing on the run and on a play against the defense in particular which showed some “veteran” savvy and recognition almost immediately in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Nothing’s a guarantee in the NFL, but it seems like the Cardinals personnel is just as excited to see their new quarterback as the fans are.
2. Vance Joseph’s preference: head coach or defensive coordinator?
Larry Fitzgerald, in a direct conversation with Vance Joseph, asked him if he found being a head coach more stressful than a DC.
Joseph, surprisingly, said being a defensive coordinator was the more stressful job, and even said “when you have to do both.”
It’s unlikely that Joseph’s directly being on a similar level to Kliff Kingsbury but he is essentially the “head coach of the defense” in that he’s responsible not just for player personnel input (as we saw him in the meeting along with Keim, Kingsbury and their personnel staff) but also the defensive room as a whole to allow Kingsbury to focus on his strength in the offense.
Joseph, almost proving his point, had his voice nearly gone and was actively involved in practice.
3. The Cardinals defense will be mixing up their coverages more
Last year the Cardinals’ defense was pretty simplified under Steve Wilks with gap assignments and some softer zone coverage being played, putting the majority of the responsibility on the linebackers.
It worked in Carolina but was just not effective last year in Arizona, and seeing Vance Joseph scroll through moving from cover 1 to cover 2, it seems like there will be some emphasis on the secondary and a lot more varying looks from the team.
It also fits with them liking Byron Murphy, a zone corner in college, as they play more zone in addition to press to try to confuse opposing quarterbacks or blitz with Budda Baker off the edge like we saw on one play in practice.
Speaking of which...
4. Kliff & Kyler’s got some special potential in year one
During the Vance Joseph segment, Vance looked at the play and yelled out “screen” as a screen pass was timed up perfectly called against his defense for a large gain in practice.
“They got one here, boy” Joseph called out when Kliff called that play as a counter. Another example that stuck out was Joseph calling out when S Budda Baker was “cheating” a bit inside. Murray noticed it on field and hit Christian Kirk over the middle in the “soft spot” of the zone coverage in stride.
That’s definitely a veteran move and speaks to Murray’s familiarity in understanding leverage and coverages (NFL one’s no doubt) and should be exciting for Cardinals fans. After all, last year there weren’t many times the offense was able to say they “beat” the defense overall.
The other quarterbacks in Chad Kanoff and Drew Anderson also showed some accuracy while throwing on the run.
5. Michael Bidwill wasn’t sure Carson Palmer would answer his Facetime call
Bidwill’s now infamous call was a treat to see again as Carson Palmer, truly, was a fantastic leader on the Cardinals who will be a treat seeing him rewarded this season as the newest member of the ring of honor.
6. The media day session was hilarious to watch
Outside of having to put on makeup (a classic show business move that most football players have never had to deal with) there were a ton of funny highlights such as:
- Keesean Johnson’s embarrassment at putting on makeup
- Brett Hundley hitting something in the background from the sound of it
- A starstruck Andy Isabella watching Larry Fitzgerald up on the podium
- Dennis Gardeck dancing to Fergie
- Kyler Murray side-arming a pass that had some ZIP on it
- Patrick Peterson poking fun at Chandler
- And whatever...this yell was at 11:16 (hiss!)
It was a funny look that you love to see the personality and people come off of the screen and into real life, knowing they aren’t just stars but they can badly dance to “London Bridge” by Fergie at media day just like I can while shopping at the local Fry’s. (Okay, not QUITE as good a dancer)
7. There wasn’t much footage shown of practice, mostly walkthrough
TOP. SECRET. That seems to be the case with Kingsbury’s offense.
Fans who’ve wanted to see it in action will have to wait just a bit longer.
The team showed a lot of footage from the walk through session and a bit of the footage from some of the practices but with varying angles and there wasn’t too much to glean from it, although there were some familiar Kingsbury staples that could be seen on a few plays...
8. Kliff Kingsbury’s got a play in his playbook called “Hollywood”
No, it’s probably not a reference to Aaron Spelling or his celebrity brethren in Los Angeles.
Kyler Murray to Marquise ”Hollywood” Brown was one of the most electric combinations in college football last season, enough so that Kliff may have potentially named a play after him.
While the editing job doesn’t make it too clear if it’s the next play or not, Kyler on the next cut throws the ball to TE Ricky Seals-Jones.
It’s possible that there was a deep ball in play or also that it was a mesh concept, something that Brown ran OFTEN on 3rd and long for Oklahoma to gain a critical first down:
On this play at 2:21, the outside receivers run deep while one receiver opens up room for #5 Brown to catch the ball and make it to the sticks. It’s possible that this could be the playcall.
Or maybe not.
Of course, if that IS the case and I was able to tell maybe Kingsbury is on to something about keeping everything secretive. (Sorry, Kliff).
As for another note on the offense...
9. David Johnson + Getting the ball in space is back
Also at 15:53, here’s a quick out to the running back in space in one-on-one coverage, which was a staple of his playbook in Texas Tech and, obviously, gets Johnson back into a role that he ran often with Bruce Arians in 2016 where he was killer at breaking tackles.
This is good news for Cardinals fans (buy now before your fantasy team loses to him!)
An interesting note, Kyler Murray did clap his hands, like many college team do, before taking the snap.
However, this hasn’t been a big part of NFL offenses, and some have wondered if this will alert opposing defenses to it. When Murray had an unblocked blitzer, however, in Budda Baker, his quick release got the ball out before Baker would have even sacked him. I have a feeling it won’t matter as much as we think it might.
10. Is Kliff Kingsbury the...anti-Arians in a way?
Bruce Arians was the kind of coach who’d cuss you out and then hug you later. On the other side, Kingsbury was effusive in praise for his team, his quarterbacks, and when Kyler Murray overthrew a deep ball he joked a bit about it, seemingly confident that he would get it the next time.
I don’t think there is ONE right way to coach, and the fact that Kingsbury is SO relaxed at all times is definitely a long cry from the always seemingly tense Arians who wouldn’t cut loose until after Sunday was finished and would drive his guys hard in practice.
Kliff felt almost like a motivational speaker at times.
It felt a bit like a college head coach with a bunch of millennials because...well, that’s who Kliff is and perhaps he doesn’t need to be anything more than that. Will he find success? I don’t know, but it’s nice to see that he’s not putting on airs or pretending to be a “tough guy” when that’s clearly not his style one bit.
And I, for one, am all for it.
So, what was your favorite part of the episode?
Sound off in the comments!