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Cardinals Offense: Suggestion Box

NFL: Washington Football Team at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Because of the unusual off-season and the elimination of pre-season games, after 4 regular season games we are starting to see which teams have been steadily building momentum and which teams have not.

The Cardinals currently find themselves in a downward spiral.

Clearly, whatever has been happening at practices the last two weeks has not been effective, for this is a team that over the course of Kliff Kingsbury’s 20 game tenure, can only seem to muster up two good games in a row before reverting back to old, self-destructive habits.

“How you practice is how you play in the games.” (John Madden)

For example, if you practice correctly, you can make sure that 11 men are on the field at the same time and that every player knows his assignment. You know, basic things like that.

For a few years now, the Arizona Cardinals have adopted a cavalier type of attitude toward practice.

It isn’t working.

The ultimate example—-Terrell Suggs elected last year to skip all of OTAs—-and then once the season started, he elected not to participate in the vast majority of practices during game weeks. Hmmm—-he had two good games to start the year—-and then he went into the tank—-and so did the defense.

When players miss practice, it not only hurts the player, but it hurts the team even more. So much of football requires on the field communication and coordination—-thus when players are not participating in practice, the chemistry and coordination of the group is affected.

It therefore looks awfully foolish in retrospect that Larry Fitzgerald is given a veteran’s day off the past two weeks—-a day off that, if you know Fitz, he doesn’t need or even want—-and then is basically given two games off when the offense ignores him to the tune of 4 targets, and 3 catches for 4 yards. That is unthinkable.

it also looks awfully foolish that DeAndre Hopkins is out all week, with a reported ankle issue—-then tweets the night before the game that he’s fine and good to go—-and then all he got in this game was a host of bubble screens that the Panthers all week in their practices were keying on—-like the Lions’ rookie CB Jeffrey Okudah did when he busted through to nail Hopkins practically the same way Budda Baker nailed 49ers’ TE George Kittle in Game 1.

Following one of the most unimaginative, vanilla and chicken sh^& array of play calling versus Carolina, Kliff Kingsbury is now claiming that the offense “is trying to find an identity.”

20 games in with virtually the same personnel across the board save the auspicious additions of DeAndre Hopkins and Kelvin Beachum and all of the same coaches—-and the offense is struggling to “find an identity”?

What sounded even worse was when Kingsbury responded to the question as to why he kept calling WR bubble screens when they weren’t working—-here is his what he said:

“I’m not sure. That’s the only answer. We didn’t have a good enough plan in place to make the plays down the field that we would have liked to, and that falls on me. I’ve got to call better plays when they’re taking certain things away.”

“I’m not sure.” Sorry, but—-you cannot be freaking serious.

“We didn’t have a good enough plan in place to make the plays down the field...” Again—-this is outrageous—-and after 20 games—-it is throughly unacceptable.

So what kind of planning were you doing in practice—-without Fitz for one day and without Hopkins for the entire week?

It’s statements like these from the typically taciturn Kliff Kingsbury that have recently empowered naysaying pundits like Kent Somers who scoffed at Kingsbury’s hiring and called it a “big mistake” and Keyshawn Johnson who has a bet going with Burns and Gambo that the Cardinals “won’t win more than 6-7 games”, plus a host of Cardinals fans who are still perplexed as to how the franchise could hire a college coach who was fired from his job at his own alma mater for going 35-40.

The question that I want to ask all of you is—-after 20 games watching Kingsbury’s offense, do you have a clear concept of what it is? Does it lack an “identity” because it never had one to begin with? Can you even call this offense an Air Raid?

To echo Kingsbury’s own words, at this point “I’m not sure.”

But—-I feel like I have an idea and an image of what Kingsbury’s offense could and should be—-don’t you? I still have a keen image of Kingsbury succeeding, do you?

Here are my suggestions—-and please take the opportunity to write up yours in the comment section below.

Suggestion Box:

  1. Stop making excuses for the players (on both sides of the ball), especially the star players whom you and Steve Keim laud each week for their “outstanding veteran leadership.” You are babying and mollycoddling them and enabling their continued complacency—-which by the way has been the bane of the Cardinals’ culture even under BA.
  2. Stop saying everything is your fault. Blame is a shared thing when teams lose. Talk instead about HOW you intend to fix the wrongs. Instead of saying you don’t “have a good enough plan in place”—-talk about specific improvement areas that you, the coaches and the players are working on.
  3. Open your offense up for crying out loud. Show your players and the fans the kind of offense that YOU love to run. We know what that is—-it’s a steady diet of 10 personnel—-and taking advantage of spreading the defense out. All of these bunch formations are counter-productive because they draw the defense closer to the box.
  4. The timing for going back to the 10 personnel is perfect because you haven’t been able to run the ball thus far by virtue of the fact that your best blocking TE is out until November and the RB that you are Steve Keim have been fawning over to the tune of giving him a gaudy $8.38M on a 1 year contract decided (even after seeingfirst-hand what happened to David Johnson when he packed on weight) to bulk up in the off-season himself—-to the point where he is no longer the same player you were handing the ball to last year. He’s playing hard. But not as fast and not with the same burst.
  5. With 10 personnel you have an superb option at RB in Chase Edmonds. He is the fastest of the RBs. He is the best receiver. He is the best pass blocker. Win-Win-Win. Versus the Panthers you gave Drake 37 snaps and Edmonds 21. Those snap numbers should be reversed. Do what the Patriots do so well with their RBs—-keep the RB in to block, and as the WRs clear and back off the coverage, then slip the RB for short passes into the vacated areas that can become big RAC plays. Edmonds is made to order for this.
  6. Run Kenyan Drake with the lead late in the game. Drake is running hard and he has shown his toughness in situations where you can run out the clock. But open your offense up to grab a commanding lead and then turn to the power running game when the defense is gassed. This has worked.
  7. In your 10 personnel, use a “double Y” at times with Fitz and Arnold (or “1 Play-1 TD” Jordan Thomas) in the slots.
  8. In your 10 personnel, use a “double Z” at times with Isabella’s and Kirk’s speed in the slot. The offense needs to take better advantage of speed. Plus, rotate KeeSean Johnson in to the 4 WR sets—-he presents a bigger threat to defenses than TE Darrell Daniels does in the 11 personnel. Would love to see JoJo Ward on occasion to use his speed.
  9. Go back to featuring an array of short to intermediate passes to De’Andre Hopkins at the start of games. It worked well against the 49ers and Redskins and it created a psychological advantage for the offense. This is going to force the opponents to shade the FS even wider to Hopkins’ side, and therefore it is going to continue to create better opportunities to the other side away from Hopkins.
  10. Get your “Trips” combination routes ironed out. Thus far it seems that at times the opponents have been able to zone the “trips side” with 2-3 defenders. The numbers and your WR talent work in your favor.
  11. Move Kyler around more the you do—-chip the DE and have Kyler roll to his right to hit crossing and sideline routes or a deep go or post pass—-with the option to run readily available. This will force defenses to commit to getting after the QB and will leave areas of the field open.
  12. Having Hopkins and Isabella as “twins” on one side and Fitz and Kirk as twins on the other gives you umpteen options to exploit in “two man games.” Occupying the FS with the speed of isabella is going to leave Hopkins one on one. If the FS guesses wrong and keeps hedging toward Hopkins, isabella could hit the home run. And then do the reverse—-have Hopkins go deep and have Isabella run a sharp deep out pass, where he is too quick to cover.

I am still fired up to have you, Kliff Kingsbury, leading this offense and this team. But right now feels like a key turning point—-the team needs you to galvanize them and get their eyes back on the prize. The team needs you to hold the players to higher standards and stronger efforts in practice and in games. Being too cute or cautious or apologetic isn’t going to create the kind of “identity” your team needs. Surprise the players with a rant. Wake them up. Show them your mettle. Show them that you are here to stay. Show them that you “know” the answers.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports