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Cardinals Offensive Touches Per Game Analysis

Arizona Cardinals v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Other than QB Kyler Murray, what offensive skill player do you think is the most heavily counted on in terms of production?

Average Touches Per Game (Rounded):

  1. Kyler Murray—-68
  2. Kenyan Drake—-18
  3. Chase Edmonds—-10
  4. DeAndre Hopkins—-7
  5. Larry Fitzgerald—-4
  6. Christian Kirk—-3
  7. Andy Isabella—-2
  8. Dan Arnold—-2

Notes:

  • The clear answer to the question above is RB Kenyan Drake. By a long shot. In Kliff Kingsbury’s offense he prefers to rely very heavily on his lead RB. In my opinion, because this is the case, if KD is not the future at the position, one can make a salient argument for the Cardinals to use a 1st round pick to draft a star RB like Travis Etienne or a 2nd round pick to draft Najee Harris or Chuba Hubbard. The lead RB spot in Kingsbury’’s offense is high priority. The RB1 cannot be “just a guy.”
  • Of Chase Edmonds’ 10 touches a game, it averages to about 6 carries and 4 receptions. What this suggests is that Kingsbury views Edmonds as a “change of pace” RB, not a bell cow. Expect him to stay in that role. As a result, it’s hard to imagine that Jonathan Ward or Eno Benjamin will ever get much of a chance. If D.J. Foster was K2’s choice to back up when KD was out, that does not speak well to how confident the coach is in Ward and/or Benjamin. Let’s remember too how quickly David Johnson fell out of K2’s favor.
  • Would it surprise you to know that the average RB touches per game equals the receiver touches per game? 18 to 18. What this means is that WR’s 2-4 are not nearly on a par, priority-wise, than the RB1, RB2, WR1 positions. One would never expect the types of positional priorities to be manifested in an Air Raid offense—-which is why we really can no longer think of Kingsbury’s NFL offense as a bona fide Air Raid.
  • Many pundits and fans are making a big deal out of Andy Isabella being inactive with Hopkins, Fitzgerald,, Kirk, Sherfield and Johnson active—-plus with 3 TEs in Williams, Arnold and DeValve active. The ironic question is, would Isabella have scored on that flip jet sweep in the Red Zone? I believe he would have, because a couple of weeks ago, after Markus Golden’s interception, on the first play of scrimmage, Isabella ran that exact play for 19 yards.
  • These touch per game numbers also suggest that the TEs in Kingsbury’s offense are far more counted on as blockers than receivers. With the emergence of Dan Arnold as a receiver, his touches may increase as time goes on—-but all the talk about trading for Zach Ertz or using a 1st rounder to draft Kyle Pitts (unless K2 uses him as a slot WR) is moot.

Conclusions:

  • if Kliff Kingsbury wants to build on the current offensive model of keeping strong emphasis on a RB driven offense, spearheaded by a bell cow RB in a power running game, then it would be wise to prioritize RB and OL in free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.
  • Are there enough touches for a dynamic WR2 in this offense? Why hasn’t Christian Kirk, as a 3rd year 2nd round pick, evolved into a star role in this offense? Why have Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson been targeted only once or twice a game? Some argue that the lack of targets for Kirk, Fitz, Isabella and Johnson is a talent issue—-but—-is it—-really? Isn’t it more of an issue of offensive priorities, where in this offense the RBs and the WR1 are the star focal points and everyone else is a role player?
  • I think it would be very wise to keep developing Kirk, Isabella, Johnson and Sherfield, plus Richardson and Ward from the PS. I was campaigning for the Cardinals to take Henry Ruggs in the first round because I think a consistent deep threat opposite Hopkins could make this offense a potential juggernaut. But, as I and many of you (perhaps) keep hoping to see Kingsbury’s offense evolve into a facsimile of Andy Reid’s, I am no longer certain that K2 envisions his offense as such. I think the 49er’s (Kyle Shanahan) and the Ravens’ (Greg Roman) offenses may be more in line with what K2 wants.
  • What this offense (as it currently is constituted) needs most at the WR position, is a baller who can consistently win from the slot. Fitz has been solid as a flex ‘Y”, but the Cardinals need a speedy, athletic RAC guy in the slot who can turn into a RB once he catches the ball. Could Kirk, Edmonds, Isabella, Sherfield, Johnson or Ward be that guy? Edmonds has already had some success in the slot in some games—-but is he an every down slot WR?

Biggest Challenges Moving Forward:

  • When you lean on a power running attack, you typically need a “stable” of RBs—-per what the Pats, Browns, 49ers and Ravens have. It’s a tad unrealistic to think that one lead RB is going to hold up physically for 16 games and into the post-season when earned.
  • Trying to run a balanced power running game with an elaborate passing scheme presents quite a challenge personnel-wise along the offensive line. You have to find offensive linemen who are adept at both run and pass blocking. I think we all might agree that the current OL on the Cardinals is more skilled at pass protection. This is like trying to find 34 OLBers who can be equally good rushing the passer, stopping the run and excelling in coverage—-those guys are hard to find.
  • With a balanced power running game and elaborate passing game, as we have seen, it tends to create a 20 yard rectangle in which the vast majority of plays are run. This is why most power running teams prefer to have a vertical passing attack off of straight drop backs or off of play action—-because defenses start crowding the 20 yard rectangle more than usual—-and with Kyler Murray at QB this aids and abets their cause for trying to zone him on potential read options and designed QB running plays.

The Need for Speed?

  • In my opinion, the Cardinals’ offense, as it is currently constructed, is, in general, too slow.
  • Kliff Kingsbury said coming into this season that he wants the offense to play fast—-both with their feet and with their tempo. This hasn’t happened because, when you look at the personnel, Kyler Murray and Andy Isabella are the only 4.3 speedsters on the roster The rest of the skill players have playmaking ability, especially DeAndre Hopkins, but he relies on quickness and technique in order to put up big numbers. So does Chase Edmonds. KD was a tad quicker last year, but he put on pounds in order to withstand the between the tackles pounding that he absorbs week after week.
  • I think that it would be wise for the Cardinals to add both a rugged power RB and a speed RB to create the RB stable with Edmonds. I think they also would be wise to add another speed WR who can stretch defenses to give Kyler two deep threats (when Kyler gets his timing down with Andy Isabella, watch out!)—-plus—-as mentioned previously—-the Cardinals need to find a special player to be the slot WR, whether he is already on the roster or if they need to sign or draft one.
  • As for the OL, I think there are reasons to believe they already have a young starting 5 (with 1 veteran leader) that could flourish: LT D.J. Humphries; LG Justin Pugh; C Lamont Gaillard; RG Mason Cole; RT Josh Jones. With Justin Murray as potential starter or premium value 6th man. Plus, drafting a guard this year makes a lot of sense.

Day 1 Offensive Player Fits (imo)

RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

Y-WR/TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

WR Rondale Moore, Purdue

WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

G Wyatt Davis, Ohio St.

Day 2 Offensive Player Fits:

RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma St.

RB Najee Harris, Alabama

WR Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma St.

WR Tutu Atwell, Louisville

G Tommy Kraemer, Notre Dame

G Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

G Zion Johnson, Boston College

RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memohis

Questions:

  • How would you like the Cardinals’ offense to evolve?
  • What personnel changes do you think need to be made in 2021?
  • What Day 1 and 2 offensive prospects are you high on?