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The Raih Ban and 1st Round RB Debate

Auburn vs Alabama Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

When the Cardinals hired WR coach David Raih two years ago, there were positive reports from the players in GB about his work. Had he stayed, he might have fared better with Matt LaFleur as the head coach.

Fitz has said how much he likes working with Raih. Hopkins seems keen on him too.

It must have been tough for K2 to see David Raih, his buddy and fellow football junkie, get fired.

One might imagine that Steve Keim and Jerry Sullivan had an influence on the decision.

Ironic, because Steve Keim enabled BA’s croneyism for years.

I don’t think Raih is a bad coach at all. I think it was a chemistry/philosophy issue on the staff. Seems like Kliff is being persuaded to phase out a number of his Air Raid principles. Not sure that is a good thing. We may never know what Kingsbury’s Air Raid would have looked like, if he had stuck with it.

The other irony is that Cardinals’ offense, as it is now, looks more like a Mike McCoy offense than a Kingsbury offense --- only —- with the added dimension of a superbly mobile QB who can make the kind of big plays that would make any coach or offense look good.

With the recent firing of David Raih and the retirement of QB coach/passing game coordinator Tom Clements (with Cameron Turner becoming the full-time QB coach) it is highly likely that an offensive coach is on his way to Arizona.

A couple of years ago there was speculation that Kliff Kingsbury wanted to hire Jake Spavital, the head coach at Texas St. to be an assistant OC. Spavital is an Air Raid connoisseur who, despite a poor two-year record, is doing a very good job trying to turn the Texas St. program around. They were very competitive versus some good teams this seasons.

I can tell you first hand that Spavital’s game plan versus Boston Ciollege a few months ago was absolutely superb. BC, at home, had to do all it could to eek out a 24-21 win. Spavital spread the field and created a number of mismatches in space.

However, it would be hard to imagine at this point that Jake Spavital is the coach heading to AZ.

It appears far more likely to be another veteran coach like Jim Caldwell, Doug Marrone, Chan Gailey, Dirk Koetter, Darrell Bevell or Jay Gruden.

However, upon close inspection, the neon signs could be pointing to Anthony Lynn. Lynn, a former RB at Texas Tech, could be a boon in helping to develop the Cardinals’ RBs and running game. He could have a big say as to whether the Cardinals should sign a free agent RB or make drafting a RB a priority —- or both.

As an added bonus, Anthony Lynn might have some sway in urging a couple of his Chargers’ free agents to come with him to AZ. The UFAs who might make sense are:

TE Hunter Henry (69.3)

TE Stephen Anderson (87.0)

QB Tyron Taylor (59.4)

RB Kalen Ballage (64.8)

LB Denzel Perriman (83.3)

CB Michael Davis (63.1)

CB Desmond King (74.0)* (traded to TEN in October)

Not only could Anthony Lynn give a boost to the Cardinals’ attention to the running game, he could help the Cardinals develop their passing game the way this past season he helped rookie Justin Herbert burst onto the scene in very impressive fashion.

Right now, mock drafts are difficult to predict because team needs can be addressed in free agency.

Where the Cardinals are concerned, if they do not re-sign RB Kenyan Drake or one of the top free agent RBs, then it would be obvious that they have their eyes on a RB in the draft.

While the argument for not taking a RB in the 1st round has merit, for a Cardinals’ offense that last year allotted 422 touches to RBs (274 to Kenyan Drake) as opposed to 297 to WRs/TEs, one could make a case that if there is a RB in Round 1 who is the perfect fit for the Cardinals run heavy offense, then, by all means, go ahead and take him.

There is a strong chance that Najee Harris (All-Time Alabama rushing leader) and/or Travis Etienne (All-Time ACC rushing and TDs leader) could be available to the Cardinals at pick #16. Both Harris and Etienne have elite RB traits. Both have helped their teams contend for and win national championships.

If the Cardinals decide to wait until Round 2, if Trey Sermon is on the board at #49, reuniting him with Kyler Murray would be exciting. Other potential options at this spot would be Javonte Williams (North Carolina) and Jermar Jefferson (Oregon St.).

Here is Mel Kiper’s current Top 10 at RB:

1. Najee Harris, Alabama

2. Travis Etienne, Clemson

3. Trey Sermon, Ohio State

4. Javonte Williams, North Carolina

5. Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State

6. Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis

7. Demetric Felton, UCLA

8. Michael Carter, North Carolina

9. Javian Hawkins, Louisville

10. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State

A RB who also deserves to be on this list, imo, is Kylin Hill (Mississippi St.) I believe that he will be a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

The thing is —- as we saw with Kenyan Drake, whomever the Cardinals decide to sign or draft had better be well equipped and thirsty to handle the physical workload. Ideally, the Cardinals would want a RB1 who can pound between the tackles for positive yards and have the pop and speed to break long dashes and home runs —- a RB who has a nose for the end zone —-plus, a RB who is a prolific receiver and pass protector in the passing game.

Not too many college RBs can check all of those boxes —- which is why, in my opinion, all free agent and draft options should be on the table.

I am going to go ahead and say it —- I think Najee Harris is a rare, all-purpose blue chipper who could help turn the Cardinals’ offense into a juggernaut. In light of the fact that the RB1 gets more touches in this offense than any other skill player, if the Cardinals can acquire a total stud at the position, then they should bust a move —-of course, providing that they have already addressed the other key positions of need in free agency.

How often have you seen a 6-2, 230 pound RB possess this elite blend of foot quickness, vision, power and burst?

In my opinion, Najee Harris is a combination of Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara.