Background: May 23, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks to tight end Zach Ertz (86) during mini-camp at Arizona Cardinals training facility. NFL Cardinals Mini Camp
Kliff Kingsbury’s most underrated attribute as an offensive coordinator is his adaptability and his proclivity for catering his schemes to the strengths of his personnel.
You have heard me say this before —- and it bears repeating —- Kliff Kingsbury can generate high volume production with a variety of quarterbacks. He always has. The major reason is that his schemes are designed to be QB friendly.
After Kingsbury’s first three games as an NFL play caller, his offensive line coach, Sean Kugler, and his offensive linemen encouraged Kliff to play fewer snaps in 10 personnel (4 WRs + 1 RB) in favor of employing a more steady diet of 12 personnel (2 WRs, 2 TEs, 1 RB).
Kingsbury was amenable.
Since then, Kingsbury has made a concerted effort to run a balanced running and passing game.
What he has discovered in the process is how valuable his personnel is at tight end and at running back.
Think of how important tight ends and running backs have been to Tom Brady’s success —- and in the way Brady employed them in a variety of fashions, as in flexing his tight ends into the slot and out wide in order to exploit coverage mismatches —- or in using his running backs as key targets in the passing game.
You might recall how much Tom Brady relied on RB James White in rallying the Patriots in Super Bowl LI after his team faced a 28-3 deficit to the Atlanta Falcons. After the Patriots’ stunning 34-28 come from behind win, Tom Brady felt that James White, who caught 14 passes for 110 yards and scored 3 TDs (2 of them were rushing TDs, including the game winner), should have been named the MVP.
Two years later in Super Bowl LIII, in the 4th quarter of a 3-3 game dominated by both team’s defenses, Tom Brady elected to flex TE Rob Gronkowski in order to create one-on-one opportunities.
Brady was able to isolate Gronk because of the success the QB was having hitting shifty slot WR Julian Edelman over the middle to the tune of 10 catches for 141 yards. Thus, the Rams were forced to bracket Edelman with their slot CB and the FS.
Down the stretch, Brady’s clutch passes to Gronk helped set up the go-ahead TD and the game-icing field goal that capped off a 13-3 win and Brady’s 6th Super Bowl ring.
If one takes a close look at what the Cardinals have been doing personnel-wise on the offensive side of the ball this off-season, they are adopting the Patriots’ philosophy of adding a stable of TEs and RBs.
- Zach Ertz —- classic “Y” receiver.
- Maxx Williams —- classic in-line blocker and play action receiver.
- Stephen Anderson —- classic Swiss Army knife TE as in-line TE, H-Back, “Y” flex receiver and FB.
- Trey McBride —- classic “do it all” TE.
- James Conner —- the ram
- Darrel Williams —- the chameleon
- Keontay Ingram —- the rattlesnake
- Eno Benjamin —- the razorback
- Jonathan Ward —- the gazelle
- Ronnie Rivers —- the jackrabbit
- T.J. Pledger —- the water bug
- A.J. Green
- Antoine Wesley
- Marquise Brown
- Rondale Moore
- Andy Isabella
- DeAndre Hopkins
- Run the football to establish ball control that creates excellent play action opportunities.
- Attack the seams and flats with the TEs and slot WRs, thereby occupying the free safeties.
- Create one-on-one isolations for WRs.
- Use stacks for long and short motions (rubs) into combination routes.
- Exploit one-on-one slot matchups on speedy cross-corner routes.
- Use RBs as the third wave on circle routes, screens, flares, flat passes and wheel routes.
- Use 2 RBs sets to create a stronger rushing attack and to create coverage mismatches off of RB motions and timing routes.
- Suck the defense up toward the box to be able to take a few deep pass home runs over the top.
- Utilize the QBs as point guards who locate and deliver the football to the open man.
- Take and exploit what the offense is giving them.
You want to get fired up about what this new Cardinals’ offense could look like versus the Rams? Plus, do you want to take a look at what position versatility and depth can do for the coaches and players to be able to make creative adjustments in tight games? Check this out —- this is a version of what Kliff Kingsbury is trying to create in Arizona: