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Concerns about Drew Petzing’s passing offense

Kudos to Petzing for his prolific rushing game, but the passing game is a concern

Arizona Cardinals v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

After watching Drew Petzing’s first 8 games as the Cardinals’ OC, his running game coordination has been impressive. Even after losing bell cow RB James Conner, undrafted rookie Emari Demercado has stepped in and has been very productive. Kudos to OL coach Klayton Adams for his implementation of the outside zone blocking schemes. They have been consistently effective.

Watching Josh Dobbs regress the last few weeks elicits some concerns about Petzing’s ability to recognize bona fide talent at the QB position, and, perhaps even more troubling, it calls into question Drew Petzing’s ability to coach the QB position.

Over the past few weeks, Josh Dobbs’ passing fundamentals have been consistently flawed —- and yet little to no corrections have been made. First, Dobbs is staring down his primary receiver so often that opposing defenses are teaching their defensive linemen when they see Dobbs looking their way, to get their hands up in the passing lane.

Second, almost every pass that Dobbs throws does not come out of his had cleanly. That is the result of poor footwork and the lack of proper maneuverings around the pocket. Only rare QBs like Patrick Mahomes can get away with throwing flat-footed. Dobbs doesn’t have that type of arm skill.

Ironically, the only QB I have seen this year to use his feet properly inside Petzing’s pocket was Clayton Tune in the pre-season. This is an instinct that is well-ingrained in Tune’s skillset. The strength of Tune’s game is throwing zip passes between the hash marks and up the seams —- something that this offense, because of its good running game, should be able to take full advantage of off of play-action.

That isn’t happening practically at all this year.

Even on simple RB screen passes, Dobbs has a tendency to throw the ball too soon, often right into the outstretched arms of the edge defender. All it takes, is a slight shift of the feet to create a clearer passing lane.

Shifting one’s feet in the pocket allows the QB to be able to maneuver himself into a clearer passing lane and then be able to set his feet to deliver a strike downfield. It also buys that precious extra second of time that enable the WRs to separate in coverage.

Dobbs is not wired this way.

And neither is Kyler Murray —- at least not to this point in his career.

Kyler is loath to step up into a pocket —- and he lacks the physical stature to be able to hang in there until the top target WR breaks open. With Kyler at the back end of the pocket, the ball is going to come out fast, or —- he is going to flush left or right to try to extend the play. Kyler is very good at flushing out and passing downfield. That’s why the play action bootleg and waggle options should be a steady staple for Kyler in this offense —- but Petzing hasn’t run those bootlegs and waggles on a steady basis for Josh Dobbs, even though Dobbs’ pocket passing has been predictably erratic.

What’s amazingly lacking about Petzing’s offense is how infrequently he uses play action to throw over the top of the inside linebackers who have been loading the box and keying on the run. This suggests a lack of confidence on Petzing’s part to ask Josh Dobbs to throw more frequently into the intermediate and deeper areas of the field.

What is absolutely galling is watching Dobbs continue game after game to throw 2-3 yard passes on 3rd and 5 or 3rd and 7. The epitome of this was in today’s game when the Cardinals needed a 12-yard pass on their second two-point conversion and Dobbs threw a 2 yard pass to Hollywood Brown who had absolutely no chance to run around or through 4 defenders.

To run Drew Petzing’s offense the way he’s designed it, requires a pro-style pocket passer who has a good feel for pressure and how to shift his feet away from it into an area of the pocket where he can deliver the football downfield.

The QB in the 2024 NFL Draft who fits the pro=stole pocket passer profile the best, in my opinion, is Drake Maye.

It’s very surprising to me that Petzing has been so reluctant to play Clayton Tune. It feels like Petzing is protecting Josh Dobbs the way Jonathan Gannon has been protecting Marco Wilson and D.J. Humphries.

Moreover, when are we ever going to see a Drew Petzing offense take some deep shots downfield? The few ones he’s called for Dobbs, Dobbs has been either badly overthrowing or underthrowing.

If you look at today’s box score —- the two fastest deep threats in the offense, Hollywood Brown and Rondale Moore both averaged 5 yards per catch:

  • Hollywood Brown —- 6 catches for 33 yards, 5.5 ave.
  • Rondale Moore —- 2 catches for 10 yards, 5.0 ave.

This is a major concern. After 8 games, Drew Petzing and Josh Dobbs have not capitalized on Hollywood’s and Rondale’s speed —- when Petzing and Dobbs keep simply dumping quick passes to them, opposing defenses who know it’s coming are very thankful. In essence, Petzing is not putting any real pressure on the defense when his entire offense appears relegated to a 20-yard rectangle.

It’s amazing that opposing defenses are loading up the box and the Cardinals are still running the ball effectively. But, Petzing’s and Dobbs’ failure to take advantage of supreme play-action opportunities has been the bane and undoing of this offense.

If Kyler Murray can return to his early 2021 form, he could bring the deep passing game back to the Cardinals. With the top end speed that Brown and Moore possess, all the QB needs to do is take a 3 step drop off the play-action or from the shotgun and let the ball fly. If he sees safety help, then he can turn to find Michael Wilson and Trey McBride on second level digs, drags and corner routes.

But, there are so many moving parts to learning the basic footwork fundamentals of Petzing’s offense that it seems unfair to ask Kyler to try to take a crash-course in these critical fundamentals that take hundreds of reps to consistently execute.

Drew Petzing’s offense is tailor made for Tom Brady. To take full advantage of defenses trying to key on the run, the QB needs to be a savvy play-action passer over middle. Plus, being able to master the footwork it takes to buy time in the pocket and to set the feet square to the target. To date, that has not been Kyler’s forte, as he much prefers to throw outside the hash marks on isolations back shoulders or deep crossers.

Kyler he now finds himself in two distinct areas of unchartered territory —- returning to the field for the first time in his career coming off a major injury and subsequence 10-month rehab—- and for the first time in his football life having to learn a pro-style, play-action based offense that requires precise footwork and timing, and a strong command of pocket passing under pressure.

The confluence of those two challenges don’t exactly give Kyler a fair chance, given his lack of valuable reps. But, with Kyler’s talent and elite improvisational skills, anything is possible.