This off-season, the Baltimore Ravens were able to achieve two game-changing feats:
1 —- Sign QB Lamar Jackson to a multi-year contract extension
2 —- Hire Todd Monken to replace Greg Roman as offensive coordinator
As Cardinals’ fans know, while he was a Raven, WR Hollywood Brown was frustrated in having to play in Greg Roman’s run and pass to the TE heavy offense. Yet, no Raven was more frustrated with Roman’s conservative offensive scheme than Lamar Jackson.
A key part of why Jackson decided to sign the multi-year extension was the assurance the Ravens gave him that they would say “Nevermore” to a conservative offense.
Now, even though Kyler Murray has been saying very positive things about Drew Petzing, the coach’s attention to detail and the appealing aspects of a run heavy offense, Kyler, as he is apt to find out, is going to find himself in a similar conundrum as Lamar was.
What Todd Monken has done so brilliantly, is open up the passing attack for Lamar Jackson in ways that Jackson has never been able to access as a pro.
By giving Lamar Jackson increased opportunities to throw the ball downfield, the serendipity is that this has actually enhanced the productivity of the team’s running game, which as of right now is #1 in the NFL at 160.3 yards per game.
Thus, the Ravens are boasting one of the league’s most balanced and dangerous offenses —- currently ranking 6th in the NFL at 369.0 total yards per game.
Cardinals' fans who refuse to give Kliff Kingsbury any iota of credit for his accomplishments in Arizona should know that the most balanced offense Kingsbury had in his 4 years was in 2020 where his offense was 6th in the NFL in total yards (363.9) per game. Virtually the same yards per game that have the Ravens at #6 this season.
Right now, the Cardinals’ offense is 8th in rushing at 120.0 ypg, 31st in passing at 162.7 ypg and 26th overall at 289.7 ypg.
Compare.bet’s Kyle Odegard wrote a compelling case yesterday about what a great fit Drew Petzing’s run-heavy offense could be for Kyler Murray. If you haven’t read the article yet, here is the link:
One claim that Kyle Odegard made that, in my opinion, was more speculative than factual, was that former head coach Kliff Kingsbury was loath to embrace the run.
Arizona Cardinals’ Rushing Yards Per Game Under Kliff Kingsbury:
- 2022 —- 110.2 —- #22 —- 4/5 starting OL plus James Conner and Kyler Murray lost to injuries
- 2021 —- 118.7 —- #14
- 2020 —- 139.6 —- #6
- 2019 —- 124.4 —- #10
What Kliff Kingsbury tried most to embrace was achieving offensive balance.
Arizona Cardinals’ Passing Yards Per Game Under Kliff Kingsbury
- 2022 —- 213.3 —- #18
- 2021 —- 244.3 —- #11
- 2020 —- 244.8 —- #15
- 2019 —- 217.3 —- #22
The two best years of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure, where he went 19-14 as the HC, look at the balance he was able to achieve, as highlighted in bold.
In total offense, Kliff’s rankings in 2020 and 2021 were 6th and 9th in the NFL respectively.
Reasons Why Petzing’s Offense Is Not Made to Order for Kyler:
- Teams that have stifled Kyler the most are those who have loaded the box against him with the intent of discouraging him from running and limiting him to having to throw quick, short passes. Petzing’s heavy use of 12 and 13 personnel, and his penchant for playing small ball in the passing game has allowed defenses to overload the box to defend the run while getting quick pressure on the QB.
- The Browns just gave the NFL the blueprint as to how to blow up Petzing’s elaborate pull-heavy running game, while at the same time, keying on getting a picket fence of hands up to disrupt the passing lanes on Petzing’s array of quick, short passes. Look at the number of negative plays the offense has incurred because of defenses doing things akin to this:
Notice how every time the OL pulled and left a DL unblocked, the DL blew up the play? Every time the ball was coming out fast the DL got their hands up to alter trajectories. How on 3rd downs they knew every pass would be 3 yards? No chipping on Myles G.? More on Red Rain.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) November 5, 2023
- This offense is about as QB unfriendly as it gets. By trying to run to set up the pass, the team has found itself in a flurry of 3rd down passing situations, which puts extra pressure on the QB to have to try to convert. As we have seen, Petzing has not yet shown an ability to dial up passing plays that are thrown beyond the sticks. As a result, we have seen a preponderance of 3-yard passes that are 3-4 yards short of the sticks —-which promoted ROTB’s RedC to aptly term this troubling aspect of the Cardinals’ offense as “3rd and Give Up.”
- The only thing that would change the way teams are loading up the box, is for Petzing to dial up a regimen of intermediate and deep passing plays while somehow finding a way to give the QB enough time to throw them.
- It’s not a total fluke that Josh Dobbs had his best quarter of passing the football when the team was so far behind the Ravens in the 4th quarter that it went to a spread-type of hurry-up offense. What QBs relish is being given the chance to get in a rhythm —- which for 3 quarters Dobbs was not able to achieve within the base offense. Notice that Dobbs won his first game for the Vikings in the 4th quarter running a spread-style hurry-up offense.
- Out of Petzing’s base offense, for whatever reason, receivers tend to wind up way too close together to the point where one defender can cover both receivers. Proper spreading on combination routes is of paramount importance.
- What also is a concern about a run heavy offense is that it compels the GM and HC to keep a stable of RBs and TEs, as the Patriots have done for decades. When a team is keeping 3-4 RBs and 3-4 TEs, it limits the team’s depth at WR. When you have a golden-armed, gifted passer like Kyler Murray the biggest stable to give him is at WR.
- The other things about run-first, time of possession type of offenses is that they typically lead to lower scoring close games, which only work if the team’s defense is able to shut down opposing offenses, particularly when games are on the line. Kurt Warner wanted to get big leads and then lean on the running game a little more to help milk the clock. Kyler Murray, when he is in rhythm, can light up the scoreboard as he did en route to winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.
Reasons Why Kyler Murray Belongs in a Spread
- Kyler Murray is best suited to run a spread offense that is designed as pass first to set up the run. Not the other way around.
- Kurt Warner always espoused a pass-first offense because he said the best thing that he could do every game was to establish his rhythm passing the football.
- By making a more concerted effort to throw beyond 10 yards on first and second downs, that is going to put defenses on their heels to the point where they can no longer commit 8 players to the box.
- It’s more difficult for teams to blitz QB from a spread because it’s a longer distance to travel. Plus, the “hot routes” are easier to throw and are more immediately accessible.
- If you had to choose what aspect of offense your team is better at, rushing or passing, the answer always is passing, because if you can’t pass, you can’t come back from 2nd half deficits to win games the way the Vikings did last week.
- Like the Ravens are learning under Todd Monken, spreading out defenses and making them pass conscious can actually lead to having a more productive running game, because of how the numbers can work in the offense’s favor. Monken does as masterful job of motioning his TE to sides of the formation that gives him an extra blocker in the running game AND an extra receiver to that side.
- What Monken does so cleverly is he uses motion to give the QB a clue about whether the defense is in man or zone. Then the combination routes that Monken runs are well spaced and perfectly complimentary.
- While things soured between Kyler and Kliff, before they soured, the Cardinals were putting up big numbers and points and were pulling away from teams by the end of the 3rd quarter. Thus, we have seen how superb Kyler can be when he’s running the spread and getting in rhythm. And let’s not forget how daunting Kyler can be when running up-tempo offense.
- Like Joe Burrow, Kyler much prefers to take snaps from the shotgun so that he can see everything in front of him from the get-go. There is nothing wrong with that. OCs can still have a QB run play actions, bootlegs, sprint-outs and waggles.
- Lastly, Todd Monken won consecutive FBS national championships with a 5-11 QB named Stenson Bennett. Take a look at these Georgia plays and envision Kyler Murray running them in this superb video:
If the Cardinals intend to stick with Kyler Murray, then they it should behoove them to put him in the best possible hands and to play him in an offensive system that is tailor made for his unique skillset.
While Kyler will make some flash plays in Petzing’s offense (or any offense for that matter), it’s likely going to be difficult for him to get into and sustain his rhythm in the passing game.
If the Cardinals continue to lose games, then the whole NFL world will be wondering whether Monti Ossenfort and Dave Sears have picked out a QB in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft whom they believe is better suited to run Drew Petzing’s offense.
Maybe that has been where MODS have been headed all along —- you know, to keep shedding Steve Keim picks like an ecdysiast —- in favor of bringing in their own guys.
But, if the Cardinals are keen on keeping Kyler Murray, there are two elite receivers at the top of the 2024 NFL Draft in Marvin Harrison Jr. of Ohio St. and Brock Bowers of Georgia. And if the Cardinals can get their hands on one of them, returning Kyler to the spread with a Todd Monken-esque kind of creativity, would be, highly advisable.
Thus, the best situation the organization can provide for Kyler Murray is what the Ravens have now provided for Lamar Jackson.