OC Mike McCoy says Cardinals are still finding offensive identity
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cardinals coach Steve Wilks doesn’t know what to expect from coordinator Mike McCoy’s offense because McCoy doesn’t know what to expect from his offense.
McCoy hasn’t had starting quarterback Sam Bradford for more than a few full practices because Bradford was limited in OTAs and minicamp while rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee.
McCoy hasn’t had a long look at star running back David Johnson because Johnson sat out minicamp in a contract dispute. McCoy hasn’t fully evaluated tight end Jermaine Gresham because Gresham is still rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon suffered last season, and aside from Larry Fitzgerald, the receiving corps is still a mystery of scattered puzzle pieces.
“We’ve only had two practices in pads,” McCoy said Tuesday. “We’re going to find out.”
Despite all the unknowns, Wilks believes he can fall back on McCoy’s track record.
“There’s guys that have schemes and guys that have systems. I believe in systems that adapt to the personnel that you have,” Wilks said. “Mike does a great job of that.”
Five days into training camp, McCoy was preaching that very approach when asked to evaluate the progress and identity of his offense.
“We’re creating the identity right now in training camp and the preseason,” he said. “We’ve got a long ways to go. That’s what training camp is for.”
McCoy said it is critical that the coaching staff evaluate the strengths of its personnel and then play to those strengths with the game plans it designs and the plays it calls.
“Who’s the best puller? Who are our best double-team guys? How do our tight ends block certain schemes. You find out a lot about your players,” McCoy said. “There’s going to be plenty of plays we’re going to look at in the next couple weeks before we get to that home opener and say, ‘OK, this is not us.’ That’s our job as coaches to find out, ‘What do we do best?’”
Wilks hasn’t hidden the fact that he’d like to run the ball more than the Cardinals did under Bruce Arians. Health provided, Johnson gives him a premier back with which to do it and a superlative receiver to boot.
McCoy is also expected to go to more short and intermediate routes in the passing game, and he said Tuesday that he will give his tackles more protection in passing situations, something Arians was hesitant to do.
“You’re probably going to see [diminutive receiver] JJ Nelson try to blow up a defensive end from time to time,” McCoy said, joking. “We’re going to give those tackles help. Back in the day, there was usually one guy you had to worry about. Now, you look across the line of scrimmage and the athletic ability of the defensive fronts these days, that’s the toughest part. That’s a challenge every week. There’s so much talent on defense and the speed of the game.”
McCoy said he wants to have an open dialogue with his players to better understand their strengths and comfort zones.
“I want them to express their opinions about things and come to me with suggestions, but then I also say that I am the coordinator and I have final say,” he said. “You may not always like the decisions we make but there’s going to be give and take.”
With two decades of coaching experience under his belt including four as the San Diego Chargers head coach, McCoy is familiar with the pressures that coordinators and head coaches face. While he understands that analysis and second-guessing come with those job titles, he wants outsiders to remember a simple reality.
“This is what we do as coaches all week long from Monday up until the game, or adjustments in the game.,” he said. “You put a game plan together and you stick to your plan.
“It’s going to come down to players. Good players make good coaches and we’ve got to design a good scheme on a weekly basis to help our players succeed.”