Against Ravens, all eyes on Kliff Kingsbury’s gameplanning for Cards

Sep 12, 2019, 5:01 PM | Updated: 9:16 pm

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals looks on prior to their game against the Detroi...

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals looks on prior to their game against the Detroit Lions at State Farm Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Those familiar with Kliff Kingsbury’s offenses during six seasons at Texas Tech expected the Arizona Cardinals head coach to continue using heavy doses of 10 personnel in the NFL.

He ran out one running back, no tight end and four receivers more than almost any other college program over the last several years.

So when Kingsbury’s pro coaching debut Sunday against the Detroit Lions saw Arizona use 10 personnel 67% of the time, it wasn’t surprising. The Cardinals’ 55 snaps in that grouping was more than half of the 99 combined snaps of 10 personnel across the NFL as a whole, according to Sharp Football Stats.

Kingsbury claims that personnel package at that high of a rate was an anomaly, a result of the Cardinals falling behind by 18 points seconds into the fourth quarter.

“When you’re down 24-6, you get in that mode and it was kind of two-minute drill the entire fourth quarter. I don’t anticipate it being that high (in the future),” he said.

That will be tested this Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, a team whose head coach John Harbaugh is historically unlike Detroit head coach Matt Patricia. As in, Harbaugh has a history of blitzing and doing so often.

It lends to questions about if Kingsbury really wants to use more tight ends to add additional blocking for rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.

For sure, Arizona will want to beat the pass-rushing with the quick-hit game, one that thrived late last Sunday when the Cardinals played catch-up in an eventual tie game. According to’s Cynthia Frelund, Murray got off his passes 3.11 seconds after the snap through the first three anemic offensive quarters, but that quickened to 2.61 seconds in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The quick game also would align with Arizona using 10 personnel more often.

Facing Detroit, 22 of those 55 snaps came in the fourth quarter, and another nine came in overtime. Of the 55 snaps with four wideouts, 42 were passing plays, but 13 rushes went for an impressive 5.2 yards per carry.

More than how often Arizona uses 10 personnel is the question of how it uses that run-pass balance against Baltimore, whose defense should be used to defending mobile quarterbacks having faced quarterback Lamar Jackson every day in training camp and through the preseason.

Will Arizona attempt to rush the ball more to keep the pass-rush a step slow?

“We’re going to see a lot more pressure than we saw last week. They like to bring a lot of blitzes, they like to get their guys after the quarterback,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “We got to be able to stay balanced in terms of our rush attack and get David (Johnson) and Chase (Edmonds) the ball in the run game.”

The Cardinals were successful with the run against Detroit, taking 23 carries for 112 yards and a 4.9 yard-per-rush average.

That could suggest Arizona makes a concerted effort to run the ball more, but it’s no sure thing. The Air Raid offense calls for options made by the quarterback based on mid-play reads.

“It really just comes up to what they’re offering us,” said Johnson, who rushed 18 times for 82 yards and added six catches for 55 yards with a touchdown last week. “Running it … in my opinion being a little biased, would be good for the offense.

“It’s all up to scenario.”

Then there’s the opponent to consider. Was Baltimore’s Week 1 win a fluke?

While Baltimore’s secondary ate the lowly Miami Dolphins alive with nine passes defensed and two interceptions in the 59-10 win, there are new faces.

The Ravens lost their leading tackler in 2018, linebacker C.J. Mosley, in free agency.

They let veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs and his 7.0 sacks leave for his hometown Cardinals and saw fellow free agent pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith, who led Baltimore with 8.5 sacks in 2018, sign with the Green Bay Packers.

The safety duo of former Cardinal Tony Jefferson and former Seattle Seahawks star Earl Thomas — his 2018 season ended with a broken leg and a middle finger toward his own bench in Arizona — could present problems for the Cardinals’ Murray.

As for Kingsbury, the game-to-game adjustments are a focal point as his NFL coaching career advances.

Do his week-to-week personnel packages shape-shift based on the opponent? Does he believe in tight ends Maxx Williams and Charles Clay plus running back Chase Edmonds, players he utilized relatively little last week?

What’s clear is this: Kingsbury wants better play-calls when it comes to personnel packages. Over-creativeness, he said, bit Arizona and got it out of a rhythm as the Cardinals fell behind the Lions through three-plus quarters last week.

Mostly, that affected Murray.

“I’m still going to have an attacking mentality, but just want to make sure it’s clean and it flows better,” Kingsbury said this week. “I think just tried to do too much as far as from a gameplan perspective and have too much in. I think it just got cloudy for our entire offense.”

What remains cloudy is just how different Kingsbury’s offense looks on a week-to-week basis.

Presented By
Western Governors University

Presented By
Western Governors University

Arizona Cardinals

Nolan Cooney...

Tyler Drake

Cardinals release P Nolan Cooney, sign 2 to active roster

The Arizona Cardinals released punter Nolan Cooney and added Blake Gillikin on Tuesday afternoon, the team announced.

5 hours ago

Dante Stills...

Tyler Drake

New era notes: Cardinals’ Dante Stills impressing as snaps pile up

Rookie Dante Stills is flying under the radar as he slowly but surely gets the chance to prove himself along the defensive line.

23 hours ago

Christian Matthew at training camp...

Tyler Drake

Cardinals release CB Christian Matthew, 2 others from 53-man roster

The Arizona Cardinals released cornerbacks Kris Boyd and Christian Matthew and offensive lineman Ilm Manning on Monday.

1 day ago

Presented By...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Why Arizona fans should be optimistic after weekend of Cardinals, Diamondbacks losses

It was a weekend of losses for sports teams across the Valley, including Team U.S.A. in the Ryder Cup, but Dan Bickley explains why Arizona sports fans should be optimistic heading into a new week. Video: Felisa Cárdenas/Arizona Sports Presented By

1 day ago

Michael Wilson celebrates...

Tyler Drake

Cardinals still show progress despite lopsided loss to 49ers

The scoreboard read in favor of the 49ers, but there were still positives to take away from the Cardinals' third loss of 2023.

2 days ago

Joshua Dobbs attempts a pass...

Arizona Sports

Rapid Reactions: Plenty for Cardinals to build off of after Week 4 loss to 49ers

Arizona Sports’ hosts, reporters and editors share their main takeaways from the Cardinals’ Week 4 loss to the 49ers.

2 days ago

Against Ravens, all eyes on Kliff Kingsbury’s gameplanning for Cards