Improved O-line, Kenyan Drake solidifying Cardinals’ running game
TEMPE, Ariz. — As the Arizona Cardinals’ lead man, quarterback Kyler Murray has impressed for much of the season, turning in a respectable rookie campaign to grow off of.
But another dimension of the Cardinals’ offense has also seen a boost in production.
Labeled as one of, if not the, most glaring weaknesses of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the offensive line has looked to have turned a corner, especially during the second half of this season.
A big reason for that? The injuries, or lack thereof.
“It’s been huge, I think last year looking through it, [the line] lost five starters, six starters, something like that,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said before practice Tuesday.
“To be able to keep pretty much the same group intact, [offensive line] coach [Sean] Kugler did a tremendous job building that room, and they fight for each other. They play hard together, it’s all about the group and that’s been fun to watch.”
The line has seen nine games of three sacks or less this season, including two outings without a single sack. The total sack number may only be a few off last year’s mark (52), but the stability the team has seen from the offensive line has been a positive for a rookie looking to find his comfortability in the NFL.
The line’s improvement has also paid dividends in helping Kenyan Drake rejuvenate not only a running attack that had been lackluster for most of the season, but then his career as well.
Before coming over in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, Drake had 174 rushing on 47 attempts (3.7 yards per carry). Fast forward to the conclusion of Week 16 and the running back sits at a career-best 757 yards and seven touchdowns on 158 touches (4.8 yards per carry).
But it’s been the last two games that have really showed the offensive line’s ability to help dictate the game, as Drake blew up for back-to-back 100-yard, multi-touchdown games.
It also helps Drake has the potential to go the distance on each touch.
“I believe Kenyan’s a fit in any offense, really, he has the skillset that can be a starting running back in the NFL, any system, it appears to me,” Kingsbury said of Drake.
“I like his competitive spirit, I like how hard he runs, quick twitch, can catch the ball out of the backfield. And the ability to take it the distance any time he touches it is obviously a huge plus.”
While the season totals won’t have the Cardinals’ running game in the upper echelon of teams when it’s all said and done, Arizona’s ability to find a sturdy rushing attack has been critical to its success in the second half of the season.
Finishing off the year with another solid showing will give both Drake and the line more confidence and a lot more to build on during the offseason.