Moving the chains: The Cardinals offense under Kliff Kingsbury
After a dismal offensive showing in 2018, the Arizona Cardinals focused all their energy on revamping the offense.
Not only did the team bring in an offensive-minded head coach in Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals provided the first-year head coach with a vital piece to the puzzle in No. 1 pick Kyler Murray.
With no more Josh Rosen and Steve Wilks stunting any positive growth, and a creative playbook to work with, the Cardinals fought their way out of the doldrums of the NFL in 2019.
There’s still work to be done, but the team’s trending in the right direction.
Here’s a look back on the offense’s first full year under the Kingsbury, by the numbers:
GROUND AND POUND
While Kingsbury was coveted as an Air Raid specialist, not many talked about his ability to get the run game involved in an offense.
Turning in 10 games of more than 100 yards on the ground, including three 200+ outings, the Cardinals utilized the run game much more often than last season, when the team managed just three games over the century mark.
Among the rest of the NFL, the Cardinals finished the season 10th in rush yards (1,990) and yards per game (124.4), while ending the year second in average yards per carry (5.0).
Helping move the needle was midseason acquisition Kenyan Drake.
In just eight games, the running back led the team in yards (643), touchdowns (8), first downs (42) and attempts (123). Of the rushers with at least 60 attempts, only Murray (5.8) had more yards per carry than Drake (5.2).
DOWN IN THE TRENCHES
While Murray and Drake got most of the credit, a lot of the team’s success in both the run game and passing attack comes from the offensive line.
Continuity was key for the O-line, with four of the five linemen (A.Q. Shipley, D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh and J.R. Sweezy) starting all 16 games. Last season, the team went through 10+ combinations along the line.
Compared to last season’s totals, the Cardinals saw an increase in scores (up 40%), rushing yards per game (up 50%) and rushing touchdowns (100%).
In just one season, the duo of Kingsbury and Murray provided a renewed hope for Cardinals fans.
After living through last season’s debacle of an offense, that’s saying a lot.
The Cardinals saw 100 more total yards per game, a 60.4% increase of points scored and a whopping 91.7% increase of scoring drives.
Looking like the QB of the future, Murray turned in an impressive rookie campaign. Completing 349 of his 542 attempts (64.4%), Murray ended the season with 3,782 yards, 20 scores and 12 interceptions through the air. There are obviously some things to clean up, most notably the picks, but it’s a strong start for Murray.
The rookie brought another dimension to the running game as well, compiling 544 yards and four touchdowns on 93 carries. He’s just the second rookie in NFL history to record 3,500 yards passing and 500 rushing in a season. Only Cam Newton is the lone signal-caller in the same air. Only Andrew Luck (6) had more 300-yard passing games than Murray (5) as a rookie.
Death, taxes and wideout Larry Fitzgerald leading the team’s receiving corps.
Even with a rookie head coach and rookie signal-caller, the All-Pro still turned in a respectable season, catching 75 of his 109 targets (second lowest in his career) for 804 yards and four scores, Fitz paced all Arizona pass catchers in yards and receptions, while tying only running back David Johnson in scores. Fitzgerald was a tough one to bring down, too, finishing the season with a 357 YAC.
Age is only a number to the All-Pro, who played in all 16 games for the 12th time in his 15-year career.
MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU
The Cardinals tried to maximize the most of every down.
While their third-down conversion rate sat near the bottom of the league (36%), the team’s fourth-down attempts helped extend drives.
Trailing only the Baltimore Ravens (70.8%), the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and the Denver Broncos (68.8%), the Cardinals converted 13 of their 20 attempts (65%). The conversion rate is leagues ahead of last year’s mark of 37.5%.Array