Arizona Sports roundtable: More 10 personnel for the Cardinals in 2020?

Apr 12, 2020, 6:51 AM | Updated: 8:12 pm
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals is congratulated by KeeSean Johnson #19, Larry...
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals is congratulated by KeeSean Johnson #19, Larry Fitzgerald #11 and Christian Kirk #13 after scoring on a 22 rushing touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of the NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 17, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Coach Kliff Kingsbury called for 10 personnel — or four receivers on the field — 18% of the time in 2019, which was far and away the NFL’s most frequent use of the grouping. But that number would’ve been a lot higher had the Arizona Cardinals not stumbled into an identity as the year went on.

For the first time in franchise history, the team averaged better than 5.0 yards per carry, and a healthy offensive line that’s largely returning had a lot to do with it. The midseason extension given to tight end Maxx Williams said enough about how the team played with 11-personnel sets with one tight end and three wideouts.

Using Charles Clay, Dan Arnold and even Darrell Daniels throughout the year showed that Kingsbury’s creativity isn’t restricted to a high-tempo, spread offense. So what will 2020 bring with a stronger receiver group led by DeAndre Hopkins, who is coming to Arizona via trade?

We asked Arizona Sports’ hosts, producers and reporters for their thoughts.

Do you think we’ll see Kliff Kingsbury revert back to more 10-personnel groupings in 2020 after the addition of DeAndre Hopkins? Should he?

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Not sure what the offense will look like. Kliff started strong with the 10 personnel but after four games started to incorporate more of the 11- and 12-personnel packages to suit what he had. The addition of Hopkins may very well lead to seeing more four- and five-wide receiver sets in this offense and possibly more no huddle.

But some of that depends on who emerges as the 4-5-6 receivers. They lost Damiere Byrd and Pharoh Cooper, and there are questions about whether Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson or Hakeem Butler can step up. Now if the Cards draft a wideout in the first round then all bets are off and it will be fun to see what Kliff can do with a combination of Hopkins, Fitz, Kirk, Drake and either Lamb or Jeudy. That would be a lot of weapons at his disposal.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: His 10 personnel usage was at about 50% the first four games but over the last 12 games it dropped below 20%. I don’t think Hopkins pushes it back to the 50% range but I think it will be higher than 20%.

Given his willingness to evolve as a play-caller last year, I don’t think it’s fair to keep putting Kingsbury in that 10 personnel box. Sure he has better players to use it more often but he’ll continue to be influenced by the success they had running the ball last year and using the tight ends more.

Ron Wolfley, co-host of Doug & Wolf: No. I think we’ll see 10-personnel about 15% of the time, which would be a decrease from last season. Kyler Murray played better in a balanced offense with balanced personnel groups. I don’t think we’ll see a commitment to the Air Raid because of the failure it was in the red zone.

Defenses are more talented, the hashmarks are too prohibitive and square footage is at a premium. You have to use multiple personnel groups and run the ball well in order to be good from the 20 yards in.

Doug Franz, co-host of Doug & Wolf: Ask me this question on the morning of April 24. If they draft Henry Ruggs, Lamb or Jeudy, then yes. If DT Derrick Brown, DT Javon Kinlaw or LB Isaiah Simmons is a Cardinal, then no.

I don’t look at that answer as a cop out. I think the answer depends on who’s on the board at No. 8.

Kevin Zimmerman, editor and reporter: There were too many lessons learned about the offensive line and running game last year to go away from it. That’s the reason Arizona transition-tagged Drake and extended tight end Maxx Williams.

I don’t think the offense will use 10 personnel more than 25% of the time, but it would be nice for Kingsbury to have a 10-personnel hurry-up unit to throw on the field at strategic moments and for late-game rallies. There’s a reason the offense made that Game 1 comeback against the Lions, and it could become a more legitimate tool with four capable receivers.

Kellan Olson, editor and reporter: Yes, absolutely. The limitations of Kyler Murray’s pass-catchers and Murray himself working through his first year made that complexion a bit too hard to overcome.

Now, with Hopkins in the fold, the coverages Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk will see should lighten up to what they can consistently exploit in roles as the second and third wideouts.

All they need is one of the second-year wide receivers — Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler or KeeSean Johnson — being enough of a threat to make 10 personnel worthwhile. Surely they didn’t go 0-for-3 there in the same draft?

Or, you know, just draft CeeDee Lamb.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta

I know it’s easy to assume that Kingsbury will use 10 personnel more with the addition of Hopkins at wide receiver, but I’m not so sure that’ll be the case.

The Cardinals’ offense was better as the year went on the more they relied on tight ends. Plus, who is going to step up at that fourth receiver in 2020? With Byrd and Cooper gone, one of the rookies from 2019 is going to have to improve greatly to be counted on as a fourth receiver.

If Isabella, Johnson or Butler can be that guy, I could see the opposite trend from last season, where Kingsbury used 10 personnel more than 50 percent of the time in each of the first four games of the year, with that usage dwindling as the season went on.

If the Cardinals do draft CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs or Jerry Jeudy, you can almost disregard everything I just wrote.

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Arizona Sports roundtable: More 10 personnel for the Cardinals in 2020?