Kliff Kingbury’s preseason offense is uninspiring for 2021 Cardinals

Aug 20, 2021, 7:14 PM | Updated: 10:48 pm
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones forces Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) ...

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones forces Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) to fumble during the first half of an NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals recovered the ball. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Cardinals gave us a sneak preview of their revamped offense on Friday night.

Alas, some things can’t be unseen.

The first-stringers sputtered and coughed. The Cardinals moved backward on the stat sheet, losing one yard on nine plays. The first three-and-out came after a no-huddle attack, an unacceptable misfire that can wear out and infuriate your own defense.

After three fruitless series, the only successful play was a Kyler Murray scamper around the edge for eight yards.

It looked very much like the worst of 2020, when rushing attempts from the quarterback were the only reliable source of yardage.

This was not an evening full of inspiration.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury should have plenty of critical analysis for his players when they gather for film session.

He can counsel Christian Kirk to run better routes to keep defenders off his back. He can remind James Conner that he was brought to Arizona to attack the line of scrimmage and not dance like Drake (Kenyan) toward the sideline. He can scold the offensive line for allowing the Chiefs to severely harass their starting quarterback.

As for Murray, well, there wasn’t a lot to celebrate. He showed terrible timing with A.J. Green on an incompletion. He fired an uncatchable rocket to Rondale Moore, who was just a few yards from the line of scrimmage. He was sacked twice, fumbled once and did little to stoke the fires of optimism.

Murray also despises preseason football. He doesn’t understand the point of playing meaningless games when violence is involved. He has a point. And maybe that disdain was reflected in his performance.

It’s also a good thing that the Cardinals’ offense will feel the discomfort of this failure. That should heighten their focus and their level of fear in the practices preceding a Week 1 showdown with the Titans.

But I can’t shake the following:

True offensive masterminds blessed with an arsenal of weapons should be able to produce at least one affirming drive in a preseason game, especially with an MVP candidate at quarterback. When was the last time Kingsbury put together a breathtaking sequence of calls?  When was the last time the Cardinals consistently produced chunk plays from the pocket?

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan designed a brilliant touchdown pass for his rookie quarterback just to build a groundswell of optimism. Couldn’t Kingsbury have drawn up a single play that involved a football that travels more than 20 yards in the air?  Just for optics?

We’re entering Year 3 of this unconventional experiment in Arizona. Kingsbury is said to be spending more time assuming head coaching duties and less time mentoring his quarterback, and yet the offense looks like anything but a finished product.

Granted, this is only the preseason and DeAndre Hopkins took the night off. But the offense was bad enough to make you wonder if Kingsbury’s unimpressive scheme has influenced the mindset of Larry Fitzgerald.

A few hours before the game, Fitzgerald voiced his most definitive retirement comments to date. He left a door open for an eventual return to the NFL, but said he has no urge to play football at the moment.

In Minnesota, fans are hoping that Fitzgerald is waiting until Week 3 to announce his return, after the Vikings play a road game in Arizona. Theoretically, there is a chance Fitzgerald will reassess his options and his feelings later in the season, where he could join a contender like the Buccaneers or Patriots.

The reality is, Fitzgerald has been checked out for some time and is simply declining and delaying all the tributes and plaudits that will accompany his long-awaited retirement.

Maybe he has lost the urge. Or maybe he lost faith in this offense a long time ago.

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