Rondale Moore, A.J. Green already opening up more of the Cardinals’ offense

Sep 18, 2021, 9:43 AM
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore (4) carries the ball against Tennessee Titans cornerb...

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore (4) carries the ball against Tennessee Titans cornerback Kristian Fulton (26) in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The name of the game offensively in the NFL is spreading the ball out.

That’s always the plan anyways.

The Arizona Cardinals swung for the fences two offseasons ago in acquiring wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans.

The result was a 1,407-yard, six-touchdown effort on 115 catches from the wideout. Beyond that, however, there was a drop in production, with Christian Kirk sliding in as the team’s No. 2 option with 79 catches for 621 yards and six scores.

At the season’s end, it was clear the Cardinals could benefit from some new blood in the wide receivers room. They did just that with free-agent addition A.J. Green and rookie Rondale Moore this offseason.

It may be a small sample size, but Arizona’s 38-13 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday provided a glimmer of what’s to come as well as a solid starting point for the year.

In their first action in Cardinal red on Sunday, Moore caught four of his five targets for 68 yards and Green chipped in two receptions (six targets) for 25 yards.

“I wasn’t surprised about what they did, and they’ll do more as the year goes on,” quarterback Kyler Murray said Thursday. “A.J.’s first game with us, Rondale’s first game with us. Once they actually understand what we’re trying to do offensively, we had a month of camp with them. I’m excited for the future with them.”

While Green helped stretch the defense on the outside, Moore found success in the screen game and out of the slot.

The duo opened up the field and let Murray go to work to the tune of four passing touchdowns and one on the ground. A total of five Cardinals pass catchers made at least two catches Sunday. Hopkins and Kirk snagged a pair of touchdowns each.

Arizona’s receiving game was on another level, with the trio of Hopkins, Kirk and Moore garnering Pro Football Focus grades of at least 80. The Cardinals were the only team to have three wideouts achieve the feat in Week 1.

“He’s just able to do some things in the open field, some of the jitterbug stuff, that for a play caller you can add some wrinkles and do some different stuff to try and get him in space,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said of Moore on Wednesday. “The first guy is going to have a hard time tackling and space, and you know that.”

And facing a Minnesota Vikings team that gave up 27 points to the Cincinnati Bengals last week, Moore and Green figure to be important cogs in Arizona’s wheel of offensive success.

Don’t ask J.J. Watt where he thinks the ball is going in the “MegaWatt” package

A lot of us watching the game Sunday weren’t quite sure where the ball was going when the “MegaWatt” package featuring defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Leki Fotu reared its head late in the second quarter.

Apparently we weren’t the only ones.

“I was mic’d up and I think they caught it where I said I didn’t know where the play was going,” Watt said Thursday. “It was not a joke. I did not know where the play was going. … We walked through it one single time with me and Leki all week, but even in the walkthrough I was just focusing on what we were doing.

“I wasn’t 100% sure where the ball went and then I went to block the guy and he wasn’t even trying to get me. … And then I looked on the jumbotron and Kyler was in the end zone. That’s fine, that works for me. I don’t care what happens. I was gonna block whoever I was supposed to block.”

Luckily for Watt and Fotu, their presence was enough of a decoy to Murray, who ran the rock unimpeded for the two-yard touchdown.

Next up for the duo is finding the end zone themselves.

“Absolutely [I want to see them score],” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday. “Multiple times.”

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Rondale Moore, A.J. Green already opening up more of the Cardinals’ offense