Arizona Cardinals in bottom half of ESPN’s NFL speed rankings

Oct 30, 2021, 7:45 AM
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) pulls in a touchdown pass as Houston Texans out...

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) pulls in a touchdown pass as Houston Texans outside linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (51) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The 7-1 Arizona Cardinals rank among the NFL’s best in plenty of statistical categories. However, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Brian Burke, there’s one area that the Cardinals are not among the NFL’s best in: speed.

The Cardinals are 23rd in the NFL with an overall speed of 9.38 average yards per second.

That calculation came from Fowler and Burke after a close examination of player speeds via NextGenStats for defensive backs and linebackers on defense and quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends on offense. The top five speeds for each player in 2020 and 2021 were used in the speed calculations.

Defensive speed was weighted 70% toward defensive backs with linebackers accounting for the other 30%. Wide receivers carry the burden on offense with a 45% weight in the offensive calculations. Tight ends carry the second-most weight on offense at 25%. Running backs (20%) and quarterbacks (10%) follow.

Measuring the team’s speed is a 50-50 split between offense and defense.

Neither Arizona’s offense or defense is in the top half of the NFL. The defense holds a slight statistical advantage at 9.44 average yards per second compared to the offense’s 9.33. However, the offense ranks better at 18th while the defense sits at 24th.

Arizona’s quarterback unit, headed by Kyler Murray, is Arizona’s best unit relative to the rest of the league. Arizona’s QBs rank third in the NFL with an average of 9.71 yards per second.

The tight ends, though, have some work to do. The TE unit is Arizona’s slowest unit in comparison to the rest of the league, ranking 25th at 8.45 average yards per second.

Arizona’s tight end unit has undergone some change following Maxx Williams’ season-ending knee injury. Zach Ertz impressed on Sunday in his Cardinals debut with three receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown catch. On Thursday Night Football, in a loss to the Green Bay Packers, he added four grabs for 42 yards.

Wide receiver Christian Kirk comes in as the fastest player on the team with an average of 10.13 yards per second.

Kirk’s speed has made him a weapon in Arizona’s deep wide receiver group. His 408 receiving yards this season are second only to DeAndre Hopkins on the team. Kirk tops Arizona’s wide receivers with an average depth of target of 12.9 yards, according to Pro Football Reference.

Arizona’s speed comes in third in the NFC West. The Seattle Seahawks top the division with an overall average of 9.54 yards per second. Seattle is third in the NFL.

The Los Angeles Rams are 16th in the NFL. Only the San Francisco 49ers are slower than Arizona within the NFC West.

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