Finding that big-play mojo on Cardinals HC Kliff Kingsbury’s to-do list
TEMPE — Sleep and self-scouting.
That was about the extent of Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s weekend with his team on a mini bye having won on Thursday night.
Kingsbury established two things during his R&R: He could use some more pillow time and more eye-opening plays from his offense.
Breaking things down with his coaching staff, Kingsbury took a look at where the team is excelling and where it could take another step, as well as taking a closer look at the rotation in some of the crowded position groups. The lack of big plays down the field was among the most glaring issues in the head coach’s eyes.
“I think from an offensive perspective, the big plays are way down,” Kingsbury said Monday. “I think that’s an area we got to try and manufacture more of. Getting (DeAndre Hopkins) back is going to help — you saw what he was able to do (on Thursday Night Football) — but we got to be able to make some bigger plays down the field.”
As we saw with the defense last week, two big plays in the form of a couple pick-sixes ignited the unit and kept it running hot throughout the rest of the game. A third interception in the end zone by Antonio Hamilton only added to the defense’s fanfare on the field.
After stacking strong performances one after another, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph finally got that home run (or two) that he had been searching for. The unit was playing well but was still missing those game-turning plays.
For a Cardinals offense still trying to roll out a complete game — though Hopkins certainly helped matters on Thursday — adding those big plays into the fold is likely the missing ingredient to this unit producing in the way many expected it to entering the season. Going into Week 8, an Arizona pass catcher hasn’t seen a reception over 32 yards.
We’re already seeing the team implement some changes offensively. In Arizona’s win over New Orleans, Hopkins lined up all over the field on his way to 10 catches and 103 yards.
A handful of times over the course of the evening, the wideout was either interfered with by defenders or missed by quarterback Kyler Murray down the field. His longest reception of the night was only for 18 yards but the opportunities were there and should be moving forward.
And aside from opening up the field with a consistent run game, a big factor in turning the tide in the big play department will be getting midseason trade acquisition Robbie Anderson up to speed in the offense and in sync with his signal caller.
Before joining the team, Anderson ripped off a 75-yard touchdown as a member of the Carolina Panthers, which is the fourth-longest catch of the year in the NFL. He has the speed and the size to be a problem in this offense. In all but two seasons, Anderson has averaged at least 14 yards per catch over his seven-year career.
And with A.J. Green seeing zero snaps last week, it appears clear the Cardinals’ intent in utilizing Anderson — or Rondale Moore at times — opposite Hopkins.
“We want to see how he fits really in our scheme,” Kingsbury told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Monday. “We know he can run. I like what I’ve seen on film from other places. Now, it’s about fitting it into our offense.
“He’s the guy who can take the top off of (a defense) and has really elite level speed and we felt like we needed that piece when Hollywood went down. I’m excited to see what he does with another week under his belt.”
Another name to watch moving forward is wide receiver Greg Dortch, who was among the team’s top options before losing out on playing time upon the return of Moore from injury.
It still wasn’t the number of reps he was seeing at the beginning of the season, but Dortch saw a good portion of offensive snaps come his way on Thursday night.
He turned a target into a five-yard touchdown and gave even more evidence as to why he should be seeing his number called more.
“Every time he’s out there, he tends to make a play,” Kingsbury said. “He’s fearless and keeps getting better and better. It’s a crowded wide receiver room, there’s no doubt, and you got to earn every rep you get, but he’s a guy I think all coaches and players believe in at this point.”
– Kingsbury on his gut feeling of this team through seven weeks:
“I like what I’m seeing. I think a lot of the adversity has helped us kind of build some character throughout the first seven weeks and hopefully that’s on display moving forward. But we had a different look in our eye out there on Thursday and hopefully that continues.”
“We had a different look in our eye out there on Thursday and hopefully that continues,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury when asked if he has a gut feeling where this team stands entering Week 8. pic.twitter.com/mr2c3yKGMM
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) October 24, 2022