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USA Today’s Ruiz: Cardinals boast NFL’s second-best offensive player grouping

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2016, file photo, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) calls a play against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game, in Glendale, Ariz. Arizona and Carolina play in the NFC Championship game on Sunday, Jan. 24, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The 2015 Arizona Cardinals offense led the NFL in yards and passing yards per attempt, and when one looks at the offensive weapons that Bruce Arians has at his disposal, that production makes a lot of sense.

Steven Ruiz of USA Today recently ranked the NFL’s best personnel groupings, and only Tom Brady and the Patriots’ 12 personnel package topped Arians’ 10 personnel setup, led by Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer.

QB: Carson Palmer, RB: David Johnson, WR: Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd, J.J. Nelson

The Cardinals are loaded at the receiver position. Even their running back is a gifted pass-catcher out the backfield. So when Arizona dials up its spread formations, opposing defenses will have a difficult time matching up without putting as many defensive backs on the field as possible. But if defenses load up to defend the pass, Johnson will feast on light run boxes.

Indeed, David Johnson is a versatile offensive option for Arians. Johnson had the second-most yards from scrimmage for the Cardinals last year, while 457 of those 1,038 yards were from receiving.

At the same time, the four receivers in that grouping combined for 3,366 yards in 2015, averaging 14.2 yards per reception.

It was that offense that put up at least 30 points on its opponents in ten of its 16 regular season games, and finished huge plays at critical moments to lift Arizona to a 26-20 overtime win over Green Bay in the playoffs.

Even with the Pats above Arizona on Ruiz’s list, the production on the Cardinals’ offense is more evenly distributed among its players. TE Rob Gronkowski was the Pats’ only player with more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage (1,176). The Cardinals, meanwhile, had three: Fitzgerald (1,215), John Brown (1,003) and Johnson (1,038).

Coincidentally, Ruiz’s first-place Patriots will be in Glendale for week one against the Cardinals in 2016, but the Deflategate ruling may prevent Brady – a crucial component of what Ruiz calls a “nearly indefensible” grouping – from taking the field.

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