Breaking Down the Deficiencies in the Arizona Cardinals' Offense
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona Cardinals are having a miserable season. It seems like an eternity ago when the Cardinals were 4-0. Two months have gone by, and Arizona is still stuck on four wins.
The true reason why the Cardinals haven't won since the end of September is the lack of offense, and we'll break down where it's gone wrong for the Cardinals. Arizona ranks 27th in passing yards with 197.6 yards per game and 31st in rushing yards with 81.5 yards per game.
Where has it gone wrong for the Cardinals on the offensive side of the ball?
The running game hasn't been able to get going at all this season.
This breakdown comes from Sunday's Cardinals' game at the New York Jets. This is from their second offensive series of the day, deep in Jets' territory. Arizona has the ball 2nd-and-2 at the 18-yard line.
Running back Beanie Wells (circled in red) is going to run to the left out of the I-formation against the Jets' 3-4 defense.
The blocking is able to create a lane for Wells to run through.
Unfortunately, the hole closes, and Wells is limited to just one yard.
Arizona tries the run again on 3rd-and-1 at the Jets' 17. Wells will try the right side out of the I-formation again. Notice tight end Rob Housler (highlighted in yellow) is going to be outmanned on the corner by a pair of Jets.
The outside defender peels off, and New York safety LaRon Landry rushes inside and takes down Wells for a one-yard loss.
The Cardinals have 4th-and-2 at the Jets' 18. Arizona could have taken a shot at a 35-yard field goal but mysteriously decline to do so. It defied logic. They have a kicker in Jay Feely who hit a 61-yarder earlier this season, so a 35-yard attempt should be a chip shot. In a game that ended 7-6, going for the field goal is the difference between another tough loss and the team's first win since September. Poor decisions are being made by the coaches, and this was one of them.
Arizona has wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald at the top of the picture in man coverage. Wells lines up in the I-formation again, and the line is heavy to the right side. Housler will come in motion to the left as will Landry, indicating man-to-man coverage by the defense. The orange line is an approximation of the first-down line to gain.
New York does a great job forcing Wells to the left. Housler is blocking parallel to the line of scrimmage, so there's no lane for Wells to run through. Wells falls down a step later, and the Cardinals turn it over on downs.
This series shows the other issues that have plagued Arizona this season. The blocking is not effective enough to give plays time to develop, especially on the ends of the line. The Cardinals can't convert on third down. Arizona went 0-for-15 on third down against the Jets and are now last in the league at a 26 percent success rate (46-of-177). If you can't pick up third downs, it's difficult to extend drives.
Poor decisions being made in the passing game are the other issue.
Yes, the statistics are mediocre. Ryan Lindley isn't completing half of his passes this season and has thrown five interceptions without a touchdown pass. Larry Fitzgerald has been targeted 120 times but only has 56 catches to show for it.
Let's break down a play with ten minutes left in the first half and show how the decision-making is costing the Cardinals.
Arizona is set up with three wide receivers and a back on each side of Lindley. Antonio Cromartie is giving a 10-yard cushion to Fitzgerald in the red box. Andre Roberts, the other wide receiver in the blue box at the top of the screen, has man coverage. Michael Floyd, in the yellow, is going to run down the seam.
Ten yards downfield, Fitzgerald is in man coverage with a linebacker and Cromartie providing support. Roberts is still in man coverage on the sidelines, and Floyd is in double coverage on the hashmarks.
Lindley makes the wrong decision and throws the ball to Floyd, where Landry picks it off. Instead, the rusher in the green box gets pushed away from Lindley, and he has an easy five-yard gain if he takes off running.
The only positive that came out of this is that Nick Folk hit the upright on the field goal attempt on the ensuing possession and kept the game scoreless.
Poor decisions like this are why the Cardinals aren't averaging more than 200 yards a game this season in the passing game. In the pass-happy current NFL, this won't help the Cardinals win. Add to that a ground game that hasn't been effective, and Arizona struggles to score. This is why they haven't put up more than 19 points in any game in the current eight-game slide.
These things have to change soon, or the Cardinals' woes will continue.
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