Arizona Cardinals offensive line still has work to do
Sunday, November 15th, 2020 will be a day that Arizona Cardinals fans will always remember. The roller coaster finish, combined with the desperate will to win and share first place with the rival Seattle Seahawks was as tantalizing and frustrating as three hours could get. Had it not been for the offensive line giving the team a chance, many would just never remember the day.
I went back to the Coaches All-22 film on NFL Game Pass, and watched every offensive snap to see what went well, and what didn’t for the offensive line this week.
WHAT DIDN’T GO WELL
We begin in the first quarter with some technique mishaps. At 13:39 in the first quarter, Kenyan Drake popped loose for about a nine yard gain. The film showed the entire OL, (sans Beachum) were blocking two Bills defenders within a three yard space. Luckily Kenyan made them look good, and continued to do so throughout the game.
At the 13:07 mark, the entire line did not get great angles on an outside zone play. Buffalo did play an exotic 5/3/3/5 look that isolated center Mason Cole here and often throughout the game.
On these zone plays, which the Cardinals seem to want to run a lot, the blocking just hasn’t been there. Maybe it’s asking your OL to plus one ( hereafter mentioned by +1), which means the next gap over from where the specific player is (i.e, A 5 tech would be +1 of the Guard). It’s tough to ask any lineman to run an outside zone, especially if the defender is +1 pre-snap. This happened later in the game under the 2 minute mark.
The Cardinals were in an unbalanced formation with third-round pick Josh Jones being the extra lineman on the left side. There was a man on the inside shade of LT D.J. Humphries (4i to be exact) and Cole and Humphries were asked to double this 4i technique. That’s way too long to go for a down block, and it resulted in a stalemate that clogged the entire play.
This is where Kliff and Offensive Line Coach Sean Kugler could work together to scheme more crack-back blocks by the Wide Receivers to help ease this problem. Another solution is on these reach plays, is to have each playside (PS) offensive lineman “leave a hand” as they get in their lane. This is a technical term for really just punching the defensive lineman with their inside hand as they get on their track and run to the outside.
Buffalo also ran multiple formations with both “A” gaps covered, but not always blitzed. This gave Mason Cole some trouble, especially on a sack that he let up at the 5:45 mark of the 2nd quarter.
KLIFF’S PLAY CALLING
You can almost write about this single topic every week if you needed to, More situational awareness needs to be applied, especially after the interceptions in the 4th quarter with a 3-point lead. It’s okay to run your offense slower and let more than one minute go off the clock while you have the ball. Kliff is toting a very fine line in which the victories he has earned could easily have gone the other way.
WHAT WENT WELL
For the positives, LG Justin Pugh and TE Maxx Williams really excelled in the run game. Pugh had a great pull in the first quarter (12:03 mark) where he found the hole, had eyes on the 2nd level as he was pulling, and got a hat on the Linebacker, A.J. Klein.
On this same Play, Williams was the outside man in a double team on DL Trent Murphy. Williams helped Murphy become RG J.R. Sweezy’s man, then released to Trumaine Edmonds and allowed a really nice gain by Kenyan Drake. Another great double team by Pugh can be seen at the 5:20 mark of the 2nd quarter.
Running Back Kenyan Drake came back from almost a devastating injury a few weeks ago and had over 100 total yards. He continually applied the gas and got through small gaps in the defense to produce a solid day. Chase Edmonds added 8/56 on the ground, and 3/21 through the air. Including Murray’s rushing yards, the Cardinals put up a total of 217 yards of offense. Having a mobile threat QB is just one of the many ways Murray makes this offense multi-dimensional.
For the rest of the game, the offensive line played really well. When Murray needed protection, it was there for about 85% of it. Of course once the QB leaves the pocket, then it’s anyone’s judgement. Looking back on this Murray had plenty of time to throw: which is saying a lot about the men upfront, given how good Buffalo’s defense can be. The run game was refreshing, and the pass game helped seal the deal at the end.
The key to the Cardinals’ success going forward has three major components: First is in their run game. If they can continually run the ball well and control the clock when they manage to get leads, it will have their defense get some rest. The small changes to the offensive line can help improve these chances.
Secondly to mention reducing the absurd amount of penalties that are almost self-sabotaging at this point. Not all penalties can be prevented, but false starts and delays of game should not be occurring with the frequency that they are. A clean, penalty free game would go a long way on the scoreboard.
Lastly, Kliff Kingsbury needs to get out of his own head. Some may call it “getting cute”, some may call it risky. Just a little less gas in some situations would help keep the offense on the field and earn more time of possession.