Cardinals should lean on ground attack over next three weeks

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) Chase Edmonds and Kyler Murray
(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) Chase Edmonds and Kyler Murray /

The Arizona Cardinals offense should lean heavily on the running game now that DeAndre Hopkins is sidelined with a knee injury.

When asked last week what the absence of DeAndre Hopkins would mean for the offense, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray put on a good face.

While acknowledging that losing his star wide receiver was a major blow, the third-year signal-caller expressed confidence in the Cards’ remaining pass-catchers. But following this past Sunday’s downright pathetic performance against the hapless Detroit Lions, Murray may want to rethink that assessment.

On paper, the names that are still out there catching passes for the Cardinals certainly command some respect. Wideout A.J. Green and tight end Zach Ertz have been to multiple Pro Bowls between them. Speedster Christian Kirk is enjoying the finest campaign of his four-year NFL career.

Despite that degree of firepower, the Arizona passing game that was on display versus the Lions looked mostly inept. There were bad throws, poor communication, and dropped passes as well. Some of the statistics from the “Air Raid” attack appeared respectable when the mismatch was over, but a good portion of the numbers were generated when the contest was already out of hand.

Arizona Cardinals offense was at its best when they ran the ball versus Detroit

At one point in the game against Detroit, the Cards’ offensive unit resembled the group that was dominant earlier in the season. That occurred during the opening drive of the second half with the Redbirds trailing 17-0. The scoring march led only to a field goal, but it was impressive nonetheless.

The Cardinals went 64 yards in nine plays and looked mighty effective in doing so. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury called six running plays during the drive and only two passes. For the first time, Detroit’s defenders seemed to be reeling a bit.

James Conner, Arizona’s magnificent free-agent pickup, rumbled for 22 yards on the first play. Four downs later, Chase Edmonds looked completely recovered from the ankle injury he was returning from. The 5-foot-9, 209-pounder took a handoff from Murray and ripped off a 23-yard scamper, and added another six yards on the very next snap.

Edmonds toted the rock six times for 53 yards on the afternoon, averaging a healthy 8.8 yards per carry. Conner, one of the squad’s most pleasant surprises of 2021, rushed eight times for 39 yards this past weekend.

The truth of the matter is, Kingsbury abandoned the run far too early versus the Lions. It’s no secret that a successful ground attack can help set up the pass, and it’s no different for Murray and the Cardinals.

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Arizona needs to realize that Conner and Edmonds are two tremendous weapons that need to be utilized. During a conference call this past Monday, Kingsbury told reporters that the team has three weeks to get it figured out. Coming up with game plans that rely more on the run and less heavily on the pass would be a great way to start.