When the Arizona Cardinals hired offensive guru Kliff Kingsbury as head coach, many wondered what his offense could look like in the NFL. As the 2019 NFL Draft comes to a close, it’s becoming quite clear just how dangerous this offense will be.
The big picture: Kingsbury came to the NFL with the aim of taking his Air Raid offense from the college ranks and revolutionizing the NFL. We’ve seen shades of this offense work with Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield. Kingsbury needed to find his own guy to run an even more progressive version.
The quarterback: True to his word from months prior, Kingsbury took Kyler Murray with the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft. The union between coach and quarterback is the first step for this explosive offense.
- Murray’s playmaking ability with both his arm and legs are insanely rare at the quarterback position and drew frequent comparisons to Russell Wilson.
- The 21-year-old’s quick release and ability to progress through his reads fit perfectly into the offense and he is bought into Kingsbury’s offense.
- Murray’s elusiveness in the pocket and ability to navigate pressure will also aid him given Arizona’s offensive line issues.
The fit doesn’t get more perfect than the football marriage between Kingsbury and Murray. Size doesn’t matter that much anymore and Murray’s traits, instincts and raw ability can all be molded into a star quarterback who runs this offense to perfection.
The running back: Of course, the quarterback alone can’t carry the weight of this offense. Running back David Johnson has had a rough two seasons, but his breakout 2016 season shows just what he is capable of.
- Across a full season in Bruce Arians’ offense, Johnson was one of the game’s best multi-dimensional running backs. He rushed for 1,239 with 879 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns and seemed poised for greatness.
- Injuries sidelined him for most of 2017 and derailed some of the deserved hype around him. While he stayed on the field in 2018, it took Arizona’s coaching staff nearly the entire season to learn how to use him.
Johnson is just as explosive carrying the ball out of the backfield as he is lining up out wide. He’ll find more running lanes thanks to the spread out formations, and will be put in motion to take advantage of mismatches. He will be Kingsbury’s greatest chess piece in this offense.
The weapons: After taking Murray, Arizona could have rested its hopes in Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk to be the primary offensive weapons. Of course, that wasn’t nearly enough for Kingsbury.
- The Cardinals flipped Josh Rosen to Miami and then turned the second-round pick into explosive wide receiver Andy Isabella.
- The rich got even richer on Day 3 when wide receiver Hakeem Butler fell right into Arizona’s laps and they kicked off the fourth round with a magnificent steal.
Kirk, a second-round pick in 2018, will be a flex receiver that Kingsbury can move all over the field in four-wide sets to create mismatches at any time he wants. Meanwhile, Isabella’s explosiveness and refined route running with cuts, footwork and fluidity make him a perfect slot weapon in Arizona’s offense.
Butler is the real steal of this class, giving Murray something no other receiver on the roster offers. The 6-foot-5 receiver offers a big body with outstanding physical skills to grab contested catches, bully defensive backs and be a threat in the red zone.
While Butler’s route running is a work in progress and scouts have concerns about his ability to consistently catch the football, he fits a specific role for this team. He can learn from the more savvy route runners on this roster, while serving as the big weapon Murray needs for big plays down the field or a potential score inside the 20.
The future: The play-caller, the quarterback, the running back and the wide receivers. Everything is now in place for the Cardinals to take flight.
- There will be growing pains along the way given the level of youth and the adjustment period to the NFL level and a new system.
- Once everything starts to click and the rhythm is flowing, Arizona’s offense will be near the top of the NFL in big plays.
Fans in the desert finally have something to get excited about. A revolution is not just coming to the Cardinals, it’s going to hit the NFL as well. Fortunately, anyone who loves football will get the chance to enjoy it for years to come.