The Arizona Cardinals’ offense didn’t reach the end zone a single time on Sunday afternoon’s matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
While it is rare in the NFL, it isn’t that rare, and it isn’t necessarily bad… if you’re playing one of the league’s top defenses. The Cardinals were not playing one of those top defenses on Sunday.
The offense is clearly in shambles through one-third of the season. Luckily for Arizona, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is returning from his suspension ahead of this week’s Thursday Night Football matchup with the New Orleans Saints. Is he or can he be enough to save the Cardinals’ offense from continuing down this road of failures?
Given what has gone wrong with Arizona’s offense this season, that is an unlikely scenario. The issues for the Cardinals have more to do with other things than a lack of weapons. The team has worked hard in recent years to build up the team around quarterback Kyler Murray.
Last season, they drafted receiver Rondale Moore in April then traded for tight end Zach Ertz mid-season and extended him in the offseason. This year, they traded for receiver Marquise Brown on draft night, drafted tight end Trey McBride the next day, and drafted running back Keaontay Ingram the day after that. The Cardinals also re-signed running back James Conner on a three-year deal. Conner may have been missing on Sunday and Brown got injured late in the game, but that still left Murray with plenty of weapons around him. Yet, he and the offense still struggled to get things going against the Seahawks.
The Seahawks, by the way, entered the day ranking at the very bottom or near the very bottom of the NFL in many defensive categories. Their defense ranked 32nd in yards per game, yards per play, and rushing yards per game; 31st in points allowed per game, time of possession, and first downs allowed; and they were 26th in passing yards allowed per game. Against Arizona, they allowed just nine points—three with a field goal and six with a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. No Cardinals offensive player scored a point.
Bigger issues than the lack of Hopkins have popped up over the last six weeks. One of the biggest ones is their bad offensive play-calling courtesy of head coach Kliff Kingsbury. It’s something that has been a problem for years, with Kingsbury and the Cardinals frequently looking unprepared before and even during games as they burn timeouts early in the second half.
In today’s NFL, which features plenty of teams using pre-snap motion, play-action, and moving pockets to take advantage of the extra mobility and athleticism of young quarterbacks, Arizona is barely doing any of that. Looking at the great offenses around the league in Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Kansas City, it’s clear that what the Cardinals have been doing under the “offensive genius” that Kingsbury supposedly is hasn’t been cutting it.
That’s especially surprising given who their quarterback is. Murray is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in a generation that is full of mobile gunslingers. The team also has dynamic weapons with high potential like Moore and Brown. Not taking advantage of all of their skill sets with a more complex offense is hurting the Cardinals badly.
Murray is a smaller quarterback who has trouble working the middle of the field because he often can’t see over his linemen. He isn’t and can’t be a pocket passer. What might help with that are more play-action plays and moving pockets akin to what the Philadelphia Eagles have done with Jalen Hurts. Murray has a good ability to make things happen when he can play outside the pocket and throw on the run. There is no reason to not take more advantage of that, and no matter how many weapons Arizona has, if they don’t change things up with their offensive schemes, it won’t lead to more success.
That brings us to the issue of Kingsbury’s clear inability to make adjustments to an offense over the course of each season, something that dates back to his time at Texas Tech. There’s a reason the Cardinals are constantly collapsing in the back half of every season under Kingsbury.
There are tons of issues with Arizona’s offense that won’t necessarily be cured by the return of Hopkins. Yes, the team should look better with him back because they are still getting an elite receiver back in action. Yes, they generally score more points when Hopkins is active than when he’s not. But Hopkins won’t be enough to fix all of the issues with the offense in his return to action, and the Cardinals will continue to struggle if more doesn’t change.