For the first time in plenty of years, there is a reason for optimism surrounding the future of the Arizona Cardinals. Needless to say, the optimism is a result of the pairing of Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray at head coach and quarterback.
Just a season ago, Arizona admittedly made the mistake of naming Steve Wilks their head coach. The team also believed that Josh Rosen was going to become the next franchise quarterback for the Cardinals.
But in just a year, the Cardinals hit the reset button once again by firing Wilks and trading Rosen to the Miami Dolphins. Then, after hiring Kingsbury, Arizona lucked out by selecting Murray with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
In their first season together, Murray and Kingsbury instilled some life in the offense. Despite the state of the franchise, the offense essentially led the Cardinals to an improved record of 5-10-1 in 2019.
Even though Arizona can call the 2019 season a success offensively, there is still room for growth moving forward. More specifically, here are three areas that the Cardinals’ offense must improve this offseason.
3. Running the ball more effectively
When the Cardinals signed David Johnson to a long-term extension in 2018, they were expecting to get the 2016 version of Johnson. But in the last three seasons, Johnson has averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per attempt on 363 carries.
Given his recent struggles, Arizona went out and acquired Kenyan Drake via trade. Drake provided the offense with a spark on the ground as he accumulated 643 yards on 123 attempts and eight touchdowns in eight games with the Cardinals.
Despite the success of Drake, the Cardinals need to be more consistent with how effective their rushing attack. That could also include utilizing more designed runs for Murray in the offensive gameplan.
2. Stretching the field in the aerial attack
Without a doubt, Arizona is going to need to address the wide receiver position this offseason. Luckily for the Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald is returning for another season in 2020.
Aside from Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, the Cardinals don’t have many reliable pass-catchers. In addition, outside of Kirk, not many of the wideouts on the roster that can stretch the field.
As a result, the Cardinals averaged only 6.9 yards per pass attempt in 2019 (18th in the NFL). Given that Murray excels throwing the ball down the field, Arizona needs to improve their vertical passing game.
1. Pass protection
With Murray being the future of the franchise, keeping him upright is of the utmost importance. But with a dismal offensive line in 2019, the rookie signal-caller was sacked a total of 50 times (tied for fifth-most in the NFL).
In the upcoming draft, Arizona will need to bolster their offensive line. The team could also keep tabs on a couple of impending free agents that could be added to the roster.
Regardless of how they achieve it, the Cardinals need to prioritize improving their pass protection. If they neglect the offensive line, Murray could be in for a long, grueling season in 2020.