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Grasping The Offense

Posted Jan 13, 2014

With a year in Arians' system, Cardinals have solid foundation leading into offseason

Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the Cardinals' offense has a much better grasp of the scheme now than this time last year.

Flattening the learning curve, offensively, will be as easy for the Cardinals this offseason as looking into a mirror.

At least it won’t be about looking at someone else.

“When you’re watching yourself do it on tape instead of watching the Colts or the Steelers do it on tape, it’s a whole lot easier to transform that onto the practice field,” coach Bruce Arians said. “The installation process is so much easier. The route concepts, the steps, footwork, all the little things, the minor details, they’re all in there now. You can see yourself doing them right, doing them wrong, so you fly so much faster.”

The Cardinals said all the right things a year ago as they ingested Arians’ offense. But as the season arrived and performances were uneven, the reality set in – it wasn’t a simple transition. As 2013 progressed, so too did the offense, from production to play-calling.

Learning via video from Arians’ former teams, like the Steelers and Colts, was the only avenue available.

It’s different this offseason, starting before the Cardinals will even officially can get on the field in late April. Quarterback Carson Palmer said he expects to throw with his pass catchers outside of planned  work, and having a clear understanding of the offense will make those get-togethers that much more effective.

Advancement will go deeper than that, and the Cardinals were already able to raise their overall offensive rank to 12th in the NFL by season’s end.

“I can’t wait,” Palmer said. “The OTAs, all the stuff in the spring, that was the foundation. To see what we can add to this offense is exciting

“You are always learning, especially with Bruce. He is always going to challenge you. He is always going to put new stuff out there.”

Even with the bumps, the Cardinals still totaled 5,542 yards this season, the fifth-best sum in franchise history. The Cards averaged 23.7 points a game, sliced 17 sacks off their 2012 total and found a running game that had been mostly missing the past couple of seasons.

Individually, Palmer had a career-high 4,274 yards passing and was able to take every quarterback snap during the season. Rookie Andre Ellington became a dual threat with more than 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. Michael Floyd had 1,041 yards receiving and Larry Fitzgerald got within 46 yards of 1,000 – and did pile up 10 touchdown catches.

Palmer threw too many interceptions (22) but that’s tops on the priority list to fix, as will be the improvement of an offensive line that will see at least some change.

“(We must) continue to add explosive players to the roster, but I don’t think we ended the season with any glaring weaknesses,” Arians said. “I think elimination of turnovers will be a huge point of emphasis in the spring.”

The Cardinals will get 2013 first-round draft pick guard Jonathan Cooper back from injury. They will have to figure out a couple of key free agents – third wide receiver Andre Roberts, for example, is unrestricted and will likely seek a team where he will be able to be targeted more often – and decide what direction the offensive line will go with the ability to tap in to younger (and cheaper) players already on the roster.

Knowledge is key, however, and the main players in the offensive equation have a lot more knowledge than they did when Arians arrived.

“It’s never perfect,” Palmer said. “You don’t ever have it all down, you don’t ever have it all figured out, or you don’t ever come off the field until you’re kicking extra points.”


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