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Cardinals Embrace Return Of The YAC

Pass-catchers must get yards after the catch in new offense

WR Chad Williams breaks a tackle in Friday night's win over the Saints.
WR Chad Williams breaks a tackle in Friday night's win over the Saints.

Chad Williams exercises patience each time he steps on the practice field.

The Cardinals' second-year wide receiver loves being physical, but it's an aspect he must reel in against teammates to avoid injuries.

When the live action hits, bless the poor souls who must feel the wrath of his pent-up aggression.

Williams hasn't had a bunch of signature moments in his young career with the Cardinals, but several that stick out include his Marshawn Lynch-like thirst for taking on defenders.

"It's lovely in games," Williams said. "In practice we're going against our teammates, and we're not in camp mode anymore, so we're taking care of each other. When it's live in the game, you can catch it and try to stiff-arm somebody to the ground, or break a tackle, or run a guy over. That's the excitement of this game, you know?"

Williams' blend of speed and physicality makes him dangerous with the ball in his hands, which seems to fit well with the offensive philosophy in 2018.

The Cardinals were regularly in the bottom-third of the NFL in yards after catch under Bruce Arians, whose offense was predicated on picking up yards on deeper passes. If the preseason is any indication, new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and quarterback Sam Bradford will be more apt to get the ball out quickly and let the pass-catchers do the work.

"We emphasize that quite a bit on both sides of the ball, trying to limit the YAC on defense and most importantly, trying to create it on the offensive side," coach Steve Wilks said.

Williams had a pair of nice catch-and-runs on Friday against the Saints. Running back D.J. Foster had a key play where he caught a pass and bulled forward for a first down.

Wide receiver Christian Kirk isn't as physical as a guy like Williams, but has the type of wiggle to avoid defenders. Ricky Seals-Jones has rare speed for a tight end, which could lead to some yards-after-catch opportunities when opponents try to cover him with a slower defender.

The most dangerous Cardinals player with the ball in his hands is running back David Johnson. In 2016, Johnson was fourth in the NFL with 643 yards after the catch.

While their styles might be different, it will be a boon if all of the Cardinals' pass-catchers enter the season with Williams' mentality.

"I pride myself on yards after catch," Williams said. "When I get the ball in my hands, I'm immediately thinking, 'Score.' I'm immediately thinking, 'Don't get tackled by the first guy.'"

A good way to keep Bradford healthy is by allowing him to get the ball out quickly. A plan like that can only be effective if the aerial weapons make moves after the catch.

"That's kind of best-case scenario when that happens," Bradford said. "I think we've got a lot of guys – not just Chad – who are talented with the ball in their hands. Any time you can add that YAC, it helps us. It keeps us ahead of the chains, it picks up extra first downs and gives us confidence to get those guys the ball in space."

Images of some players with notable performances against New Orleans