Based on his pass-centric background, it’s doubtful Kliff Kingsbury will ever subscribe to a run-oriented offensive attack.
The Cardinals coach likes to spread things out and let his quarterback test defenses, even when it’s an inexperienced rookie like Kyler Murray.
However, the past two opponents have put a premium on playing soft coverage with two deep safeties, inviting the offense to run the ball. The Cardinals have found some success in that realm, averaging 5.5 yards per carry against the Panthers and 5.0 yards per carry against the Seahawks.
“It sucked that we got off-schedule and got down (against Seattle), because we were having a good running game,” said running back Chase Edmonds, who carried the ball six times for 37 yards. “We had a good, balanced attack going. I feel like the more balanced we are, it helps the pass game and the run game. … Teams can’t just play the deep ball on us all the time.”
It will be interesting to see what kind of strategy the Bengals employ on Sunday, following a noticeable coverage shift against the Cardinals the past two weeks.
In the first two games, the Lions and Ravens played either Cover 0 or Cover 1 – man-to-man schemes with extra defenders in the box – 53 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Panthers and Seahawks played those coverages only three percent of the time, sticking more to zone with multiple defenders sinking back to thwart the deep ball.
Murray averaged only 5.5 yards per pass attempt in the two most recent games compared to 7.0 in the first two, but Kingsbury is not convinced that will be the defensive blueprint against him moving forward.
“I think some of that was situationally,” Kingsbury said. “They got up, had a lead, and weren’t trying to give up many big plays. That’s what most teams do. I would expect teams, with a young quarterback, to continue to mix up coverages and give us different looks.”
If the Bengals do copy the game plan of Carolina and Seattle, that could lead to more rushing attempts for Edmonds, Murray and David Johnson. It could also lead to an uptick in bubble screens that aren’t categorized as runs but have the same effect.
“That’s part of the deal, kind of spread people out and make those guys run side to side,” Kingsbury said. “If it gets four yards, you’re on schedule.”
TERRELL SUGGS QUESTIONABLE AGAINST THE BENGALS
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs missed the final two days of practice this week with a back injury, and is listed as questionable for the game. Cassius Marsh would likely start in his place.
“If (Suggs) needs to rest this week, then that’s what we’ll do,” Kingsbury said.
Five Cardinals have been ruled out of the game: wide receiver Christian Kirk (ankle), linebacker Dennis Gardeck (ankle), defensive end Zach Allen (neck), right tackle Jordan Mills (knee) and safety Charles Washington (shoulder).
Punter Andy Lee (hip), wide receiver Damiere Byrd (hamstring) and linebacker Ezekiel Turner (hand/hamstring) are listed as questionable after missing last week’s game. Cornerback Tramaine Brock (back) and left guard Justin Pugh (shoulder) are also questionable, but Kingsbury said the plan is for them to play on Sunday.
For the Bengals, wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle), tackle Cordy Glenn (concussion) and defensive end Kerry Wynn (concussion) have been ruled out.
RED ZONE WOES IRK KINGSBURY
The Cardinals have found a rhythm at times this season, but they are 30th in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage. The issues were particularly pertinent in the Week 2 road loss to the Ravens, and Kingsbury is hoping to iron out the hiccups moving forward.
“We’re squandering too many opportunities,” Kingsbury said. “We’re moving the football well between the 20s, and when we get down there, we can’t waste plays. We have to put it in the end zone. The field goals aren’t going to cut it.”
Images from practice at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center