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Cardinals Had NFL's Most Improved Offense In 2019

Group was 44.9% better than 2018, according to Football Outsiders

QB Kyler Murray was the catalyst behind a sizable offensive turnaround for the Cardinals in 2019.
QB Kyler Murray was the catalyst behind a sizable offensive turnaround for the Cardinals in 2019.

The Cardinals were a historically poor offensive team in 2018, so improvement seemed likely this season.

Even so, the level of growth was head-turning.

The bold additions of coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray proved fruitful, as the Cardinals were the most improved offense in the league, according to Football Outsiders' methodology.

In 2018, the Cardinals were 41.1% worse than the average offense, which was last in the NFL by a significant margin. In 2019, they were 3.8% better than average, which was 13th.

The 44.9% improvement was easily tops in the league, followed by the Cowboys, Ravens, 49ers and Bills. It was particularly impressive considering the Cardinals did it with a rookie quarterback and a non-traditional play-caller.

"I appreciate those guys buying in to a different offense than they've been accustomed to," Kingsbury said. "(There is) some quirkiness to it and different things that probably got (them) out of their comfort level, but they bought in. They played their tails off and fought for each other."

Table inside Article
Team 2018 Offensive DVOA 2019 Offensive DVOA Percentage Change
Cardinals -41.1 3.8 +44.9
Cowboys -6.6 24.0 +30.6
Ravens 0.9 27.5 +26.6
49ers -15.4 7.2 +22.6
Bills -27.5 -7.3 +20.2

The Cardinals had the second-most efficient rushing team in the NFL in 2019, behind only Baltimore. The team set a franchise-record by averaging 5.03 yards per carry, and was 15.5% better than average, per Football Outsiders. Last season, the Cardinals were 21.4% worse than average running the ball.

The passing game finished No. 21 overall this year, 1.2% better than average. While that wasn't particularly noteworthy, it was still a giant uptick from 2018, when the Cardinals were last in the NFL, 46.9% worse than average.

Football Outsiders also computes a weighted offensive efficiency, which de-emphasizes early-season performance to give a better indicator of how a team is currently playing. In that metric, the Cardinals finished the regular season as the seventh-most effective offense in the NFL.

While the overall record of 5-10-1 left plenty to be desired, the ever-improving offense sends the Cardinals into the offseason with reason for optimism, especially considering Murray should continue to progress.

"I think we did come a long way," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "To see Kyler's maturation and the way he was able to perform this year – I think it's a runaway for Rookie of the Year for him. He's Houdini back there. We have a really bright future."