Raiders safety Lamarcus Joyner and ex-coach Rex Ryan expressed publicly this preseason what many grizzled NFL types were thinking: Kliff Kingsbury and his “pretty boy football” might work in college, but the pro level was a different beast.
While there is still a long way to go for a definitive answer, the Cardinals’ offense under its first-year coach is off to a beautiful start.
Kingsbury has helped spark a significant turnaround in his first six games, taking a 2018 offense that was historically unproductive – ranked third-worst since 1986 by Football Outsiders – and turning it into the makings of a potent group.
The Cardinals are averaging 8.2 more points per game this season and have gone from last to 10th in total offense. Even after stripping out the bump in cumulative numbers based on tempo, the offense has nearly doubled its points per drive (1.09 to 1.97) from 2018 and improved from last in yards per play (4.3) to 15th (5.6).
“I’ve always just had that expectation, if we execute and I can call good plays, that we’re going to be successful,” Kingsbury said. “When I got here, people acted like I had never called plays before, never coached football before. I have a feel for the game and what I think we can do.”
Kingsbury’s scheme has played a pivotal role, as the litany of moving pieces on any particular play has wreaked havoc on defenses.
“We’re starting to use a lot of motions and really trick people with our eyes,” running back Chase Edmonds said. “It’s been phenomenal so far these past two weeks.”
The Cardinals have racked up 60 points and 956 total yards during their two-game winning streak. The big numbers have come against Cincinnati and Atlanta teams with subpar defensive personnel, but nearly everyone looked like the 1985 Bears against the Cardinals’ offense a season ago.
“I think just offensively, as a unit, as a group, we’re figuring each other out,” said Kingsbury, who is often loathe to take credit for offensive success. “We’re figuring out what we do well and don’t do well. Week to week as a staff, guys are coming up with good concepts and designs, and our players understand how to execute those at a high level.”
There were many naysayers when the Cardinals paired Kingsbury and Kyler Murray together this offseason. So far, the rookie quarterback has dazzled, and Kingsbury has put the offense in position to succeed.
“It’s fun learning from him, just studying the plays,” rookie wide receiver Andy Isabella said. “Learning how it all works is pretty cool.”
EDMONDS IN LINE FOR MORE WORK
Edmonds had five carries for 34 yards and two catches for 33 yards and a score on Sunday, but only had one touch in the second half against the Falcons. Kingsbury said he wasn’t aware of that and doesn’t want it to happen again.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting him the football, because he’s been a very impactful player,” Kingsbury said.
Edmonds is averaging 6.7 yards per carry this season in 24 attempts as David Johnson’s backup.
KIRK STILL RECOVERING FROM HIGH ANKLE SPRAIN
Kingsbury said he knew late last week that wide receiver Christian Kirk would likely miss a second straight game with a high ankle sprain. His status for Sunday’s game against the Giants is up in the air.
“Those high ankles can linger a little bit,” Kingsbury said. “He’s working through some things. But from what it appeared on the field that day to where he is now, we’re still very pleased.”
Kingsbury said rookie defensive end Zach Allen (neck) suffered a setback last week, but did not give a timeline for his return.
Images from the Week 6 matchup at State Farm Stadium