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Offensive Overhaul Unlikely For Cardinals

Kingsbury believes struggles and success in NFL can be cyclical

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a season-low 4.0 yards per target against the Rams.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a season-low 4.0 yards per target against the Rams.

Kliff Kingsbury made a major in-season philosophical shift last year, and the decision to use more tight ends after the first month resulted in serious improvement down the stretch.

The second-year coach does not seem as likely to make dramatic changes in 2020.

The Cardinals' offense has hit a rough patch during the team's three-game losing streak, but Kingsbury believes the NFL can be cyclical, and that his group needs to hone in on minor tweaks.

"We obviously have to be able to execute our basic concepts, our base install plays, at a higher level than we're doing," Kingsbury said. "But it's a tough league, and as the season goes on, you're going to have ups and downs. We're in one of those downs right now offensively. We're not playing at the level we can play at. We all know that. It's just about doing things right."

The Rams found success on Sunday by using designed rollouts to give quarterback Jared Goff clear targets and easy throws. Kyle Shanahan also routinely moves his quarterbacks out of the pocket with the 49ers, but Kingsbury doesn't seem too keen to do so with Kyler Murray.

According to Pro Football Focus, Goff has been used on designed rollouts 67 times this season, while Murray is at 25.

"I think you always just want to play to your strengths and what you do well, and your personnel," Kingsbury said. "The Rams and Niners definitely have great packages when they do that, and they're very good at executing."

After struggling mightily early on, the Cardinals' offense found some life against Los Angeles when it went to four wide receivers and the no-huddle. Once again, Kingsbury said it was game-specific and that the Cardinals would not switch to that type of formation as their base concept.

"We probably should have gone to it a little bit sooner with the boost it gave us, but that's not something we're going to major in all the time," Kingsbury said. "I just felt like, at the time, it gave us the best chance to win the game and get back into it."

Murray's lack of success with his legs has become a sticking point with the offense, and teams are following the same game plan of keeping him hemmed in the pocket. Kingsbury believes other facets of the offense need to succeed on order to unlock Murray's rushing ability.

"These past three weeks, we haven't hit a rhythm," Kingsbury said. "Not only him not running, but other aspects of our offense haven't been as sharp. We haven't executed as well as we know we can. It's a number of things that lead to where we are stalling out. When we're playing in a rhythm and opening things up, then obviously it opens up him being able to use his legs more."

Murray averaged only 4.4 yards per pass attempt against the Rams, which included a 59-yard touchdown to tight end Dan Arnold against a blown coverage.

DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella all went without a catch in the first half, and Hopkins' yards per target of 4.0 (52 receiving yards on 13 targets) was a season-low, although he did draw a 25-yard pass interference penalty.

Hopkins, who lines up as the 'X' receiver on the left side of the formation the vast majority of the time, was put in the slot a few times in the game as Kingsbury tried to optimize his usage.

"We're always going to try to find him ways to get him targets and get him the ball the best way we can," Kingsbury said.

Kirk had just one catch for two yards against the Rams and has only 12 catches for 98 yards over the past four games.

"We've got to do a good job of involving him more, there's no doubt," Kingsbury said. "In the games he's involved, it seems like we play better as an offense."

The Cardinals have four games remaining this season, and it seems doubtful they make the postseason with fewer than three wins in that stretch. For that to happen, the offense must return to prior form.

"It's a combination of things, starting with me, knowing we can call it better, execute better," Kingsbury said. "We've got to figure out some things this week."