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The Plan For Play-Action As Cardinals Wait For Kyler, Conner

Offense will look different when QB and RB return

One of the most intriguing parts to Kyler Murray's return will be how the Cardinals use two parts of the game not often used when Murray was playing pre-injury and with a different coach: taking snaps under center, and play-action.

The two basically go together; it's hard to run play-action scheme out of a shotgun or pistol. And while everyone has been waiting for Murray to return, there is little question offensive coordinator Drew Petzing has baked the play-action game deep into the Cardinals' playbook. 

But who the running back is might also play a factor, at least in how Petzing is making the calls (and you can hear us pontificating about it on the latest Cardinals Underground podcast)

After four games, the Cardinals were tops in the NFL in play-action at 32.6 percent of the time according to Next Gen Stats, about 10 percent higher than the league average. That number dropped to 29.9 percent after Week 5 -- which happened to be the game running back James Conner got hurt in the first half, and Conner has been on IR since.

The percentage dropped to 27.3 after Week 6, and now stands at 26.9, which is eighth in the NFL. 

The point is to keep defenses guessing. "A lot of the stuff we do is out of similar looks," quarterback Joshua Dobbs said. 

Part of the reason is that defenses may have given up trying to go after Dobbs hard; he acknowledged teams playing off and the deep shots off play-action aren't available as much. When Conner returns, maybe that opens up one way or the other again, and Kyler's return will definitely impact all aspects. What does Petzing call in those circumstances?

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Joshua Dobbs (9) during the Week 7 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Oct 22, 2023 in Seattle, WA.