Breaking Down the Arizona Cardinals Offense

I've watched the film. You read the articles. Find out what kind of matchups the Cardinals present for the Broncos and how the Arizona offense operates. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I went back and watched game tape to bring you the following breakdowns of the Broncos’ opponent this Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are one of the few remaining undefeated teams, and they match up in Denver with the 2-1 Broncos. Both teams are coming off their bye weeks.

Today, I present the Arizona Cardinals offense. All images are from NFL Game Rewind.


Obviously, Carson Palmer has been out injured for the Cardinals for the past two weeks. Drew Stanton is the starter. Stanton is good with deep throws and has middling accuracy – but is not afraid to take the shot. He is a smart passer, will take checkdowns/short throws to keep the ball moving. Great pocket presence and has learned to direct safeties with his eyes. All in all, he is a solid QB and an above average backup.

Running Backs:

Second-year back Andre Ellington is the starter with Stepfan Taylor the main backup. Ellington has dealt with a foot injury, but remains an upper-echelon back. He has incredible vision and always manages to find the right hole, averaging an impressive 4.5 yards per carry this season. Taylor is impressive with blitz protection, and has only had 2 carries this season. Ellington is a workhorse-type back.

Tight Ends:

This is not a TE-centric offense. They will align multiple TEs on the same side, but do not utilize them as pass catchers, with only 14% of the total receptions and 18% of the yardage produced by TEs. John Carlson (86.8%) sees the lion’s share of the snaps. Troy Niklas (27.3%), Rob Housler (22%) and Darren Fells (7 total snaps, all in week 3) also see snaps, in that order.

Wide Receivers:

Unquestionably the strength of this offensive unit is the wide receiver corps. Although Larry Fitzgerald has not been his normal self, but is still a threat. Rookie WR John Brown is a weapon, speedy and elusive. He has a WR rating of 121.9 when targeted this season and has been nothing short of a revelation, with 3 scores to his credit. Michael Floyd is a multipurpose tool and is able to find the soft spot in zone easily. Floyd leads the team in receptions (11) and yards (252). Ted Ginn, Jr. is mostly used as a return man but has seen 41 offensive snaps.

Offensive Line:

The offensive line has struggled at times this year, earning them a combined -10.1 grade from Pro Football Focus. Although Stanton typically has time to stand in the pocket and deliver, this unit as a whole can be iffy at times.

Offensive Tendencies:

The Cardinals typically like to run 11 personnel with Fitzgerald, Floyd and Brown the receivers and Carlson the TE. They will spread the field and stack receivers, occasionally running trips to a side.

They can run 10 personnel, with Ted Ginn coming on as the additional wideout. I’ve even seen them use 13 personnel:

They are not afraid to go empty backfield. Andre Ellington has been particularly effective split out as a receiver.

The Cardinals do very intriguing things with their WRs. Within a few yards of the 9 gap? No problem. They even trust them to block LBs without any help.

They like use Michael Floyd this way often.

Note – that is Larry Fitzgerald in a 3-point stance on the line, playing a TE’s role.

Floyd in tight right, Brown in the backfield.

Two TEs right but aligned with Floyd as the point man.

Here’s one favorite play I’ve seen them use frequently:

Playaction left, bootleg and throw a comeback right. Very effective.

Key Matchup:

Who else could it be but the sensational rookie wideout Brown? Brown’s speed will mean the Broncos need to bracket him over the top. If he is left unchecked, he can easily wreck the defense’s gameplan. It will be essential to keep him contained.

Check back tomorrow for the defensive preview!

Lucas Polglaze is the Editor-in-Chief for Mile High Huddle. Find him on Google +, Twitter, and Facebook.

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