Throughout the 2016 season, the Arizona Cardinals implemented an offensive system that heavily relied upon the intermediate to deep passing game. For instance, Carson Palmer would try to hold the ball until the receiver was 8-10 yards down field on a streak, corner, out and in route. Unfortunately, his offensive line didn’t have the lateral quickness or body strength to stop the opposing team from getting to him. Due to this, Carson was forced to throw off his back foot, move in the pocket and throw off balance or take a sack. The combination of these factors means that the offense will spend less time on the field because of incompletions, interceptions, sacks or big plays that result in short drives. As a consequence of this, the defense is likely to be on the field longer than they have to which means that the opposing team has more time to feast on them. In fact, according to teamrankings.com, the Cardinals offense was on the field for an average of “30:26” thus the defense was on the field for 29:34.
However, I expect the team to make a significant change to the offensive system this season due to the emergence of David Johnson. According to pro football reference, David Johnson amassed 1,239 yards on 293 carries last season which is an increase of 168 carries and 658 yards from 2015. Due to this, the team should implement an offensive system that is centered around the running game and the play-action passing game. For instance, during the first two downs of a series, Carson Palmer would hand the ball off to David Johnson in an attempt to force the opposing team to stack the box and set up a manageable third down. If the strategy is successful, the Cardinals would call a play action pass where Carson would fake the handoff and go in the opposite direction to throw the ball to the flat or the corner route five to ten yards down field. However, on occasion, Carson would fake the handoff to freeze the defense momentarily that allowed the receivers to get some separation as they try to complete a slant, in or out route. As a result of this, the Cardinals offense can stay on the field for a longer period, which means that the opposing team had less time to feast on their defense.
If this strategy goes according to plan, it should reduce the amount of pressure/ hits Palmer receives as well as the time the defense spends on the field. As a result, it should lead them towards capturing a playoff spot in the NFC.
9/12/17 update: According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, David Johnson is going to undergo wrist surgery to repair the dislocation he suffered vs. the Lions. The current timetable for Johnson’s return to action is slated to be between 2-3 months. Although it looks like the team’s playoff hopes are dashed, that is not the case because if the team can follow the same formula with Kerwynn Williams; they should be able to tread water and hang in the playoff race until Johnson returns.