The Arizona Cardinals got back on track against the Jets last week and now Kyler Murray leads his team to his home state with a matchup against Andy Dalton and the Dallas Cowboys. That would have been an improbable sentence to read two years ago!
When the schedule came out people expected this to be a boat race and both offenses have been playing pretty well. However, with both defences disappointing in defending the pass, the boat race is on. Let’s dive in to what’s working, what the Cardinals need to fix and what they will have to watch out for Monday.
Involving the entire receiving core
DeAndre Hopkins deserves all the praise he’s getting this year, but this past week we saw an uptick in usage for Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk and it was clear the offense was working more efficiently. All three of those receivers had seven targets. Kirk has been acting as the teams deep threat all year, against the Jets he was used more conservatively and had five receptions for 78 yards, all of them were for first downs.
Larry was not as efficient with his targets but showed off another reason his hands are some of the best this game as ever seen:
Hopkins has been amazing all year, but his target share in the two losses previously were 36% and 29%. Those numbers are too high for a team with this much talent at the position. This week he shared 20% of the targets with his teammates and had his best game of year.
What needs to be fixed
Offensive line play
The tackles D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum have been playing acceptably this year, ranked as the 19th and 34th best tackles per PFF. Both have allowed double digit pressures. The guards have not been playing well. Justin Pugh comes in as the 41st ranked guard (although a decent pass blocking grade). J.R. Sweezy grades out as the third worst guard who has played at least half their teams snaps this year.
The team has been especially ineffective running inside the tackles this year. This has been contributing to the running backs averaging the eight least yards per carry in the league.
What to watch out for
The Dallas WR’s
Andy Dalton is one of the top reserve QB’s in the league, and he’s being dropped into a great situation to succeed. CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper are sixth and seventh in the league in receiving yards respectively. Michael Gallup who ended 2019 with 1107 yards on just 66 receptions seems to have become the third fiddle on this offense but is still a weapon, continuing his deep ball specialty as he sits third in the NFL in yards/reception. Dak Prescott‘s QBR on the year for passes thrown to Gallup and Lamb is 127. Cooper is second in the league in receptions. Lamb is on pace for 1386 yards in his first season, which would eclipse Anquan Boldin‘s rookie yardage record.
The stats can continue to come, but these three receivers are absolutely balling. They’ve especially had success throwing deep this year so the possible return of the starting safeties couldn’t come at a better time.
We’re not sure how this offense will change with the Red Rifle under center and that is the most important factor in the match up. Dak has been spreading the love and has been a very good deep passer in his career, averaging over 7.4 yards/attempt four of the last five years. Dalton hasn’t hit this mark since his stellar 2015 season and his ability to hit the downfield shots could turn the tide of the game. Can he continue to connect with Gallup down the sidelines as he did against the Giants last week?
Whatever happens, keep your eyes on Arlington this Sunday.