13 Oct 2008
by Ned Macey
The linked article focuses primarily on the relative pass offense and defense of Arizona and Dallas. The running games for both teams were non-factors on Sunday. Still, in delving into the numbers, the Cardinals' rushing offense is decidedly weird.
Edgerrin James and rookie Tim Hightower have a combined 144 carries for 493 yards, a paltry 3.4 yards per carry. Nonetheless, the Cardinals have basically a league-average rushing attack.
This strange result has four causes. First, both backs are extremely successful on third down, where they rank sixth in the league in DVOA. Second, they rarely get stopped for negative gains, fourth fewest in the NFL. Third, they NEVER break long runs. The Cardinals longest run on the season is 17 yards. Fourth, they only have one fumble between them.
In some offenses, this sort of attack would be problematic even if technically league-average. Time will tell if the Cardinals will be able to grind out wins, but in terms of their normal offense, the running game is a nice complement. The Cardinals have so many big-play opportunities from receivers that they do not need to get big plays in the running game. They also run a nice screen game, with the two backs combining for 24 catches. Finally, the lack of negative plays protects Warner. The jittery one gets nervous against the all-out blitz, but even when the run is stuffed, he usually faces second-and-8 or third-and-6 and not second- or third-and-12.
19 comments, Last at 17 Oct 2008, 8:05am by Jimmy
Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.