16 Dec 2008
The biggest stylistic clash in Sunday’s game was the Vikings’ single-minded dedication to the running game, while the Cardinals occasionally called a draw or outside toss play. The Vikings, behind all-everything back Adrian Peterson, are third in the league in rushing yards and third in overall attempts. The overall production, thanks to eight-man fronts and a propensity for fumbles, is not particularly great (19th in DVOA), but they are without doubt a run-first team.
Arizona, meanwhile, has completely given up on the run. They rank last in the NFL in rushing yards, second to last in attempts, and fifth to last in DVOA. The Cardinals have placed the fate of their running game on the talented feet of their rookie running back, Tim Hightower. Unfortunately, Hightower’s production is terrible. In fact, Hightower is substantially worse on a per play basis than the aging back he replaced, Edgerrin James.
Hightower was supposed to provide explosive plays to the offense, but he has only one carry over 20 yards on the season. He averages 2.9 yards per carry and has a propensity for negative plays. The Cardinals should consider reinserting James into the starting role. James maybe only gained a little over three yards per carry and never more than ten, but he rarely went backwards. The Cardinals are a passing team first, but they still benefit from favorable down and distance situations.
The real answer may be to find more playing time for J.J. Arrington. The Cardinals offensive line is unable to open holes in a conventional running attack. If the Cardinals are going to rely on a steady diet of draws, however, Arrington might be their man. If they go to a shotgun/spread attack, Arrington is a solid receiver and has the potential to bust a big play.
No matter what, the Cardinals’ options are not strong. Rebuilding the offensive line in the off-season to provide for adequate run blocking is the most important personnel move the Cardinals can make in the off-season.
7 comments, Last at 17 Dec 2008, 9:56pm by Will Allen
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?