Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Dec 2008

Any Given Sunday: Vikings over Cardinals

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.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 16 Dec 2008

7 comments, Last at 17 Dec 2008, 9:56pm by Will Allen

Comments

1
by Gold_Star_for_R... :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 6:10pm

Wasn't the need to rebuild the O-line the impetus toward drafting Levi Brown over the aforementioned Mr. Peterson?

2
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 7:28pm

"It may be an outside-the-box arrangement, but Jackson should run the offense when the game is close and the Vikings should not hesitate to call on Frerotte if they are forced to abandon the run and take to the air."

While I agree with much of the article I don't agree with the above idea. One thing Jackson showed last year when the Vikings were behind by a bunch and had to throw almost every down to catch up was that he actually handles a hurry up type offence very well. Take a look back at the games against Wash and Den last year when the Vikings were down more than one score and Jackson had to run that type of offence. He was very effective.

Frerotte has been awful this year. Truly wretched.

3
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 12/17/2008 - 1:52am

For what it's worth, the sideline shots of Frerotte interacting with the rest of the team during games are hilariously uncomfortable to watch. The other players glance off in a different direction while Gus is talking, or "leave him hanging" when he offers a fist bump or high five.

4
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 12/17/2008 - 1:54am

For what it's worth, the sideline shots of Frerotte interacting with the rest of the team during games are hilariously uncomfortable to watch. The other players glance off in a different direction while Gus is talking, or "leave him hanging" when he offers a fist bump or high five.

5
by ammek :: Wed, 12/17/2008 - 5:21am

Russ Grimm's reputation must take a hit eventually. He'll once again do the national head-coaching interview tour after this season, but judging from the offensive lines he's put together in Pittsburgh and Arizona, you'd be better off hiring Norv. Maybe.

6
by zlionsfan :: Wed, 12/17/2008 - 10:02am

I forgot the article itself is on ESPN.com ... I was wondering where people were reading about Frerotte vs. Jackson ...

Arizona may have given up on the run for the season, but would last week's game really have been the right time to change that? What would the Cardinals have gained by rushing 10, 15, or 20 times?

7
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/17/2008 - 9:56pm

Unfortunately, a punt IS a negative play for the Vikings, given the hideous performance of their punting unit. This team would be 11-3 or better with an average punt unit.