Thu, 28 May 2020

Offensive Continuity Could Be Advantage For Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals
23 May 2020, 05:03 GMT+10

Ten of 11 projected starters were on team last season

It's common to see five-win teams overhauled in the offseason, and to some extent, that's what happened with the Cardinals' defense.

But on the other side of the ball, the band stayed together.

With the return of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, left tackle D.J. Humphries and running back Kenyan Drake, the Cardinals have a wealth of offensive continuity from 2019.

Nine starters are back, and while Mason Cole - the projected starting center - was a reserve last season, he was a key cog that saw ample playing time. The only new starter is DeAndre Hopkins, a three-time All-Pro receiver who immediately ascends to the most dangerous skill player on the roster.

The offensive consistency is a vast departure from the seismic changes the team faced a year ago, and it could be particularly important in a season that has lost practice time due to COVID-19.

"Being in Year Two goes a long way," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We had a lot of continuity with the staff, with the players coming back, keeping our schemes in place. You'd love to get your hands on them, but everybody would. That continuity will serve us well."

Sometimes change can be a good thing, but building off last season made sense for the Cardinals offense. After a historically unproductive 2018 season, the group jumped up to No. 13 in offensive efficiency in 2019, per Football Outsiders.

More encouragingly, it was the seventh-most efficient offense in the NFL down the stretch. With quarterback Kyler Murray heading into his second year, the offense seems to be on a positive trajectory, and the familiarity could help minimize early-season hiccups.

The offensive line took some time to jell a year ago but played well at the end of the season, and the group's chemistry is expected to be a benefit in 2020.

"Us staying locked in and knowing the guys in the room, that's going to be a huge advantage for us," guard Justin Pugh said. "I'm trying to keep in contact with all those guys, working on the iPads, trying to get refreshed on the basic terminology so we can get back and hit the ground running."

Third-round pick Josh Jones would love to break into the starting lineup at some point. He would need to beat out returners Marcus Gilbert and Justin Murray for the right tackle job, but even Jones has familiarity with the offense because he played under Kingsbury's good friend, Dana Holgorsen, at the University of Houston last season.

"I don't think it's too far off at all," Jones said. "Coach Kingsbury already mentioned Dana as his guy, so they're basically under the same tree. I don't think it is too much of a difference except the speed and the level they play at. I think I'll be able to pick it up fairly quickly."

While the roster composition could contribute to a smooth offensive start, Kingsbury isn't taking anything for granted. The coronavirus has shifted the rhythm of the offseason, leaving an element of unknown for every team in the league.

"We're going to do every sort of tele-coaching that we can come up with," Kingsbury said. "There's nothing like being on the grass, but everybody's dealing with it. I think the teams that are able to adapt and adjust the best are going to be able to have the most success early in the season."

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