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The run game, the numbers, and what it means

Posted by Darren Urban on August 17, 2014 – 6:55 pm

Officially, 10 Cardinals had at least one rushing attempt against the Vikings Saturday, including two for no yards for Zach Bauman (because no, the crazy backward pass TD was ruled a fumble return on the official scoresheet.) On 34 attempts by those 10 players, the Cardinals amassed only 96 yards. Take out an eight-yard scramble by quarterback Carson Palmer and a 20-yard reverse by wide receiver Brittan Golden, and the numbers looked not so good.

But Bruce Arians has always looked at his running game a little different than his passing game. B.A. seems to go with a “I know it’s working when I see it” rather than leaning on statistics. For instance, the Golden run was a reverse that stuck in his head clearly, even after Golden gained his 20 yards. “The reverse that should have been a touchdown,” Arians said. “Our young tackle just stood there and didn’t block that last guy.” Indeed, Golden looks like he would have gone a lot further had tackle Kelvin Palmer decided to stay in front and get into safety Jamarca Sanford (who eventually got Golden out of bounds) instead of waiting to block defensive end Corey Wootton — who wasn’t going to catch Golden anyway.

Regardless, Arians noticed the negative runs. But he also noticed the 19-play TD drive to start the second half that featured 14 runs. “We challenged our offensive line to get physical, we’re going to run the football with Ryan (Lindley) in there and we did a really nice job,” Arians said. There were no finesse runs in the bunch. Every one stayed in the box or at least near the tackle. The gains weren’t great but the Cardinals imposed their will, which is obvious with any drive that takes more than 10 minutes. The Cardinals got a rushing touchdown on that drive and had one to open the game too.

“We ran the ball efficient,” said running back Jonathan Dwyer, who scored the first touchdown. “We read our keys well.”

“I thought there was some really quality pound-them runs,” Arians said.

The x-factor in the Cardinals’ running game will be Andre Ellington. He is hardly getting any work right now and he is without question the team’s best back. While I expect Stepfan Taylor and Robert Hughes to also have roles, Dwyer was the guy working after Ellington Saturday and he is the guy that, to me, has emerged as the top non-Ellington option. I also expect Dwyer to be the Cardinals’ goal-line back. The way the Cardinals built, and with an Arians offense, this team is going to be pass-first. That seems clear. Arians has shown very little concern about the running game at this point. I don’t see that changing.

“We know when we are running well,” Dwyer said. “We know when we are making positive yardage, the numbers will take care of itself.”

 

 


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32 Responses to “The run game, the numbers, and what it means”

  1. By Dr. G. on Aug 17, 2014 | Reply

    After going for the speedsters and incessantly talking about “taking the top off,” Darren, your assessment of our newest aerial ball game can be nothing else…even to the point of talking about a RB that will be a receiver. Arians was a QB if I remember correctly, so this makes perfect sense. It’s in his DNA…!

    However, as he has set up the offense as pass first//run second, this should make our run game better despite the anemic numbers in practice. I like our new non-fullback and also Dwyer on the goal line too.

    Fans who worry at this point need only be patient until 9/8/2014 when we school the Chargers…. Go Cards…. Why not just play for real NOW? ! !

  2. By John The Draft Guy on Aug 17, 2014 | Reply

    I think the run game is fine. It serves its purpose. The cards are not a smash mouth team no matter how much some fans want them to be.

    They have a dynamic stable of receivers and a back who is better in space. Play to your strengths.

    As for the game;

    First and foremost, I had to turn the sound off. Woofley has to be the most annoying announcer on the planet. Bidwill, please get rid of this guy. When your fans would rather watch in silence, you have an issue.

    To the field;

    Palmer and this offense is pretty awesome. Palmer is getting the ball out of his hands and into his playmakers. AND, boy do we have playmakers. Floyd hasn’t even hit the field. Love Jaron Brown. That jump ball he caught against the two Viking starting defenders to the 3 yd line, wow. Looked like a young Fitz catching that ball against Atlanta in the playoffs.

    There is a definite drop off at ILB. I point out one play that shows it. The ILBs shot the A gap and foote got his arms on Cassel but Cassel pulled away and ran for like 20 yards. Dansby and Washington were great at blitzing and making sure the QB did not step up the middle.

    Bucannon flashes. He is everything I thought he was. I compared him to ADub and said that was not always a good thing. He made several good tackles but was not great in coverage. At the goal line he was asked to cover Rudolph one on one and was beaten easily (Rudolph dropped an easy TD). Then you watch the TD play to Rudolph. He was playing centerfield and took a bad angle (and Powers fell down) which allowed Rudolph to turn the corner and score.

    You know, I just watched the Panthers play and they have a guy who reminds me of Bucannon. Thomas Davis. He was a hard hitting safety they converted to LB and he is a pro bowler now. Just a thought.

    I also notice no throws to Cromartie’s side but the did have some success to Peterson’s side. Patterson had PP beat for a deep TD if Cassel connects. I just found that interesting.

  3. By Dr. G. on Aug 17, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG – Good stuff on your game and personnel observations… As for Wolfley, I posted a couple times last year that I wish he would cool it with what he thinks are the cute and witty off-the-wall metaphorical comments. Dave Pasche even called him on it a couple times last night… Wolf does seem to know the game fairly well, though. But, you and I are on the same page on this one….

    I guess they like the so-called “grunt-in-the-trenches” commentary …Be well…

  4. By George on Aug 17, 2014 | Reply

    I like Ron Wolfley. The man has great passion and I hope he continues to broadcast Cardinals games for years to come.

    Go Cards!!!

  5. By Coach K on Aug 17, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG, I agree 100%. Our run game is a compliment to our passing game which is our strength. There is no team in this league that can defend our wide receiver talent. BA can use bunch formations and totally outflank defenders who simply cannot keep up with our speed and size mixture of receivers. Then, you add the tight end packages and this offense is very difficult to defend.

    Our best defense this year will be our offense. And our best offense is going to be our multiple passing game options. I cannot see anyone matching up with our receivers and tight ends. Our passing game is our KEY to victory.

  6. By br in nc on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    You guys have to admit though if the run game was stronger we would be totally unstoppable, defenses would not have a clue what aspect of our offense to key in on. When Ellington gets more touches the offense will be even more potent. My biggest fear is that it seems after Ellington there is a huge drop off, granted it may just be experience that creates that drop off, but if God forbid something happens and we lose Ellington for an extended time we may be in for a rude awakening. Of course I realize we can’t have an Ottis Anderson type running game, but man I sure do long for those days gone by.

  7. By T. Stone on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG

    RE: Wolfley or Woofley as you call him

    I am the exact opposite. I don’t get the Cards games up here unless they are on national TV or playing the Seahawks. They run those Hawk games up here like this is Seattle. But I digress, I listen to all Cardinal games on NFL Audio pass and if I can sync up Wolfley with the TV I turn the volume down on the TV, and if I cant sync it; I listen to Wolf on the computer. Love the commentary and idiosyncrasies.

  8. By T. Stone on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Run Game?
    I thought this was scrimmage football. ITS PRESEASON. This talk makes me want another Mock Draft from you know who.

  9. By jeffgollin on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    I get that our running game needs only be good enough to support the offense overall; but – when I watch our RB’s repeatedly burrow under several-hundred pounds of warm bodies clogging the hole for gains seldom exceeding 3 yards – I can’t help but be a bit worried.

    While the case can be made – that we converted 4 of 4 fourth down plays and sustained a 10:00+ umpteen yard drive to open the 3rd quarter – an equally valid case can be made that it was our gains on first and second downs that set up short yardage on 3rd (& 4th) downs in the first place.

    Bottom line – our blockers need to provide our RB’s with more daylight, and our runners have to make better decisions in the hole.

  10. By ryan on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    wolfey sounds like jesse ventura! he does say some of the most off-the-wall stuff but it is entertaining. i would much rather listen to him over john madden.

  11. By Marlin on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Feely is gone……..

  12. By Scott H on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    I like this Dwyer kid and I think he will be a contributor this season. I think he was a solid aquisition in the off-season. And I think he is definitely the guy on this roster who offers the most once you get beyond Ellington.

  13. By clssylssy on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    The Saints learned that even an awesome offense doesn’t make up for even an mediocre defense. We are going to need a top 5 defense when we play the Seahawks, 9ers, Broncos, Eagles and most everybody on our schedule, or we’ll never get to the playoffs, let alone the SB. I love a good run game and while the aerial game is glitzy and it doesn’t surprise me that BA favors it, it concerns me that he is trying to make this the Peyton Manning show when it isn’t. We have the best receiving unit in the NFL and I like Palmer and feel secure with Stanton as a backup but if Larry isn’t targeted he can’t very well be expected to make catches. Floyd had half the TDs as Fitz last year but is coming along,the new guys lack experience and are a work in progress so a good run game to put us in position and keep our other receivers fresh is critical . Last year’s rb unit was the best we’ve had in years and while Ellington has been compared to Darren Sproles, Sproles was used in a rotating back system which is in part why he was so successful (he’s still amazing and probably the best in the NFL). It makes me wonder if Arians uses Ellington in all the ways he talks about will Ellington experience the same drop off as PP did after his rookie year when he was spread all over the place. And no, the Cards aren’t a smashmouth team like the Steelers or Ravens or Seahawks and maybe if we were we would get more respect as just winning games doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s only preseason but very important to assessing and fixing all those mental errors. GO CARDS, PLAY SMART!

  14. By Cactus jeff on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Darren
    Who asked about Larsen playing left G a week prior to Keim bringing it up today?

  15. By JosEPh on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    @JTDG,
    If you think Wofley is bad try listening to the Vikings in house announcers. I think they actually started making things up as they could not keep up with either the Oakland or Cardinals matchup.

    As for the run game, Stephan Taylor this year is dancing where he did not do that last year. Don’t understand why the RB coaches are letting him do that. He’s not a scatback runner by any means.

    Hope practice goes better this week than last week for the team.

  16. By jason on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG-

    Bucannon wasn’t playing “centerfield” that would indicate that they were in a Cover1 and Bucannon would be playing the QB. The Cards were in a Cover3 and Bucannon was playing his zone in the middle third of the field. The breakdown was that Demens didn’t get deep enough on his drop and then the missed tackle when Powers falls down. I think Bucannon makes the tackle even with the angle he took if it wasn’t for the block by McKinnon, it was simply their number ones out executing our twos.

    I can’t find video of the dropped TD by Rudolph but, I remember watching it live that while he did beat Bucannon on the route Bucannon was in good enough position to make the play more difficult.

  17. By jeffgollin on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Hey JosEPf – How’d you like the way the Minny announcers mixed up Jaron and John Brown (for about 5 minutes)?

  18. By dan on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Darren,
    Pardon me, but your fascination with statistics renders you unable to see the forest for the trees.
    The power running game displayed by the Cards in this game has never been seen since this franchise moved to the Valley in the 1980’s. Gene Stallings tried to establish it with the great Stump Mitchell, but came up short.

  19. By Darren Urban on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Dan —

    RE: run game

    Yet Steve Keim clearly has concerns. Said it himself.

    http://blog.azcardinals.com/2014/08/18/larsen-a-top-lineman-and-trade-calls/

  20. By John The Draft Guy on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    jason,

    really? semantics? My comment wasn’t about coverage. It was about the angle he took to make the tackle. He was playing deep middle and took a poor angle.

    I have the game taped and have watched the Rudolph drop several times. It was an easy TD and Rudolph dropped it. It was poor coverage and a really easy release .

    To be honest, I like Bucannon. I think he is going to develop into a good player. One play, on a punt, he got down there but did not make a tackle but continued after the guy and tackled him 30 yards down the field. I love that attitude of never giving up. I just think he is not the cover guy that some people thought coming out of college and we will continue to struggle against TEs.

    His hustle and the way he goes to the ball and tackles is really nice to see. I think he could end up being a good blitzer also. My Thomas Davis comment comes from the fact our ILBs are average and Davis use to be a free safety at Georgia who had some deep cover issues. His move to LB netted one of the best LBs in the game. Davis is 6’1″ and 230, Bucannon is 6’1″ and 210.

    I think this kid (Bucannon) needs to be on the field. If it is LB on Nickle, so be it. If it is SS, so be it. But just don’t expect him shutting down good TEs.

  21. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Darren et al: Understanding we can’t keep them all but don’t we have 7 roster worthy receivers? How can we cut Brit after the summer he’s had.. and we know BA loves speed…he’s probably ahead of Walt on my sheet, but Walt’s looked really good too…

    How do you break them down, guys and gals… ??

  22. By jason on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG-

    What!?! You say in your post that he was “not great in coverage” and then give your two examples of this. You’re knowledgeable about football so when you said he was playing centerfield that would make another knowledgeable fan think that they were in Cover1 playing man across with a safety deep, and saying he took a poor angle would insinuate that Bucannon made a bad read in his coverage. The fact is that they were in a Cover3 and Bucannon was playing his zone correctly. I get that you think he took a poor angle but he would have been blocked regardless of the angle he takes because McKinnon has a bead on him and is free after Powers falls to the ground.

    I’ll take your word for the goal line play because I only watched it live and haven’t seen a replay anywhere. My question to you is if he was beaten so badly why did Cassell have to put the ball high to the back of the end zone?

  23. By John The Draft Guy on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Alright Jason,

    I’m working from home so I just took another look.

    Bucannon lines up on Rudolph on the right side. Rudolph comes off the line and does a nice swim move, knocking Bucannon off balance a little and runs an out. He is wide open but Cassel is slow to get the ball out. Rudolph runs the route flat, where Cassel (rightfully) sees a huge opening towards the back pylon. Bucannon is trailing but gets underneath of Rudolph. The throw is on the money but Rudolph stays flat in his route. The ball hits him off his hands. I would say there is two yards of separation between Bucannon and Rudolph. I want to blame Cassel for the throw being high but Rudolph shouldn’t have run his route so flat.

  24. By ryan on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Darren,

    What are your thoughts on AZ CARD fans that want or demand respect? I am 40 years old and have been a cardinlas fans for 35 years. i would love for other teams, coaches, fans, and commentators to RESPECT the team but in my opinion we need to win more games, get to more playoff games, and WIN a superbowl or two before demanding such respect. And really, who cares if anyone does or not. The point is to go out and WIN regardless!

    GO CARDS!

  25. By Darren Urban on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    Ryan —

    RE: Respect

    My thought is it doesn’t really matter a whole lot.

  26. By jason on Aug 18, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG-

    It sounds like how I saw it live, he was beat on the pattern but was able to recover enough to make it a more difficult play which caused an incompletion. I know it was a drop and I understand that a better pass/route and it’s not even close, but you know the adage about my aunt being my uncle right. I know it irritates you to be contradicted but I do enjoy your takes and agree with you most of the time, but….not all the time.

  27. By John The Draft Guy on Aug 19, 2014 | Reply

    Jason,

    I come from a family of 5 boys and all of us sports nuts. We all argue. I’m use to it.

    Even when I coached in Texas, we went 2 years undefeated in district(1980’s) and they would watch a game and tell me my LBs weren’t doing this right, ect.

    I welcome your challenges. At least you usually know what you are talking about.

  28. By jason on Aug 19, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG-

    Me: “(I) agree with you most of the time, but….not all the time”

    You: “At least you usually know what you are talking about”

    I usually know what I’m talking about like when I agree with you? This made me laugh and was super slick. Well played, sir.

  29. By Dr. G. on Aug 20, 2014 | Reply

    jason — jtdg – – As I read your banter, I am wondering why there was no inquiry as to which Pop Warner district in Texas you coached? You two are entertaining….

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  3. Sep 5, 2014: Jonathan Dwyer, Stepfan Taylor's Fantasy Outlook After Andre Ellington Injury - Distinct Athlete
  4. Sep 5, 2014: Jonathan Dwyer, Stepfan Taylor's Fantasy Outlook After Andre Ellington Injury | Fantasy Football Talk Online

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