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Cards push envelope in new offensive plan
Cards push envelope in new offensive plan
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 14, 2005 12:00 AM
At first, the Cardinals offense looks conventional.
There's one running back in the backfield, a tight end at the line and three receivers spread out wide. Then quarterback Kurt Warner starts his cadence, and chaos begins.
The running back, tight end and even the receivers shift one-by-one, motioning to Warner's every word.
All of a sudden, there's no running back in the backfield, no hint of a tight end at the line, and five wide receivers ready to create havoc on a defense primed to surrender a mismatch.
That's the 2005 Cardinals offense that debuted Saturday in a preseason 13-11 victory over the Dallas Cowboys before 36,787 at Sun Devil Stadium: part bedlam, part brilliant.
At least, the Cardinals hope it's brilliant.
Their offense started slow and simplified in the first series. The most significant motion came from the entire unit trotting off the field after a three-and-out.
Then brilliance happened.
In the offense's fourth possession of the game, Warner completed 5 of 6 attempts for 84 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald. When the first-team units jogged to the sidelines for good, the Cardinals led 10-0.
"We're just trying to get completions and try and (throw) the ball down the field," Warner said. "We're going to continue to get better. It's not bad for the first day and a new offense."
And for at least one series, the Cardinals showcased what their offense is capable of.
"It's more open," said receiver Anquan Boldin, who missed Saturday's game due to a broken nose. "We're moving guys around. We're moving on every play, putting guys into position to get the ball, create mismatches, similar to what we did my rookie year. Last year, we were just bland. Wherever we lined up at, that's where we were going from."
The Cardinals have a tough task. They have three young receivers, a rookie running back and a new starting quarterback who are learning from a first-time offensive coordinator trying to teach one of the most complicated offensive systems in the NFL.
One or two styles define most teams' offensive schemes. The Cardinals have three:
1. A vertical passing game.
2. A power running game.
3. A quick, timing passing game.
If anyone can mold all three styles into one, Cardinals coach Dennis Green thinks new offensive coordinator Keith Rowen can.
Rowen worked under Green in Minnesota, where a similar offensive scheme vaulted the Vikings to one of the top offenses in NFL history. Before joining the Cardinals, Rowen helped coach a vertical-passing Kansas City offense that gained more yards than any team in the league.
"Our offense is based on what we call pushing the envelope," Rowen said. "We want the players to play at top speed, top gear."
Music to Green's ears (some would say ego).
At last season's end, Green fired first-time offensive coordinator Alex Wood. Green was never satisfied with how the offense, which finished 26th in the league. He used three different quarterbacks and sometimes took over play calling.
But now Green has Rowen, a coach with whom he is familiar and who understands what Green wants, Green said.
The offense revolves around mismatches created by the pre-snap motion, which might force a hefty linebacker to cover a speedy receiver or a vertically challenged safety to cover a big, tall receiver."It gives us a chance to make plays, explosive plays, which for receivers are 16 yards or better," receiver Bryant Johnson said. "Everyone has to play fast. Play fast, running around and make plays, and you'll see our play-making ability on the field."
Every play in the team's playbook has certain motions, shifts and blocking schemes. One mishap can lead to problems.
The players are trying to learn and then apply all that information.
"It gets confusing at times," Fitzgerald said, "but, you know, if it's going to be confusing to us, it's definitely going to be confusing for the defense. It's going to work to our advantage."
Warner said he feels comfortable in this offense. It emphasizes anticipation and timing, aspects he considers his greatest strengths. It's similar to a Rams offense that he led to two Super Bowls on his way to a Super Bowl MVP and two league MVPs.
"Most of my success in this league is timing-oriented routes," Warner said. "Having receivers run fast, get to their spot so that the reads can come quickly and I can get the ball out of my hands. It's set up the same type of way (as St. Louis). We have the ability to stretch the field."
The team's offensive players think it's a fun system to run.
There are too many advantages to this system, they say, and too many aspects to this system that aren't the norm.
"There is something new every day," Boldin said. "I look forward to it. You never get tired of learning."
View from the Press Box
The announced crowd of 36,787 got a nice treat, seeing the Cardinals for the first time in their brand new uniforms. And if Kurt Warner keeps throwing touchdowns, Larry Fitzgerald keeps catching them and Darnell Dockett's helmet keeps popping off after big hits, the attendance can reach 40,000 and come within 1,000 of a high school football game in Texas.
- Odeen Domingo
Country Roads, Take Them To St. Louis!
Re: Cards push envelope in new offensive plan
Oh if they win they will come you can bet that!