More running, less passing? What to expect from Cardinals' new offense

TEMPE, Ariz. -- One of the Arizona Cardinals’ best-kept secrets under their new regime this offseason has been what the offense will look like.

New offensive coordinator Drew Petzing has been tight-lipped about his scheme, but with just weeks until training camp starts, a few details about Arizona’s new offense have started to come into focus.

This much is certain: After four years of running a version of the Air Raid spliced with a fair dose of the run, the Cardinals are set to pivot, as Petzing brings ideas from the Cleveland Browns, where he was the tight ends coach and quarterbacks coach in recent years.

“It’s a lot different,” wide receiver Marquise Brown said. “A lot different.”

What is known so far about the Cardinals’ new scheme is that it’ll start with a huddle, the quarterback will use a cadence, there’ll be points to the "Mike", there’ll be more of an emphasis on the run and two tight ends will be utilized quite a bit.

“We're doing a lot of new things,” quarterback Colt McCoy said. “What we're doing now is very similar to the way that I played most of my career.”

Throughout the offseason, much has been made about the Cardinals’ new run game.

The past four years, Arizona called designed runs on 34.8% of plays, compared to the Browns, who ran designed runs on 44% of their plays last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

One of the first things Petzing and left tackle D.J. Humphries talked about was how the new scheme would be more run-heavy.

“So, he got me,” Humphries said. “I told him, ‘You got me. You had me at 'Hello.'' So, we're good.”

Humphries wasn’t the only one.

“I love that,” running back James Conner said. “I just love it. I just love the possibilities of what it could be.”

Conner watched film of Cleveland’s run game from last season and it had him anticipating this coming season. Cleveland’s Nick Chubb finished third in the league in rushing in 2022 with 1,525 yards to go with 12 touchdowns. Kareem Hunt finished at No. 48 with 468 yards.

“It's exciting seeing the film and watching some of those guys get the lanes and running 10, 15 yards downfield, sometimes untouched,” Conner said. “So, yeah, it's exciting. I believe I’m a talented back and it's going to be a big year.”

McCoy agreed.

“I think James will be good in this system,” he said.

McCoy added that the system includes more checks and alerts that could help Conner get more involved and in the right looks.

New coach Jonathan Gannon said the run-based concepts and the play-actions will be run out of the “dot," which is when the running back is lined up directly behind the quarterback, who is under center.

“Just the fact that we are emphasizing the run game gets me excited,” guard Will Hernandez said.

Last season, the Browns ran inside the tackles on 72.7% of rushes, compared to the Cardinals, who stayed in between the edges on 64.6% of rushes the past four years.

The operation this season will be different than what Arizona has done in the past, McCoy said.

That could mean Arizona’s quarterbacks will be lining up under center quite a bit more. In the past four years, the Cardinals’ quarterbacks lined up under center on 10.6% of offensive plays, compared to the Browns, who lined up under center on 41.4% of offensive snaps last season. Arizona opted to be in the shotgun more under former coach Kliff Kingsbury -- 89.3% of the offensive snaps since 2019 -- whereas the Browns went shotgun on 58.6% of snaps in 2022.

The passing game will look different as well.

McCoy expects more two-tight end sets utilizing veteran Zach Ertz and Trey McBride, who is in his second season.

“You can line him up outside, you can pull him back in the back field, I think he's a guy you can do a lot with,” McCoy said of McBride. “He can handle a bunch. He's getting a lot of different looks.

“Trey has had a good offseason.”

Petzing “mixes it up,” said wide receiver Rondale Moore, who added that the offense has been a combination of 12 [one running back and two tight ends] and 22 [two running backs and two tight ends] personnel, and Arizona will run and pass out of both formations.

Last season, the Browns were in motion on 50.4% of plays, compared to 31.9% by Arizona in the past four seasons.

With significant changes coming to Arizona’s offense, Gannon isn’t concerned that quarterback Kyler Murray, who is recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, hasn’t been on the field to work through the new scheme.

“He's played a lot of football, and he's an extremely intelligent person,” Gannon said. “And a guy that's played at a high level for a long time. ... He doesn't need to bank 100 reps. We talked about [how] he's seen Cover 3 -- all the ways to play it, a lot of those reps -- but he'll have some rust he's going to have to knock off, but he'll be ready to go.”

While the offense is still weeks away from being fully unveiled, Moore said Petzing likes to mix it up.

“Obviously, we'll spread it out a little bit. Primarily, obviously, we're in three receivers on the field in 11, and then we'll go empty and toss the ball around,” Moore said.

“I think we've got some cues back there that can get the job done, and it's been a great mixture of all the above throughout OTAs.”