Week 1 Scouting Report: Lions must attack Cardinals depleted secondary
When the Cardinals have the ball
All eyes will be on Murray, this year’s first overall draft selection. Kingsbury will also be making his NFL head coaching debut, and brings his unorthodox, “Air-Raid” offense to the professional level. It will be fascinating to watch how the two figures try to bring what has been an predominantly college-level scheme to the major league ranks. The Cardinals were dreadful on offense last year, ranking at or near the bottom of the league in many categories, which led to the overhaul.
Air-Raid sets are predicated on shotgun formations, with one running back and many receivers, sometimes as many as five on one snap. No huddle pacing and audible calls are also commonplace. Due to the tricky scheme shift, the Cardinals struggled at times with snap counts and penalties in the preseason, have they fixed those issues before Week 1?
Future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzagerald leads a receiving corps with several young pieces, including shifty slot men Christian Kirk and rookie Andy Isabella. Murray will look to hit his wideouts at all three levels, so the Lions’ cornerbacks, particularly new nickel corner Justin Coleman, will need to be solid in coverage to force stalled drives.
Up front, the Lions will look to make good on their heavy investments on the defensive line, unveiling new contributors Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels to go with their impressive holdovers. Simply put, the Lions’ defensive linemen should have little trouble containing a maligned Arizona offensive front.
The Lions were excellent against the run last season after acquiring nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison, and they should be able to contain running back David Johnson using heavy fronts and an extra down lineman at times. Johnson is also a dangerous pass-catcher however, and could line up out wide or in the slot when Arizona elects to empty their backfield.
Murray is also highly regarded for his scrambling skills; the Lions will need to be aware of his ability to escape the pocket and pick up first downs on the run. With injured starting linebacker Jarrad Davis unlikely to play, the rest of the linebacking unit will need to be able to shed second level blocks and contain Murray’s scampers. Could they also use a quarterback spy?