The Arizona Cardinals own the best record in the NFC West thanks to an innovative offensive scheme and excellent production on third down. Brian Filipiak looks at the blocking prowess of future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and how his willingness to lead the way on running plays powers Arizona’s ground game in motion.
While the tight ends have been the main chess pieces in motion, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin has found ways to take advantage of Larry Fitzgerald’s size in the slot. Against St. Louis, they used the 6’3”3, 220-pound receiver to clear a pathway for the ball carrier on several occasions, such as on this 11-yard run by David Johnson:
Aligned in the right slot, Fitzgerald folds underneath Jermaine Gresham’s kick out block on defensive end Chris Long (#91) post snap, easily sealing off defensive back Lamarcus Joyner’s (#20) attempt to fill the lane. The running back efficiently uses the extra space created in the hole, reading the outside leverage of right tackle Bobby Massie’s (#70) block on defensive tackle Aaron Donald (#99) and subsequently jump cutting to the inside between Massie and right guard Ted Larsen (#62) to pick up the first down.
Later in the contest, Fitzgerald – split wide to start – is motioned into the formation on the wing by Carson Palmer, just prior to the snap, where the future Hall of Famer delivers a critical cut block that springs Johnson free:
Gresham pins defensive end William Hayes (#95) outside, allowing Fitzgerald to scoop inside and cut down safety T.J. McDonald in the alley. The offensive line creates a wall behind the run direction, eliminating backside pursuit. Fellow wide receiver John Brown (#12) gets into the blocking act, cracking down on an unsuspecting Joyner. The ball carrier bursts up the right hash untouched until finally being dragged down from behind but not before gaining 17 yards.
Fitzgerald is a key component to the Cardinals ground game in motion. His toughness, competitiveness, and ability to execute his assignments is crucial to the play design, and team success.
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Brian Filipiak knows about proper blocking technique, the basics of run defense, how to defeat an overload, and the point-of-attack.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.