Arizona desert saps the life out of hype
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 19, 2006
Hype is a weed cultivated by the "pundits" that grows up out of every crack in the pavement of Planet Pigskin. Note, for example, the hype over Randy Moss and Terrell Owens that continues to blossom and dominate preseason talk, despite the fact that one was only marginally productive on a 4-12 team last year while the other barely played after torpedoing his team early in the season.
This gridiron weed can be choked out of existence, however, when it's sprayed by the herbicide of hype called the Cold, Hard Football Facts. It also helps when hype is starved of nutrients in the desert of gridiron success that is the Arizona Cardinals franchise.
If the first two games of the preseason are any indication, the hype in Glendale will be short-lived.
No franchise generated more off-season excitement than Arizona. Here's how the excitable off-season has unfolded in the desert. The Cardinals:
- doled out big bucks to grab free agent Edgerrin James, the most productive offensive player in history (125.7 yards per game), from Indy
- netted USC Golden Boy and 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart in the draft, after he shockingly fell to the 10th pick
- prepared to roll out a new state-of-the-art, retractable-roof stadium
- summarily sold out every last season ticket for the first time in history and established a waiting list for 2007 and beyond
The Cold, Hard Football Facts, as they so often do, stood steadfast against the sandstorm of offseason hype. And for good reason:
- Arizona was the most inefficient team in football last year, according to the Cold, Hard Football Facts Bendability and Scoreability Pigskindexes (part of our all-important "Quality Stats").
- The Cardinals also failed to beat a single quality opponent last season, and were badly thrashed in those games.
- Though Arizona stacked the hype-generating offensive side of the ball, it had a historically bad pass-run imbalance to overcome, and had a serious imbalance between offense and defense to overcome.
- And as we've seen so often throughout history, balanced teams win; imbalanced teams do not.
It's only preseason, but so far, the Cold, Hard Football Facts are once again winning out over hype. Here's how the Cardinals stack up in several key categories following their first two preseason games (a 20-13 win over Pittsburgh last week and a 30-3 loss to New England yesterday). There's little indication that the Cardinals will offer anything but the same old same old in 2006 (all below are two-game totals):
The Cardinals have had the ball for 104 offensive plays and generated 378 yards (3.6 yards per play).
The Cardinals defense has been on the field for 137 plays, allowing 732 yards (5.3 yards per play).
The Cardinals have run the ball 45 times for a mere 112 yards (2.5 YPC).
The big-name offseason pickup has found no room to run in his limited playing time. He has 4 carries for just 3 yards (0.75 YPC).
Time of possession
Over the course of two games, the Cardinals have held the ball for 49 minutes, 3 seconds. Their opponents have held the ball for 70:57.
It's the inability to run the football that should be most disconcerting to Arizona fans. Last year, the Cardinals had the most productive passing attack in football (277.3 YPG). But they had one of the worst rushing attacks in the history of the NFL. Arizona ranked dead last in yards per attempt (3.2) and TDs (2). In fact, only one team in the history of football ran for fewer TDs in a single season than Arizona did last year – the 1934 Brooklyn Dodgers. That was back in the NFL Stone Age.
James, meanwhile, is a long-time Cold, Hard Football Facts favorite, but recent trends are troubling. In his last four games of 2005, including the playoff loss to Pittsburgh, he rushed 69 times for just 215 yards, an average of 3.1 YPC.
To state an important Cold, Hard Football Fact once again, balanced teams win football games. Unbalanced teams do not. If Arizona is to earn the hype and the excitement it generated with its offseason moves, it will have to do more to close the gap between its rushing and passing attacks, and between its offense and defense.
Arizona has closed the gap in one respect so far this preseason: It appears unproductive in all phases of the game.
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