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Monday, September 13, 2010
Personnel report: Cardinals spread field

By Mike Sando

The Arizona Cardinals' rumored conversion to a conventional running team following Kurt Warner's retirement remains just that: a rumor.

Though inconsistent Sunday, quarterback Derek Anderson was most efficient operating from the four-receiver personnel groupings Warner favored. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 164 yards, one touchdown and a 104.9 rating from this wide-open grouping. This seemed improbable because the Cardinals, who managed a 17-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams, traded Anquan Boldin and lost receiver Early Doucet to an injury during the game.

Undrafted rookie free agents Max Komar and Stephen Williams comprised half of that four-receiver grouping once a groin injury sidelined Doucet in the second quarter. The Cardinals used four-receiver personnel twice on their winning touchdown drive, producing a 27-yard gain and a 21-yard touchdown. Anderson completed 6 of 8 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown from four-receiver personnel in the second half.

Arizona largely ignored its double-tight end groupings. I see two reasons for that.

One, Beanie Wells wasn't active, depriving Arizona of its best pure runner. Wells has been quite effective from double-tight groupings. Two, the Rams lost their third and fourth cornerbacks to injury during the second half, making it tougher for St. Louis to cover. Also, coach Ken Whisenhunt has said the Cardinals will not necessarily abandon their spread offense just because Warner isn't around to run it any longer.

The chart breaks down Anderson's passing numbers by personnel group.

For download: A two-sheet Excel file featuring sortable Cardinals offensive play-by-play and production summary by personnel group. My rushing totals for Arizona's Tim Hightower exceed official totals by 4 yards, presumably a product of how the league accounted for the fumble he lost following a 4-yard gain.

Source: I chart personnel live during games and double-check potentially confusing plays on video afterward. I did this for every NFC West game last season and have charted personnel from NFL games for more than 10,000 plays over the last five years. The idea is to figure out how teams use running backs, receivers and tight ends in combination across situations. I've got the Rams information from Week 1 as well and will go through the San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks game as time permits.