Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Rondale Moore was one of the best college football playmakers in space. He is exactly what the Cardinals need.
When you turn on the tape and watch the Arizona Cardinals offense last year, Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore in the second round comes to mind. Obviously, Moore didn’t take the field for the Cardinals last year as he dealt with injuries at Purdue last season. He comes to mind because of the very nature of the Cardinals’ offense and how they scheme offensively.
Last season, the Cardinals missed the playoffs by a game. Quarterback Kyler Murray was injured late in the season, leaving the Cardinals without his explosive playmaking ability. On top of that, aging veteran Larry Fitzgerald, while productive, wasn’t exactly a good scheme fit. Fitzgerald retired at the end of the season, and the Cardinals signed former Cincinnati Bengals receiver AJ Green.
The one thing that really stands out on tape when you watch is how the Cardinals scheme players in space. While it’s technically a
spread scheme, it’s not very traditional. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury prefers to find space for his playmakers and allow them to make something happen after the catch. It’s a strategy that has seen success recently in the NFL.
As I watched through a few Cardinals games, I saw opportunities for Rondale Moore all over the field. Please, allow me to explain.
The Scouting Report on Rondale Moore
Rondale Moore was phenomenal throughout his NFL Draft process. His athletic testing was off of the charts. Moore ran his forty-yard dash at a reported 4.29 seconds and recorded a 42.5″ vertical leap. His explosive ability made him a star in college, oftentimes enough of a factor to change the course of a game. Although all of this was incredible, the question that surrounded him was how to scheme him. Moore is just 5’8″ and 175 pounds, limiting his ability to perform anywhere outside of the slot. Even from the slot, Moore made the majority of his plays in space, schemed by Purdue.
Coming into the NFL Draft, we knew he wouldn’t be selected early if a team didn’t plan to use him. The 2021 NFL Draft class was rich in slot talents, from D’Wayne Eskridge and KaDarius Toney to Amari Rodgers and Elijah Moore. All five players, including Rondale, with who I named, received second-round grades from my assessment.
Rondale Moore was on the lower end of that spectrum, mostly because of the lack of press coverage in college. Fantasy analysts had reached out to me before the draft to ask about the on-field ability of Moore, and I told them all the same thing – Moore is a guy who needs to get to an offense that has a plan to use him.
Thankfully, for Moore, he was blessed with the best landing spot he could have gotten.
The Arizona Cardinals have a need for Rondale Moore
The Cardinals wanted to use Larry Fitzgerald as a run-after-catch weapon last season. For the aging receiver, who had a phenomenal career in the NFL, it was beyond his real skillset. Fitzgerald’s role last season probably should have been limited to quick routes over the middle at the sticks to make quick catches through contact. Because of his lack of explosive ability, the Cardinals were somewhat limited. Fitzgerald ended the season with 54 catches for 409 yards – 7.6 yards per reception- because of how often Murray targeted him behind the line of scrimmage.
That’s where Moore comes in.
With AJ Green, DeAndre Hopkins, and Christian Kirk on the roster currently, upon first glance it looks like the role for Moore is very limited. Personally, I think that Kirk is going to get pushed for time out of the slot. Let’s talk about some of the things that the Cardinals liked to do.
Cardinals simple screen
Let’s start with the simple screen that the Arizona Cardinals ran a good bit last year. The formation features a bunch to the left, three receivers. In this example, from week one against the San Francisco 49ers, those receivers are Christian Kirk and DeAndre Hopkins as blockers and Fitzgerald as the bubble receiver. Depending on the defense look, Murray in the shotgun will play action to the running back and get the football to the perimeter as quickly as he can. If the defense shows a blitz, he will cancel the play-action before the snap.
The purpose of a bunch is used in many ways by NFL teams. The idea is to run a flurry of routes at a group of defensive backs and make their coverage assignments confusing. If the defense is in man coverage, there are generally “rubs” planned, routes cross, and defenders bump into each other, losing their coverage.
This is a simple concept. Create enough space for a playmaker to make a play happen with the football. This is a role that Rondale Moore could excel at and bring an instant boost.
Cardinals stick-outs concept
In short-yardage situations, the stick concept is a prevalent concept run all across the NFL. Typically, the tight end is the main read from an inline position. It features several routes and generally two check-downs on each side of the field for the quarterback to go to if the defense takes the tight end away.
In this example from week 15’s match-up with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cardinals shift out their running back to the slot. The tight end is wide to the left. They’re running a tight bunch to the right, a cluster of receivers. Essentially, the concept is to create two different rub opportunities for receivers.
The point man in the bunch (Hopkins in this example) is the main receiver. The rub is from Fitzgerald to the outside of the bunch. The idea is to get the linebacker to jump on Fitzgerald and open the inside to Hopkins. The slot in the bunch (Kirk in this example) is the check down who leaks out from all of the commotions from the rest of the play. The bottom is a clear rub, where the tight end runs his quick curl and the slot man (Chase Edmunds in this example) leaks out underneath.
Again, Rondale Moore fits in this scheme perfectly. If the Cardinals wanted to go 04 personnel (0 running backs and 4 wide receivers), they could put Moore where they shifted the running back. Honestly, they could do exactly what they did here, putting Moore at running back and motioning him out. If they want the running back on the field, Moore is a much more effective check down than Kirk is.
Cardinals slot screen
The Cardinals ran this screen example in week 11 against the Seattle Seahawks. This is a trip’s left formation, with the running back lined up on the strong side of the formation. Hopkins has a one-on-one matchup at the top of the screen, which is where Murray wants to go with the play if it breaks down. The slot shifts out into space at the bottom of the screen to get a one-on-one play against the boundary cornerback. In this example, the target on the screen is Fitzgerald.
The problem with this example is that a smart boundary cornerback sniffs out this play very quickly. The play is designed so that the screen recipient has a chance to make the first defender miss and make a substantial gain. The issue last year? Fitzgerald struggled to make that defender miss in these opportunities.
Moore forced 37 missed tackles in his full season with Purdue in 2018, per PFF. No receiver has forced more in college since 2014. Moore fits this role perfectly for the Cardinals in the 2021 season.
Rondale Moore has already turned heads in minicamp
Rondale Moore is off to a good start in his NFL career. Reports from the Arizona Cardinals minicamp are that Moore has stood out as more than a serious threat. Cardinals Director of Player Personnel Dru Grigson already has raved about his ability. “When he hits it straight line, it’s unbelievable, but this kid’s ability to move laterally – this kid teleports,” Grigson said Thursday night on the Big Red Rage. “He doesn’t just change directions. It’s unbelievable to watch. He’s a video game in real life.”
It’s not just Grigson who likes him. He told reporters that Moore had already drawn praise from Cardinals defensive coaches. “I heard one of the defensive coaches say the other day: ‘This kid looks quick in slow motion,'” Grigson reported. “I’m excited to see him for 17 games for us.”
Moore shouldn’t be limited to these examples, he brings so much more to the field as a deep threat out of the slot and as a horizontal threat. His explosive ability and incredible speed should make him a force to be reckoned with in the NFC West in 2021.