There aren’t many teams that have four quality wide receivers. In Deandre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, and Rondale Moore, the Cardinals do. And they were able to deploy them effectively in Week 1 against a Titans Defense with questions up and down its rebuilt secondary.
The Titans clearly didn’t believe cornerback Caleb Farley, their first pick in this year’s draft, was ready for significant playing time. He only saw 8 snaps, all in mop-up duty. Without Farley as a viable option on Sunday, the Titans had depth issues at cornerback, which is not what you want against a receiving corps like Arizona’s.
Several times on Sunday, we saw the Cardinals deploy a 4-wide receiver personnel package. On the below 3rd down, they did so with Chase Edmonds (one of the better receiving running backs in the league) as the 5th receiver and went with an empty formation. The Titans matched up with Dime personnel using 3 safeties and 3 cornerbacks, and played man coverage.
That meant a safety had to be left on a wide receiver somewhere. Here, it was safety Kevin Byard on wide receiver Christian Kirk. Kyler Murray targeted the matchup.
That wasn’t bad coverage necessarily, but Kirk created enough separation that Byard was late to play the ball in his effort to recover.
Later in the game, the Titans used Nickel personnel in response to Arizona’s 4-wide receiver look, again choosing to match up with only 3 cornerbacks. That meant another 1-on-1 for Kirk on Byard.
Murray once again targeted the matchup.
Arizona was also able to get Deandre Hopkins matched up on Byard for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter. This time it was out of 11 personnel (3 WR). However, they spread the Titans out with another empty formation and Edmonds on the perimeter. This helped define the matchups for Murray:
The Cardinals are going to be a matchup problem for NFL defenses all season. Seeing how their opponents respond will be one of the fun chess matches to keep an eye on in 2021.