The Arizona Cardinals have had a rough couple of years. However, contrary to their struggles in 2018, the 2019 season has shown some growth. First-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury is finding his way in the NFL following his transition from college football to the pros. Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray is also improving throughout the season, along with another elite outing following Christian Kirk’s Week 15 performance.
According to PFN’s Offensive Share Metric, Kirk earned his second-highest score of the season versus the Cleveland Browns in Week 15 with a 46.86. This was his fourth elite week of the year, according to the standard set by PFN of a score of 40+ being elite. Kirk is having a great sophomore season, catching 61 passes for 649 yards and finding the endzone three times.
Kirk has done well to adapt to the Cardinals’ new offense under Kingsbury after learning his second playbook in as many seasons. For the season, Kirk has an OSM of 36.56, ranking him at WR11 so far.
While he doesn’t lead the team, trailing Larry Fitzgerald by just over 60 yards, he is 300 ahead of third, David Johnson with 366 yards. While Fitzgerald leads Kirk in receiving yards, Kirk is responsible for more yardage through the air this season if you factor in the yards he has generated through pass interference calls.
Yet, the box score only tells us so much as to how well Kirk is doing this season. With the help of the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Kirk is proving to be a valuable asset for the Cardinals.
Consistency in Christian Kirk’s Week 15 Performance
Nothing jumps off the page from Christian Kirk’s Week 15 performance box score-wise. In Arizona’s tilt with the Browns, Kirk caught 4 of 5 passes for 33 yards. So if his overall output wasn’t sky-high, how was his OSM score at an elite level?
Kirk had the second-highest separation among wide receivers in Week 15 and 4th highest overall with an average of 5 yards, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Over the course of the season, Kirk is tied for the 5th highest average separation in the NFL at 3.6 yards. He’s been able to create space between himself and his defender and, in turn, has given Kyler an open man to feed the ball for Arizona’s offense.
Kirk has already been turning heads this season. In Week 10 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Christian caught six passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns, easily his best box score outing of the season and young career. While Arizona’s offense currently a work in progress, it is promising to see a young receiver find success, especially when an aging receiver like Fitzgerald will be making his exit in the near future.
For now, the season is a wash, but that does not mean there have not been positives. There were loads of questions coming into the season whether Kingsbury was the right choice for the job and whether his offense could sustain success in the NFL.
While the return on investment has not been stellar this season, if the Cardinals improve their struggling offensive line, they could quickly turn this team around. Kyler Murray and Christian Kirk lead an offense that has playmakers; now all they need is more consistent protection to make those plays.