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Next Gen Stats notebook: Arians' need for speed

Bruce Arians loves greyhounds.

When he was in Cleveland early last decade, Arians featured dual-threat receiver-returner Dennis Northcutt, who once bested an ostrich in a footrace.

At his next stop in Pittsburgh, Arians developed Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown into dangerous deep threats.

Moving on to Indianapolis, he orchestrated T.Y. Hilton's dynamic rookie season.

Now in Arizona, Arians is taking full advantage of second-year playmaker John Brown and rookie flier J.J. Nelson.

"I live life and call plays the same way: *no risk it, no biscuit*," Arians says on the upcoming NFL Network special Bruce Arians: A Football Life. "If you don't try great shots, you won't hit one."

With Brown limited by a hamstring injury and Michael Floyd sidelined, Arians turned to 5-foot-10, 160-pound rookie J.J. Nelson as his deep threat in a riveting prime-time showdown with the AFC North-leading Bengals.

The fifth-round wideout came through with 142 yards on four receptions, highlighted by a 64-yard bomb on which he reached 21.78 mph -- the highest speed of any Week 11 ball carrier, per Next Gen Stats.

It marked the third week this season that a Cardinals skill-position player clocked the fastest time in the league.

Brown's 22.60 mph on a Week 4 end-around is tied for the highest maximum speed for a ball carrier all season. Rookie tailback David Johnson reached 22.05 mph on a game-clinching screen pass, the fastest any ball carrier moved in Week 1.

"I like speed," Arians explained, via The Arizona Republic, after Sunday's game. "I like speed that comes in any kind of package. It is nice when it is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. If it's a buck fifty-eight and it's still fast, you don't have to be big to catch it over your shoulder. I have always liked fast little guys that are quick and can take the top off of the coverage. Those little guys are exciting."

Here's what else we learned from Next Gen Stats in Week 11:

  1. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks broke down DeAndre Hopkins' spectacular performance against Darrelle Revis, concentrating on the 64-yard touchdown that staked the Texans' to a lead they would not relinquish.

Revis lined up 1.74 yards from Hopkins at the line of scrimmage with the Jets in a nine-man box to stop the run. Revis began the post route within 0.48 yards of Hopkins, only to see that margin grow to 3.30 on Hopkins' slight pushoff to gain a separation window for quarterback T.J. Yates. Revis closed to within 1.15 yards at the catch point, but it was too late. Hopkins reached a max speed of 19.68 just after the catch, good for the third-fastest speed on a touchdown in Week 11.

  1. Last week, we noted rookie Devin Funchess' growing role in Carolina's offense. This week, we can tell you that the behemoth wideout is on the verge of establishing himself as the Panthers' top receiver. Funchess not only started in place of an injured Philly Brown, but also played more snaps (79 percent) than any Carolina receiver while tying for the team lead in targets.

Coach Ron Rivera suggested Monday afternoon that Funchess has become a mainstay in the lineup, lauding him as "Kelvin-esque" in reference to last year's breakout receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

  1. Updating another story from last week, the Packers' lethargic wide receivers finally came through with big plays in the win over the Vikings -- but it wasn't due to an uptick in speed. Green Bay went a second straight week without a top-40 speed by a wide receiver as a ball carrier.
  1. Prior to the 49ers' bye, Blaine Gabbert recorded the two highest quarterback speeds of Week 9 at 20.95 and 20.15 mph -- faster than all but Marcus Mariota and Mike Vick at the position this season. Gabbert raced out to 20.33 mph on a 10-yard scramble in Week 11, which means he now owns three of the top four ball-carrier speeds by a quarterback in the last three weeks. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Gabbert is faster than Colin Kaepernick, who posted a maximum speed of 20.23 mph back in Week 3.
  1. After Thursday night's loss at Jacksonville, it was obvious that Mariota desperately needs a playmaking wideout or two to complement tight end Delanie Walker. The fastest speed recorded by a Tennessee wide receiver in Week 11 was 14.69 mph, which was slower than the marks set by quarterback Blake Bortles and tight ends Anthony Fasano and Clay Harbor in the same game.
  1. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak made a significant adjustment to his offense with Brock Osweiler under center. Whereas Peyton Manning ran three-wide receivers sets on 60 percent of his plays this season, Kubiak called for multiple tight-end sets on 83.8 percent of the Week 11 plays. The result was not only the emergence of Vernon Davis as a receiving weapon, but also a more efficient ground attack. Kubiak acknowledged after the game that the threat of Osweiler's boot-action helped running backs Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson with more advantageous looks versus the Bears' defensive front.
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