- Watch for Arizona to take off at the beginning of the season behind its new offense, but the ride won’t be without plenty of bumps.
The Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury marriage smolders out of the gates. Kingsbury has the advantage of being a largely unknown NFL schemer, and the Cardinals capitalize early by running a diverse, modernized passing game that plays to Murray’s unique strengths. With physical traits similar to but more dynamic than Russell Wilson’s, Murray at times dices opponents by playing both on schedule and off script. Still a rookie, however, his highs are balanced by bouts of lows, as he learns the art of professional quarterbacking on the fly.
Talk of a four-receiver revolution takes hold. The Cardinals are not particularly rich at wideout, but with two unique, stylistically contrasting slot weapons—the ageless Larry Fitzgerald and second-round rookie jitterbug Andy Isabella from UMass—they can stress defenses inside out of the four-receiver sets Kingsbury favors. Plus, when split out, tailback David Johnson is as potent as a wide receiver, giving the Cardinals the rare five-receiver package, where at least one mismatch is sure to emerge every snap.
Old and new stars boost the defensive front seven. On paper, the now-36-year-old Terrell Suggs for years has fit the typical “about to wash up” profile, and yet he continues to play with domineering strength, leverage, technique and awareness. Opposite stud Chandler Jones, Suggs elevates the pass rush and solves many of the edge problems that plagued this run defense in 2018. With the D-line set, yoked-but-still-green 2017 first-rounder Haason Reddick fully settles into the stack linebacker position that he filled with increasing aplomb last season.
Secondary questions become concerns. Can the Cardinals, who lack depth at corner, survive superstar Patrick Peterson’s six-game suspension for a PED violation? With projected starter Robert Alford out with a leg injury, can rookie Byron Murphy stabilize the perennially wobbly No. 2 corner spot? Murphy primarily played off coverage at Washington. What happens when new coordinator Vance Joseph's multifaceted scheme calls for man-to-man? Can the Arizona find someone to consistently play the slot? It seems logical to keep last year’s slot man, springy third-year pro Budda Baker, in centerfield, where he has a chance to become one of football’s rangiest free safeties. There are a lot of questions here for just one secondary.
BOTTOM LINE: The Cards are much better than in 2018 and will pull off a few upsets. But sustained success over four months is unlikely given the passing game’s youth and the questions on defense.
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