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Know Your Enemy: Arizona Cardinals

KYE rolls along in the NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals finished 8-8 last year and just missed the playoffs in HC Kliff Kingsbury’s second season in the desert. Kingsbury returns and will call the plays with Vance Joseph back as the DC. The Cardinals have high expectations in 2021. Arizona allowed 22.9 PPG for 12th in the league on defense and scored 25.6 PPG for 13th.

Strengths

Passing Game

Kyler Murray is growing as a QB and enters year 3 (67% completion, 26 TDS 12 interceptions and 3,991 yards in 2020). He has the legs to kill you (819 yards rushing and 11 TDs) but has improved in the passing game. He should have better protection with the additions of Rodney Hudson (8th of 36 centers), Brian Winters (62 of 80 guard) and Kelvin Beachum (46th of 79 tackles) at center, right guard and right tackle, respectively.

Veteran former stud WR AJ Green was added to the passing game to pair with one of the best WRs in the game in DeAndre Hopkins (1,407 yards and 6 TDs). The Cardinals have three second round picks at WR with Christian Kirk (621 yards and 6 TDs) in a contract year, 2nd year slot WR Andy Isabella (224 yards and 2 TDs) and 2021 rookie 2nd round pick Rondale Moore. The Cardinals are stacked with weapons for Murray and should have a strong passing game for 2021. TE is only weak spot but Maxx Williams can run block well.

Pass Rush

Chandler Jones is a beast returning from injury after a monster 2019 season. JJ Watt was added at DE to wreck games. Two young stud ILBS now roam in the desert with Isiah Simmons (Round 1 2020) and Zaven Collins (Round 1 2021). Markus Golden returns after success with the Giants. Cardinals did lose Haasan Reddick (12.5 sacks) who had a big contract year (now with Carolina). Zach Allen is below average DE but Jordan Phillips returns at nose tackle after getting paid last year. Leki Fotu is below average but a solid backup nose tackle. Arizona has a good front 7 and Jones/Watt/Golden and those ILBs can do some damage.

Solid but some Questions

Run Game

Arizona lost RB Kenyan Drake but Chase Edmond had 4.6 YPC on 97 carries. Edmond will pair with FA pickup James Conner who had a down year with Pittsburgh with some injuries. Conner was good in 2019 so will look to return to form. Run blocker is good from left tackle DJ Humphries, TE Max Wiliams and center Rodney Hudson. Justin Pugh, Brian Winters and Beachum will need to pick up that aspect of their games.

Kicker

Matt Prater moves on from Detroit to Arizona. Prater had a down final year for the Lions but is a really good kicker from 50 yards out. The Cardinals added a weapon to help them add some points.

Secondary and Coverage

Arizona lost a big one in Patrick Peterson (to Minnesota) who was declining some but still a good CB. Robert Alford has been oft-injured but Byron Murphy is a solid nickel CB. Arizona added Malcolm Butler who has been up and down since leaving NE for the Titans. If Butler becomes a number 1 CB again and Alford stays healthy, the Cardinals could be in better shape. Marco Wilson was drafted in Round 4 and Tay Gowen in Round 6 for depth.

At safety, Budda Baker is a force but there are questions with Shawn Williams, Charles Washington, Jalen Thompson and Deionte Thompson at safety. One or two of those four will need to step up opposite Baker laying the boom. LB coverage should be good with 1st rounders Collins and Simmons though.

Schedule

The Cardinal were 4-4 at home and 4-4 away in 2020 but should get some crowd noise in 2021.  Arizona hosts Minnesota Week 2 and Green Bay Week 8 on Thursday Night Football. The Cardinals travel to Chicago Week 13 and to Detroit (who somehow beat them last year and cost them the playoffs helping Chicago) in Week 15. Arizona looks good on-paper but they need to execute and actually make the playoffs. Otherwise, GM Steve Keim and HC Kliff Klingsbury could be on the hot-seat in the hot desert.