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Arizona Cardinals 2023 NFL Season Preview: What Is Gannon's Vision?

As teams head to training camp and the NFL season approaches, The 33rd Team asks its experts to preview every team's outlook for the 2023 season. In this installment, Charles Davis takes a deep dive into the Arizona Cardinals

>>READ: Cardinals Fantasy Football Preview

Cardinals Team Preview

What To Know: Offense

I'd love to be esoteric about all this, but the biggest storyline is Kyler Murray, and he continues to be since he’s coming off of a knee injury. 

Remember, he was drafted by a previous regime. The Cardinals drafted him after they drafted Josh Rosen the year before when Kliff Kingsbury was the head coach and Steve Keim was the general manager. 

Those two had a certain play style in mind that fit Murray perfectly. Did they have all the success they wanted? No. They got to the playoffs but didn't win. 

This season, Murray is coming off of a knee injury, and they're under new management with Monti Ossenfort as general manager and Jonathan Gannon as the new head coach. 

How will Murray look when he returns? How will the offense look with him? Will they continue to build around him if things don't go quite right? Are they thinking about a different future?

What To Know: Defense

The biggest storyline on defense is new defensive coordinator Nick Rawls. Gannon comes from the Philadelphia Eagles as a defensive coordinator, so you know he'll have a heavy hand in defensive game planning. 

This defense needs to make improvements everywhere. But, at the draft, the Cardinals brass focused on the offense by drafting offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. with their first pick. 

Why? I believe Gannon believes he and Rawls can put their heads together and scheme their way into being respectable on defense, allowing them to get the offense right first. They’re betting on themselves — a confidence move. 

It will be interesting to watch how it plays out this year. The Cardinals’ defense might not have the superstars and big-time players it wants, but Gannon and Rawls believe how they will attack everyone's offense will allow them to play decently enough. 

Biggest Off-Field Storyline

The Cardinals’ biggest off-field storyline started developing last season when Keim and Kingsbury were out. However, organizational change is not always as simple as hiring a new general manager and head coach. Gannon is a first-time head coach, and Ossenfort is a first-time general manager.

Where are they going in terms of vision?

This franchise has come close a few times along the way. When Bruce Arians was the head coach, he got to an NFC championship game. They understand that they can get there. This franchise has been in a Super Bowl before. 

But now you're starting all over again with a brand new general manager and head coach, and there's a lot of building to do. 

That's been the biggest story of the offseason because management is hitting the restart button again after a lot of patience with the previous regime. How much patience will they have going forward? That starts with the new group’s first draft they had in 2023.

Breakout Player Prediction

I would rely on a guy who's been there, and that's Isaiah Simmons. Remember the fanfare that accompanied him when he got drafted? The safest pick in the draft, the most versatile player in the draft coming out of Clemson.

He could do everything and move all over the place. On one play, Simmons could rush the passer. On another, he could drop into coverage, and the next play could look totally different. He can play inside linebacker and strong safety, but now he’s listed as a nickel back.

Sometimes I wonder if Simmons’ versatility is a curse. Maybe you get him in one spot and say, “This is your place. Go be great.” 

Maybe that unlocks him, and he lives up to why he was a top draft choice. He could be the breakout player this year for the Arizona Cardinals.

2023 Season Expectations

The best expectations for the Cardinals this year are to play well at different times of the year and impress people along the way. They should aim to upset a couple of teams. 

I’m not big on predicting season records, but I don’t see them having any chance of making the playoffs this season. But they can set a nice base and foundation so that culture creeps into their locker room. 

When we look at their season, we must consider their most recent draft class. Can Ossenfort’s first pick, Johnson Jr., take root and be a solid starter for them? Can they get cornerback Garrett Williams going after he recovers from a knee injury?

What about LSU edge B.J. Ojulari? He’s a candidate to start right out of the gate. Don't forget the free agent class. Linebacker Kyzir White is all over the field. Everywhere he goes, he's going to press for 80-100 tackles. 

Did the Cardinals make good decisions in the offseason, and will those decisions pay dividends for them this fall?

Other Previews

NFC East: DAL | NYG  | PHI | WAS

AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE  | NYJ

NFC North: GB | CHI | DET | MIN

AFC North: PIT | CLE | BAL | CIN 

AFC West: KC | LAC | LV | DEN

NFC West: SF | SEA | LAR 

NFC South: TB | CAR | NO | ATL 

AFC South: JAX | TEN | HOU | IND   

Charles Davis is an NFL analyst for CBS and NFL Network. He joined the sports media world after playing safety at the University of Tennessee.