The Arizona Cardinals come into 2022 with high expectations and an opportunity to make a deep postseason run. The Cardinals are back with Kyler Murray at the helm once again with a new contract in tote, along with a few new weapons including Marquise Brown from the Ravens. Though they started their 2021 campaign at a blistering pace with seven consecutive wins, they sputtered towards the end of the season going 2-4 and making an early exit from the playoffs.
Murray has been a lightning rod for the Cardinals’ offense since he was drafted in 2019. He has shown he can be a threat both in and out of the pocket. Murray knows how to escape pressure, extend plays and get his team positive yardage. He ended his 2021 campaign at 7th in IQR (minimum of 100 attempts) and 10th in Total Points among NFL QBs.
The one big downside to his game from last year was ball security. Murray had some issues with putting the ball on the turf. In fact, he led all rushers in fumbles with 10, but funny enough he never lost a fumble. He has avoided a lot of danger, but he needs to be more protective of the football.
Scouting the Offense
Throughout the rest of the offseason, the Cardinals lost a couple of key pieces from their 2021 offense. The two biggest losses were wide receiver Christian Kirk to the Jaguars and running back Chase Edmonds to the Dolphins. However, they did bring Brown from the Ravens, who was Murray’s teammate at Oklahoma.
Murray and the Cardinals will look to have Brown make an impact right away as their No. 1 WR since DeAndre Hopkins will be out for the first 6 games due to suspension. The Cardinals are also looking for second-year receiver Rondale Moore to take another step forward in Hopkins’ absence.
The rest of their offense will be led by NFL vets wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz was the 6th-ranked TE in receiving Total Points from his first start with the Cardinals after his trade from the Eagles. Running Back James Conner finished tied for 2nd in the league in rushing touchdowns last season and will look to take a larger role in the running game with the departure of Edmonds. Conner will have some more help up front with the signing of right guard Will Hernandez.
Scouting the Defense
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals lost some key pieces to their front in pass rusher Chandler Jones (Raiders) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (Vikings). Jones accrued 41 Total Points and led the Cardinals in pressures in 2021. Hicks had 39 Total Points last season and finished 2nd on the Cardinals in tackles.
The Cardinals will look for some young players to step up and fill in the gap in production. They brought in two rookie pass rushers in outside linebackers Cameron Thomas from San Diego State and Myjai Sanders from Cincinnati. They may not be immediate starters at the beginning of the season, but they could be key rushers in some sub-packages.
The Cardinals are returning defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Markus Golden along their defensive front to get after opposing offenses. Golden led all Cardinals and finished tied for 11th in total sacks with 11 in 2021.
The Cardinals are also returning two inside linebackers in Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. Simmons has shown his abilities and range from both in and out of the box, finishing his 2021 campaign with 103 tackles, good for 3rd on the team. Additionally, Collins promises to become a firm starter in the middle of Arizona’s defense after earning significant playing time during his rookie year.
The Cardinals’ back end is led by some of the top safeties in the league in Total Points in 2021, Jalen Thompson and Budda Baker. Thompson finished 2nd among safeties in Total Points with 49 and Baker finished T-15th with 35. Arizona’s safety tandem also finished 3rd in the league at their position with 84 Total Points.
On the boundaries, they will have cornerbacks Byron Murphy and Marco Willson. Murphy had a solid season in 2021 gaining 2.5 Total Points per Game. Wilson also finished with 2.0 Total Points per Game but will need to clean up some aspects of his game to increase his efficiency in 2022. Wilson finished 2021 tied for 2nd second in pass interference penalties and 6th in pass interference yards.
The Cardinals have a good mix of youth and veteran leadership to put themselves in a prime position to make a run at the NFC West crown and a deep postseason run. The question remains to be seen if they can put a complete season together and push through into the playoffs.
Chad Tedder of Sports Info Solutions contributed to this report