By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
The NFL season is over which means 2 things, 1 – it’s time to be sad for a few months until the NFL Draft and 2 – You now have a lot of time on your hands.
In this series of articles, we try and take care of number 2.
Today, it’s the turn of the Arizona Cardinals…
Entering the season
The Cardinals were seen as the wildcard in which everyone wanted to see them do well, but wouldn’t be overly vocal about it.
With more changes than you can shake a kaleidoscope at, the Cardinals not only got a new HC in Air raid specialist Kliff Kingsbury but also swiftly changed their franchise QB when they took Kyler Murray 1st overall and shipped 2018 1st round selection Josh Rosen off to Miami.
Whilst success wasn’t necessarily expected, forward progress was (well, unless the refs blew it dead first….).
During the season
The Cardinals expectedly had teething problems; Kyler Murray adjusting to the pace of the game and Kliff Kingsbury struggling to implement the offence meant that the Cardinals had to wait until week 5 for their first win against the Bengals.
Despite the improvements as the season wore on, they did not defeat a team with a winning record outside the division all season and only defeated the Seahawks in week 16, a game that meant very little to the Seahawks so it’s arguable at how far they have come since this time last year (NFC West is always a throw of the dice regardless of gap in quality of team), especially when you consider they only put up over 350 yards of total offence 8 times this season, though 3 of those instances came in the last 3 weeks of the season.
Kyler Murray ended up with a respectable rookie season and left the impression that he will be better for the run. Inhis rookie season he accounted for 4266 yards, with 544 coming on the ground, a 20:12 TD/INT ratio on a 64.4 pass completion %.
The Cardinals transitioned to Kenyan Drake at running back, effectively storing David Johnson in the closet but the backfield was a mess all season. At wide receiver, Christian Kirk (when healthy) built up a nice rapport with his quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald popped up every now and then.
On the defensive side, things didn’t improve all that much when Patrick Peterson returned from suspension, though Chandler Jones continues to rock the air guitar, doing so 19 times this season.
No-one was expecting the Cardinals to be legitimate playoff contenders this early on but maybe on the basis of their 2019 showing, a playoff berth may not be too far away if they continue on their upward trajectory. The division strength would be a concern though.
The Cardinals will look to address that porous defence and also give some more help to the offensive line which has been awful for a few years now. Whilst they wont have the #1 pick this year, they will be picking high up in the first round. They still have holes on the offensive line which will need a few darts thrown at it this year too.
In terms of current personnel, the Cardinals may want to try and find David Johnson a new home but his salary may be an issue. Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald will no doubt be coaxed into staying for another season and it remains to be seen whether Larry has the appetite to keep it going when there is no chance of a Super Bowl in the near future (he may be tempted in trying to reach Jerry Rice’s receptions record which he is only x away from though).
The nucleus of the team is there with a lot of youth being brought in from the plethora of draft picks they’ve had, especially on offence so the offseason will be spent ensuring the chemistry and rapport continues to build.
The foundations are set, time to build the house.
Fun Fact – Arizona were 30th in terms of 3rd down conversions allowed in 2019 but 1st overall on 4th down conversion allowed on defence, whilst on offence they were 21st on 3rd down but 3rd on 4th down.