Image Credit: (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-mullick-354076184/
With Training Camp about to start for the NFL in a few weeks, there are questions that follow each team. Like I did with the Raiders, I will be doing the Top 5 Biggest questions for every team heading into Training Camp. Next up is the Arizona Cardinals who did not have a 1st round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, due to the Marquise Brown trade. But, there are still questions that remain with this team.
1. Who will step up during DeAndre Hopkins 6 game suspension?
Kyler Murray is going to perform under a different offense for the first 6 weeks of the season, as DeAndre Hopkins was suspended for violating the league's PED policy. So there goes the Cardinals' best offensive weapon for Kyler Murray to utilize. Somebody has to step up on this offense, especially in the receiving game. Could it be Marquise Brown who needed a change of scenery from Baltimore, Rondale Moore who has a ton of promise and potential, AJ Green who has plenty of experience, or maybe Andy Isabella can do something besides being a healthy scratch. Maybe Arizona will utilize the running game more or have the Cardinals utilize the tight ends more. One thing is for sure, and that is the Arizona Cardinals offense is going to look very different without DeAndre Hopkins for the first six weeks of the season. Hopefully, the Cardinals know what they are doing and can run this offense without him.
2. Who will be the backup option at running back?
With Chase Edmonds departing in free agency, James Connor will be the starting running back for the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals have to have a backup option and there are potential candidates that could be the backup. Darrell Williams is more of a veteran backup, but he did have a career year last season. Eno Benjamin had a lot of hype as well, but he disappointed last season. Maybe with a year of development, he could impress. Keaontay Ingram was drafted in the 6th round and I was shocked he did not go earlier in the draft. He has a chance at the role. This is very important to have answered as James Connor is not the most durable and it would be a good idea to get a backup plan ready.
3. Is Kyler Murray really that protected by the offensive line?
I have been on record saying that the Arizona Cardinals' offensive line is not good and I still believe that. The only offensive lineman that is great on this team is Rodney Hudson, but he could potentially suffer regression as he is 33 years old. Speaking of which, according to PFF.com “The average age of Arizona’s five starters come Week 1 will be over 30 years old.’’ This could be a problem as the o-lineman on this team could suffer regression and is not the long-term option for this team. I already mentioned Rodney Hudson who is their best o-lineman. DJ Humphries is 28, but he is not that great as a tackle, but he is a dependable option. Justin Pugh is 31 and he honestly has not been great and has nagging durability issues. Will Hernandez is 26 and showed promise in his 1st and 2nd year in the NFL, but has not been able to get better and has struggled. Kelvin Beachum is 33 years old and has been declining since the 2018 season. The point is the offensive line is not good and Kyler Murray does not really have the protection from his offensive line. He is going to run all over the place next season and I hope that is not the case and Arizona’s o-line is better than I think it is.
4. Can JJ Watt rebound and produce for the Cardinals in the upcoming season?
Growing up JJ Watt was one of my favorite players in the NFL and in his prime, he was easily the best defensive player in the league. It's too bad that injuries can happen to anyone and heavily derail a player. JJ Watt in the last 6 seasons has only had two healthy seasons. With Chandler Jones departing the Cardinals they desperately need help at the DE/EDGE position. It seems like the Cardinals are heavily banking on him being healthy next year and I hope he does. But at the age of 33, JJ Watt could also suffer more decline as well. This is a big year for him as well as he is in the last year of his contract with Arizona and he has to impress if he wants to sign another contract.
5. Who will be the number 2 cornerback?
Cornerback was a position that I thought the Arizona Cardinals were going to improve during the offseason. I was surprised that they pretty much did nothing to improve it. So who will be the number 2 cornerback, as I think it's clear Byron Murphy is going to be the number 1 guy as he did a great job last season in his role. Antonio Hamilton has shown flashes and he could be something but has been a journeyman corner throughout his career. Marco Wilson showed promise during his rookie season and could be something if he once again impresses. Christian Mathews is a name I have been hearing good things about but needs to impress in the next few weeks. Josh Jackson has been a journeyman in the league but has little experience as a cornerback. There are plenty more options on the list, but they did not impress that much last season. It would not shock me if Arizona decides to sign a veteran cornerback for this defense.