It’s game day. Now is a great time to get to know how more about the Arizona Cardinals from their perspective. Thanks to Seth Cox from Revenge of the Birds to take the time to answer these questions.
What’s your confidence level in Kyler Murray heading into Week 1, and where do you think he’ll finish the season among starting NFL QBs?
I think with any young quarterback coming off a Rookie of the Year season; you are excited but cautiously optimistic is probably the best way to approach this as a fan of any Arizona sports team.
Murray is a different breed. He’s a quiet guy who loves to put in work and get better at his craft, which is why he endears himself to every one of his teammates.
I think he and the Cardinals will be improved, and he will show that he has grown this offseason.
For his second season, people are expecting him to make the Patrick Mahomes/Lamar Jackson type leap, which may be unfair to expect him to be the league MVP. However, he should be among the best in the NFL when the season is over if his offseason work is any indication.
I’d expect him to be competing in that 7-10 range of quarterbacks in the NFL, with still some room to grow his game. That’s the biggest thing for Arizona, his continued progression over the next two to three seasons. If that is happening, you know you’ll be able to compete each and every year.
I think ultimately, that’s the goal, a Russell Wilson/Aaron Rodgers type that makes you competitive even if the team around you needs work. He may not be there in year two, but it feels like he is trending that way.
How have the rookies looked in training camp? From Isaiah Simmons to Eno Benjamin?
It’s been relatively quiet regarding Isaiah Simmons, and that’s because they’ve been keeping under wraps how they want to use him. With the information embargo going on, the most I can say is he’s being used quite a bit in a variety of ways at a couple of spots on defense. He’s been good at each, but he’s also a rookie with a lot on his plate in year one.
Josh Jones had a good camp before an ankle injury (which we just found out this week what the injury was) has halted that and put him on the bottom of the depth chart.
The defensive linemen in Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence have drawn praise all camp, but I’d be shocked to see too much of them. They really like their offseason moves and last year’s third-round pick Zach Allen. Both will play, but in limited roles early.
Eno Benjamin is the third running back, and they plan on getting their money’s worth out of Kenyan Drake, so again, they like him, but they have expensive veterans in front that they plan on using.
What’s Arizona’s biggest strength heading into this game, and where do they have the edge on the Niners?
I think the offensive weapons for the Cardinals will pose the biggest threat to the Niners. While the 49ers defense is incredible, the Cardinals offense did well against them last year, especially with Kenyan Drake in the fold. Now they add DeAndre Hopkins, Kyler Murray is a year more versed in the offense and the NFL, they love their addition of Dan Arnold as a red zone threat and have the chance to be a really good offense in 2020, instead of an average one.
I think the diversity of weapons will prove to be there biggest strength heading into Sunday’s game.
What about the 49ers terrifies you the most?
Kyle Shanahan. Again, the 49ers defense is great, and there’s no doubt they will cause problems, but the Cardinals were good against them in 2019 and had an improved (on paper) unit.
Shanahan, on the other hand, is just a nightmare to deal with. He’s one of, if not the best game planners in the NFL, he has more imagination than nearly anyone in the league, and he understands how to exploit defenses. Despite being a MASH unit at wide receiver, the 49ers have a great offensive line, a stable of talented running backs, and phenomenal tight ends and fullbacks.
It doesn’t matter who is playing wide receiver because Shanahan is going to get them open while putting pressure on you with the talent he does have everywhere else.
He’s a matchup advantage each and every week until you run into Andy Reid again, whenever that may be. (I’m hopeful Kliff becomes the same type of advantage for the Cardinals this year)
Who wins the game, and what are your season-long expectations for the Cards?
I think the Cardinals fall short again in San Francisco, and the aforementioned Shanahan is why.
The Cards are able to keep up offensively, but despite spending the offseason trying to improve the defense to combat the 49ers, they are unable to.
It’s early, it’s the reigning NFC Champions, and even with an empty stadium, it is on the road.
I think the 49ers take game one in a good one:
For the season, I expect the Arizona Cardinals to be better and improve on closing games out. They could have won nine games last season, but their defense just stunk. It should be better as they get live game action and have a chance to work together. I expect the first six to eight games to be similar to 2019, with improvement on the back end and a strong finish to 2020, leading to an 8-8 season and excitement heading into the offseason for the Cardinals to be the team that makes a “leap” in 2021.