The Ultimate Arizona Cardinals 2020 Season Preview

Heading into the second season under Kliff Kingsbury’s leadership, the Arizona Cardinals are looking to build on a promising 2019 season – with new faces, more knowledge of schemes and limited turnover, could 2020 be the year they return to the NFL Playoffs? Read on for our Ultimate Season Preview of the Arizona Cardinals’ 2020 NFL season.

Introduction

In these unprecedented times, at least there will be the normality of the NFL season to see us from September and out of the hellacious thing that has been 2020.

Of course, normal isn’t a word you can necessarily use to describe the off-season heading into the 2020 NFL season! So far we’ve been treated to…

  • a virtual draft broadcast from Roger Goodell’s basement,
  • face-masks,
  • Zoom meetings,
  • wearable contraptions to ensure social distancing is observed,
  • lots and lots and lots of hand sanitiser,
  • the cancellation of the entire slate of pre-season football.

Kliff Kingsbury’s Arizona Cardinals showed plenty of promise in 2019 and, even though that only resulted in a 5-win season.

Another off-season for him to install his schemes, along with hoping GM Steve Keim can fill the holes in the roster, and maybe they can show why many are pegging the Cardinals as their “Dark Horses” in a crowded and congested National Football Conference.

2019 In Review

Following a dismal 2018 NFL season for the Arizona Cardinals, which saw the hapless Steve Wilks lead them to a 3-13 record in (unsurprisingly) his only season as an NFL Head Coach.

Owing to some of the most depressing offensive football ever seen in the state of Arizona thanks to the ancient and awful schemes of Mike McCoy (another that the NFL has cast aside after numerous failures involving his units.), the Arizona Cardinals needed something new and exciting to make up for that total shitshow.

Enter former Texas Tech HC Kliff Kingsbury and, with the 1st overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, Quarterback Kyler Murray.

A player with which Kliff has many links. Including the, now infamous, resurfacing of a quote from a couple of years back.

“Kyler is a freak…..I would take him with the first pick of the draft if I could.”

Kliff Kingsbury, October 28th 2018

Almost immediately, the excitement levels in Arizona sky-rocketed. 

Though that was bad news for incumbent QB Josh Rosen – who the Cardinals had only spent the 10th overall selection on just a year earlier. Whilst Kliff appeared to be willing to work with the former UCLA star, ultimately the lure of drafting Heisman Trophy winner Murray was too much for the franchise to turn down.

To make matters worse for Rosen, he was then traded to the Miami Dolphins; where he currently resides as a third-string option behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and potential-QBOTF Tua Tagovailoa. 

If he wasn’t a millionaire being paid to do very little, perhaps you could commiserate with him and his situation.

Back to the Arizona Cardinals though and finally reunited with a Texas kid that had spurned his numerous recruitment advances, Kliff and Kyler took to the field and almost immediately there were improvements in both the passing and running games.

Granted, coming from Mike McCoy, improvements wouldn’t have been hard to come by…but I digress.

Whilst they only managed to win 5 games in the season, ultimately finishing with a 5-10-1 record, the 2019 Arizona Cardinals showed plenty of promise and, in all but 4 games where they were beaten by multiple scores, the team kept games close and may have earned even more wins had things bounced their way instead of their opposition.

It was a successful year for Kyler Murray though. Not only did he scoop multiple BritishBirdgang Awards, but the NFL Honours saw him named as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year – fans no doubt hoping that won’t be the last time he is seen scooping one of those prestigious awards.

Still, 2019 is ancient history now. We move onto 2020.

2020 NFL Season – The Off-Season

Though times might be unprecedented, the NFL’s off-season still had to happen to allow for column inches to be filled and for NFL Network to have something more to talk about.

The Arizona Cardinals had stories of their own though alongside the usual off-season events such as free agency and the annual NFL Draft.

The Big Stories

The Houston Heist – It would make sense to kick things off with the biggest story of the off-season; the trade that saw DeAndre Hopkins become an Arizona Cardinals player.

DeAndre Hopkins…an Arizona Cardinal.

It still doesn’t seem real.

For the meagre price of a 2020 NFL Draft 2nd rounder and a lumbering, huge contract-wielding David Johnson, the Houston Texans saw fit to let go of one of the NFL’s premier Wide Receiver options. 

Sure the whole idea of the trade was because Houston was unwilling to offer Hopkins an extension to his current deal, so that will be addressed before too long to keep their new #1 option (sorry, Larry) happy and in the desert for years and years to come.

Budda Baker’s Big Bucks – Speaking of extensions, Budda Baker was the recipient of a big-money deal to lengthen his stint as an Arizona Cardinals player – signing the largest deal in NFL history for a Safety. Getting a jump on some other safeties around the league hunting around for the big money.

For the princely sum of $59m over 4 additional years, the franchise has tied down the two-time Pro Bowler for the foreseeable future. Now he can go buy his mother the house she wants and whatever he wants because he’s rich. Rich beyond his wildest dreams.

Cheers, COVID – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the world, the Arizona Cardinals’ preparations for the 2020 NFL Season have been hit just as much as any other franchise.

It was recently announced that the first two home games of the season for the Arizona Cardinals (against the Detroit Lions and the newly-named Washington Football Team)  will be played behind-closed-doors with no fans in attendance.

Sad for all those season ticket-holding fans, but changes nothing for us who watch on the TV each week – though maybe the fake sounds of crowd noise could be pretty jarring. 

Still, as long as the Cardinals win then who cares where you’re watching it?

Free Agency

The Arizona Cardinals headed into Free Agency with several holes to fill but not masses of cash to play with once Larry Fitzgerald’s yearly allowance was paid out.

But still, Keim was able to add to their ranks with a bunch of fresh faces.

There have been the usual plethora of one-year deals with the likes of De’Vondre Campbell, Brett Hundley, Chris Banjo, Jonathan Bullard, Max Garcia, Charles Washington, Trevon Coley, Marcus Gilbert, D.J. Foster, Zane Gonzalez, Dylan Cantrell, Kevin Peterson, Kelvin Beachum, Ken Crawley, B.W. Webb and (breaths) Dre Kirkpatrick.

Some of the above lists will stick around as starter/depth, the rest finding their P45 (or the US equivalent) ahead of the traditional 53-man roster cutdown deadline. The successes will then go on the ‘Keim Time’ All-Time List.

Jordan Phillips – (signed a three-year, $30m deal) – The Cardinals defensive line is perhaps the weakest unit on their roster, so a fresh injection of talent was needed in the 2020 NFL off-season. 

Coming to Arizona on the back of his most impressive season with the Buffalo Bills, the 27-year-old figures to be an immediate starter and hope that he can continue the good form and improve on the 9.5 sacks he racked up in 2019.

Devon Kennard – (signed a three-year, $20m deal) – In Chandler Jones, the Arizona Cardinals have what many consider to be the best pass rusher in the whole league. Across from him, it’s another story entirely. In short, there’s nothing.

In bringing back another Arizona High School stand-out in Kennard, maybe the Cardinals have solved the issue of another pass-rushing threat on the defence. Backed up by first-round disappointment Haason Reddick and others, maybe they can stop being so reliant on Chandler Jones in getting to the Quarterback.

And, with cap space being relatively tight, that pair were the only additions to the Cardinals’ roster on multiple-year deals. 

For further longevity in their contract lengths, it was up to the NFL Draft for them to potentially add some cornerstones to a roster lacking them. 

The 2020 NFL Draft

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic hanging over the States, that wasn’t enough to stop the NFL from pressing on with plans to keep the NFL Draft going as scheduled.

Sure, there were no jet ski rides outside some Vegas casino like we were promised – that will have to wait until next year. But we still had hours upon hours of virtual Draft selections from Roger Goodell’s basement and a handful of new additions to the Arizona Cardinals’ roster.

Armed with the 8th overall selection following the 2019 NFL Season, mock drafts were all over the place when it came to predicting who the Arizona Cardinals would go for; would they give their franchise QB his wish and pair him up with WR CeeDee Lamb again? Could they add a dominant OT to help protect said franchise QB? Or would Vance Joseph’s maligned defence get a difference-maker?

The closer that we got to the NFL Draft, the tide seemed to turn where they seemed to suggest that Clemson jack-of-all-trades Isaiah Simmons would be available for them to pick at 8th overall. 

1.8 – Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker, Clemson – After a stunning college career with the Tigers and showcasing his athletic prowess at the NFL Combine, many expect for Isaiah Simmons to be a Top 5 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. But that was not to be the case.

As the picks came in, Simmons didn’t hear his name called. Teams with an obvious need of a defensive playmaker looked elsewhere – surely the Carolina Panthers, having seen Luke Kuechly retire in the off-season, wouldn’t pass on him? But they did.

Their loss was Arizona’s gain and, whilst they may have considered other prospects, the sheer value on offer by selecting Simmons was far too enticing for Steve Keim to pass on. 

As a player who has experience of playing all across the defence, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph should now have a player capable of nullifying offensive gameplans from the opposition as well a player who should be amongst the contenders for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

2.8 – Used in the DeAndre Hopkins Trade – Not that it needs mentioning again but the Arizona Cardinals were able to fleece the Houston Texans with an offer of David Johnson and this 2nd round selection for DeAndre Hopkins. Yes, really.

3.8 – Josh Jones, Offensive Tackle, Houston – If Isaiah Simmons falling to them at 8 was a surprise what would you describe potential first-round tackle Josh Jones is available in the 3rd round as? A gift? It certainly silenced those critics who said: “the Arizona Cardinals need to draft an OT in the first round.”

With several veterans ahead of him in the current depth chart, it would seem like 2020 could be treated as a ‘red shirt’ season for Jones. Which may not be a bad thing. But if he’s called upon later in the season, maybe the Cardinals can see if he is the Right Tackle of the future.

4th Round – Leki Fotu & Rashard Lawrence, D Linemen, Utah & LSU respectively – With the Cardinals receiving an addition 4th round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft by the DeAndre Hopkins trade, GM Steve Keim decided to address their defensive line depth with two big additions to the group.

6th Round – Evan Weaver, Linebacker, California – Though he wasn’t able to make the 53-man roster to start the 2020 NFL season, the tackle machine from California has found a spot on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. Will he make it into the league at some point or is his lack of athleticism going to doom him to being nothing more than the second coming of Scooby Wright?

7th Round – Eno Benjamin, Running Back, Arizona State – Unlike the player taken in the round prior, Eno Benjamin was able to find himself a space on the 53-man roster. Granted the Arizona Cardinals’ running back group isn’t the deepest – highlighted by the fact that he was one of a trio kept on the roster. Can the former ASU standout force his way up the depth chart?

With the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, focus then shifted onto what would usually have been a hectic schedule of Organised Team Activities, Rookie tryouts, team practices and everything else that culminates to Training Camp.

However, in these unprecedented times, this has been an off-season like no other.

Yes, there were still practices for every NFL team, but not a single pre-season game for anyone. Even the Hall of Fame Game saw an untimely demise to the despair of 10-15 people across the world.

One thing that didn’t change with the Arizona Cardinals, nor any other NFL team for that matter, was the need to construct a 53-man roster ahead of the 2020 NFL Season. 

The Arizona Cardinals 53-man Roster

Quarterbacks
1 – Kyler Murray
7 – Brett Hundley
15 – Chris Streveler

The reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year heads into the second year of his NFL career with even greater expectations than those that were levelled on him in his rookie campaign. With a second-year engrained in Kliff Kingsbury’s offence and recent history of second-year Quarterbacks exploding onto the scene, it’s easy to see why people are expecting big things from little Kyler. Can he cut out the mistakes and lead the Arizona Cardinals back to the playoffs?

Behind Murray, the Cardinals opted to keep a duo of Quarterbacks. Brett Hundley was used sparingly last year, only deputising for Murray on a handful of snaps, but was brought back to seemingly continue the role as a back-up. 

Former CFL player Chris Streveler might not have had the preseason games to show what he is capable of, but he did enough on the practice fields to make them keep him around at the expense of another position. Could we see him being used in a similar vein to that of how Taysom Hill is used by the New Orleans Saints?

Running Backs
41 – Kenyan Drake
29 – Chase Edmonds
26 – Eno Benjamin

After impressing greatly in his half-season cameo last year following the arrival from the Miami Dolphins, a one-year ‘Transitional Tag’ deal paying him in the region of $8m meant that Kenyan Drake was to stay that little while longer in Arizona.

Extrapolating his numbers from those games across the entire season would result in a fairly impressive season statline, so fans will be hoping he can deliver as much as he did last year. Will it mean a longer stay in Arizona or will he be out of the door when the year is over?

There has been a lot of praise headed in the way of Chase Edmonds these past few weeks, talking up his prowess of being able to shoulder an RB1 load in the league. Should anything happen to Drake, leaving many fantasy teams in tatters in the process, then the Cardinals and Kingsbury believe in Edmonds being able to be THE guy should that be necessary.

Benjamin was a fan favourite with the ASU-supporting Cardinals fanbase, but not so much for the man known as “Tucson’s Most Hated” by the UofA. Still, if he scores a few touchdowns and leads the Cardinals to wins then maybe that will fade and he’ll become a fan-favourite for all?

Wide Receivers
10 – DeAndre Hopkins
11 – Larry Fitzgerald
13 – Christian Kirk
16 – Trent Sherfield
17 – Andy Isabella
19 – KeeSean Johnson

Still doesn’t seem real that DeAndre Hopkins is an Arizona Cardinals player, yet here he is amongst the teams’ 53-man roster for the 2020 NFL season – like which idiot decided to give him up for an RB and a 2nd round selection? Bill O’Brien? Say no more. One of (if not) the best receivers in the game, he should provide the Cardinals with something they have lacked – a dominant, elite wide receiver. Kyler will be grateful.

The ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald returns once again, hinting that retirement would be on the cards should the Arizona Cardinals go on to win the Superbowl following the 2020 NFL Season. He should still contribute but now, with Hopkins in the fold, the reliance on him being the top guy may finally be over.

Christian Kirk has shown flashes of potential for his hometown team yet has struggled to find any kind of consistency. The addition of Hopkins should hopefully open spaces for him to exploit and hopefully show why the organisation were so keen to add him to their contingent as well as boost his chances of earning a second contract to stay with the Arizona Cardinals.

Andy Isabella was pretty ineffective as a rookie as struggles acclimatising to the NFL on the practice field meant few opportunities on game day but hopefully, a second-year with Kingsbury will give him a chance of contributing. Same with Trent Sherfield who has continued to impress on Special Teams but not so much on offence. KeeSean Johnson would also have a shot of being an option in the receiving game but will have to get off the Reserve/COVID list first, having been placed on it days before their opening game of the season.

Tight Ends

87 – Maxx Williams
85  – Dan Arnold
81 – Darrell Daniels

It has been a long time since the Arizona Cardinals had a dominant tight end and it would seem as though that wait is going to continue given the trio that has made the initial 53-man roster.

Maxx Williams had a few big catches but is primarily a blocker, the same can be said about Darrell Daniels. That leaves Dan Arnold as the potential ‘breakout’ tight end that could give Kyler Murray yet another big body to aim at in the passing game. 

There has been gathering momentum behind Arnold being, at least, a solid option in the later rounds of fantasy football drafts owing to the handful of plays he made late last season and usually, a good fantasy score only comes about if they’re playing well in reality – could Dan Arnold be the guy to finally end the Arizona Cardinals’ TE hoodoo? 

 

Offensive Line
74 – D.J. Humphries
67 – Justin Pugh
52 – Mason Cole
64 – J. R. Sweezy
68 – Kelvin Beachum
53 – Lamont Gaillard
73 – Max Garcia
79 – Josh Jones
66 – Josh Miles
71 – Justin Murray

The Arizona Cardinals offensive line has been a weak point for many years and, whilst the current incarnation isn’t exactly going to rank anywhere near the Top OL Units in the league, it should be solid enough to allow for Kyler Murray to find his numerous offensive weapons and make plays on the field.

The artist is formerly known as ‘Knee Deep’, “Captain D.J. Humphries” is one of those rarities – a Steve Keim first-round draft selection who has gone on to sign a  second contract. He parlayed a healthy contract-year season into a big-money extension that will keep him as Kyler’s blindside protector for the foreseeable and also allow for him to cash in with another long-term deal whilst still in his “prime” years.

Justin Pugh has yet to completely live up to the big-money deal he signed as a free agent but, with him on the left side of the line for another year, the familiarity with the position and there being no need for him to play the opposite side. The same can be said for Sweezy, another veteran of the league.

Big questions remain over the Centre position but, after showing a willingness to allow AQ Shipley to leave when his deal expired, there is hope that Mason Cole has learned enough and will be a solid anchor in the heart of the Offensive Line. A big ask for him though considering his sparing use so far in the NFL.

An additional 5 offensive linemen make up the backups and, if history is anything to go by, they will more than likely be called into action at some point when someone in the starting group goes down with an injury. 

Justin Murray and Max Garcia have been in the league many years and should offer solid backup ability as well as being able to assist the younger Lamont Gaillard, Josh Miles and Josh Jones as they begin their NFL careers and look to one day be starting-calibre material.

Defensive Line
92 – Rashard Lawrence
94 – Zach Allen
95 – Leki Fotu
96 – Angelo Blackson
97 – Jordan Phillips
98 – Corey Peters

The Arizona Cardinals defensive line looked thin as we headed into the 2020 off-season with just Zach Allen and Corey Peters holding over from the previous season – both assumed to be starters on the line this season alongside free-agent addition Jordan Phillips.

Draft selections Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence have received much praise in this weird offseason and, due to numbers, will likely get opportunities to impress in their rookie campaigns to see whether or not they deserve the hype.

Angelo Blackson was recently acquired from the Houston Texans and, as such, very little is known about him. Besides the fact, he forced me to rewrite this section but I digress.

Outside Linebackers

55 – Chandler Jones
42 – Devon Kennard
43 – Haason Reddick
45 – Dennis Gardeck
49 – Kylie Fitts

Led by the best pass rusher in the league, the Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker group doesn’t look particularly fearsome besides 55. The addition of Devon Kennard, a hometown product, should hopefully provide some more pressure off of the edge – as should first round bust Haason Reddick being played in what should be his strongest position. Why it took until his contract year to move him here is anyone’s guess.

Dennis Gardeck is one of the strongest Special Teamers on the roster and so remains for that fact alone. Kylie Fitts is a name unknown to many but his impressive size and athleticism provide Vance Joseph with another different type of player to work into his schemes. Or he’ll just be the first name on the Inactive list every week of the 2020 NFL Season.

Inside Linebacker

58 – Jordan Hicks
59 – De’Vondre Campbell
48 – Isaiah Simmons
51 – Tanner Vallejo
47 – Ezekiel Turner

Jordan Hicks had a very solid first season with the Arizona Cardinals, leading the team in total tackles and ranking amongst the league leaders in the same category as well. He’s likely to start the season paired with newcomer De’Vondre Campbell who is another solid tackler and should at least be a competent complement to Hicks when they decide to use first-round selection Isaiah Simmons elsewhere on the defence.

Tanner Vallejo joined the team last season and was a decent deputy when needed, perhaps why he was kept over other names. Ezekiel Turner appears to be another piece of Jeff Rodgers’ Special Teams unit.

Cornerback

21 – Patrick Peterson
20 – Dre Kirkpatrick
33 – Byron Murphy
27 – Kevin Peterson

Highlighted by Patrick Peterson, on paper, the Arizona Cardinals’ cornerback group looks wafer-thin – everyone is aware of how good P2 has been in the past and can only hope that he returns to performing at those levels this season. The secondary needs it.

Dre Kirkpatrick signed on a one-year deal recently and, owing to another injury to Robert Alford, was thrust straight into what would be the starting lineup. After his rookie struggles, moving Byron Murphy to the slot corner role should hopefully help restore belief in him amongst the fans already writing the former Saguaro State stand-out off.

Safety

32 – Budda Baker
31 – Chris Banjo
22 – Deionte Thompson
34 – Jalen Thompson
28 – Charles Washington

The newly-minted Budda Baker is easily the stand-out in this group and perhaps even in the secondary as a whole? A ferocious tackler without a single interception to his name, Baker deserves every cent of his big-money deal and will hopefully continue to show why people around the league rate him as one of the best players at the position. 

The Thompsons both impressed (Jalen more so than his kayfabe brother  Deionte) and earned the role alongside Budda. It would be of no surprise to see them both take a step forward in Year 2 and show they were grossly overlooked by the rest of the league. Both Banjo and Washington provide depth and experience.

Special Teams

5 – Zane Gonzalez
9 – Andy Lee
46 – Aaron Brewer

What more needs to be said about this group? Zane proved to be a solid option at the position last year and the former ASU kicker earned himself an extended stay in the desert. Andy Lee, as long as he has a leg, he’ll still punt the ball far. Aaron Brewer, as long as he still has arms, he’ll still spin that ball back to either Zane or Andy depending on the situation on the field. Special teams, yay.

With the roster constructed, focus now turns to the 2020 NFL Season and to what the Arizona Cardinals may be able to do in an increasingly-tough NFC West and the conference as a whole.

With an increased playoff field, could the 7th spot be a realistic target for Kliff Kingsbury’s Cardinals? Or will 2020 be a year too soon for the franchise?

2020 NFL Season – Game by Game Prediction

Week 1 – Arizona Cardinals 23 – 24 San Francisco 49ers (0-1)

Week 2 – Arizona Cardinals 31 – 20 Washington Football Team (1-1)

Week 3 – Arizona Cardinals 27 – 23 Detroit Lions (2-1)

Week 4 – Arizona Cardinals 23 – 20 Carolina Panthers (3-1)

Week 5 – Arizona Cardinals 33 – 24 New York Jets (4-1)

Week 6 – Arizona Cardinals 27 – 30 Dallas Cowboys (4-2)

Week 7 – Arizona Cardinals 20 – 23 Seattle Seahawks (4-3)

BYE WEEK

Week 9 – Arizona Cardinals 35 – 20 Miami Dolphins (5-3)

Week 10 – Arizona Cardinals 23 – 21 Buffalo Bills (6-3)

Week 11 – Arizona Cardinals 13 – 10 Seattle Seahawks (7-3)

Week 12 – Arizona Cardinals 23 – 27 New England Patriots (7-4)

Week 13 – Arizona Cardinals 16 – 23 Los Angeles Rams (7-5)

Week 14 – Arizona Cardinals 40 – 20 New York Giants (8-5)

Week 15 – Arizona Cardinals 31 – 35 Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)

Week 16 – Arizona Cardinals 23 – 27 San Francisco 49ers (8-7)

Week 17 – Arizona Cardinals 27 – 20 Los Angeles Rams (9-7)

Will 9-7 be enough for them to make it into the Playoffs? Who knows? I haven’t yet tried to predict the entire outcome of the 2020 NFL season so that remains to be seen – also it sounds like a lot of work.

For now, though, you have reached the end of our 2020 Season Preview. Here’s hoping for a successful season for the Arizona Cardinals. 







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