2019 NFL Season Preview- Arizona Cardinals
Arizona went into an entirely different direction going into 2018 and it was a complete disaster.
The Cardinals limped to a 3-13 record, tying the franchise record for worst in team history.
The offense was a complete mess and finished dead last in passing yards per game, rushing yards per game, and total offense. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired in mid October and replaced by Quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich. Quarterback Sam Bradford was completely ineffective after being babied for most of the offseason and training camp and started just four games before being released. Mike Glennon played mostly mop up duty when the team was getting blown out and played well all things considered. Running back David Johnson returned healthy after missing most of 2017 with a broken wrist but wasn't put into great situations to utilize his versatility, finishing with just ,1,386 total yards. The tight ends were a big disappointment. Ricky Seals-Jones had just 34 catches for 343 yards and one score while Jermaine Gresham regressed badly. Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald played well for his 16th season, but his stats were far below his averages the last three seasons while Chad Williams and JJ Nelson were non factors. The offensive line was arguably the worst in football. Because of injuries and poor play, the Cardinals used 10 different o-line combinations on the season. Four of the five original starters (left tackle DJ Humphries, left guard Mike Iupati, center AQ Shipley, right guard Justin Pugh) ended up on injured reserve while right tackle Andre Smith was released after a series of bad performances.
The defense had been a top five ranked unit each of the past three years, but finished 20th overall and last in run defense in 2018. The switch from 3-4 to a 4-3 base didn't work thanks to the wrong pieces on the field. Defensive end Chandler Jones didn't play up to his All-Pro label but still lead the team with 13 sacks. Markus Golden took time to fully recover from ACL surgery and Robert Nkemdiche has been a bust. The linebacker depth was thin at the start of the season and injuries only made it worse. Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick were barley used in the new defensive scheme as the team played mostly nickel and dime packages. Josh Bynes and Jeremy Cash both landed on injured reserve with separate injuries. Arizona consistently tried and failed to find a suitable starter at right cornerback and even released two veterans during the season. Safety Budda Baker is undersized and has trouble staying healthy. Tre Boston played well on a one year deal. Antoine Bathea led the team in tackles but is getting up there in age.
Kicker Phil Dawson landed on injured reserve with a bad hip and likely played his last down. Punter Andy Lee was his usual productive self and got extra practice thanks to the Cardinals awful offense. TJ Logan and Pharoh Cooper can be dangerous weapons in the return game.
Arizona only had one Pro Bowler in Cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson made his eighth straight trip to the Pro Bowl but created waves midseason by requesting a trade midseason and them retracting the demand.
The rookie class struggled along with the rest of the team, but does show promise. Quarterback Josh Rosen learned a lot after replacing Bradford but thanks to a terrible offensive line and an inconsistent running game, it didn't translate to much progress or success. Wide receiver Christian Kirk became Rosen's favorite target before breaking his foot in Week 13. Center Mason Cole played well enough to be the fulltime starter next season. Running back Chase Edmonds made the most of his opportunities once he started to get integrated into the offense. Tackle Kory Cunningham started the final six game and played well enough to be the team's swing tackle.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
After the disastrous 3-13 season, head coach Steve Wilks was fired after just one season. Cardinals president Michael Birdwell allegedly began looking for coaching candidates midseason and came to the conclusion of bringing in former Texas Tech head coach and current USC offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury.
After Byron Leftwich left to follow Bruce Arians to Tampa Bay, the Cardinals hired former Green Bay Packers assistant coach Tom Clements to be the team's passing game coordinator. When defensive coordinator Al Holcomb was fired along with the rest of Steve Wilks staff, the team hired former Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph to be the new defensive coordinator.
Notable Additions- QB Brett Hundley, WR Kevin White, WR Michael Crabtree, TE Charles Clay, TE Maxx Williams, T Marcus Gilbert, G JR Sweezy, DE Terrell McClain, OLB Brooks Reed, OLB Terrell Suggs, MLB Jordan Hicks, CB Robert Alford
Notable Departures- QB Josh Rosen, QB Mike Glennon, FB Derrick Coleman, WR JJ Nelson, TE Jermaine Gresham, TE John Phillips, G Mike Iupati, OLB/DE Markus Golden, DE Robert Nkemdiche, LB Deone Bucannon, CB David Amerson, FS Tre Boston, FS Antoine Bethea
Christian Kirk Rookie Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Holding the first overall pick in the draft, Arizona had the opportunity to reload a depleted roster. Especially for positions like wide receiver, offensive tackle, and cornerback.
Larry Fitzgerald is coming back for a 17th season, but the receiving corps needs a lot more depth. Christian Kirk is a versatile weapon, but the group needs more playmakers.
DJ Humphries is very injury prone and there are no real suitors at right tackle. The line needs a versatile player who can move inside when needed.
The Cardinals have lacked a worthy complement to Patrick Peterson for years. They can't afford to pass on this need in the draft.
On draft day, the Cardinals ended up selecting Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. Murray is one of the most athletic quarterbacks to come out of college in a long time and his electric play won him the 2018 Heisman Trophy, but his undersized frame could cause problems at the NFL level. The decision to draft Murray was questionable given the fact Arizona traded up to draft Josh Rosen in the first round last year. The next day, Rosen was traded to Miami for a second round pick.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Byron Murphy, CB, Washington- Top coverage cornerback, too aggressive as a tackler
Andy Isabella, WR, Massachusetts- Fluid route runner, small stature
Zach Allen, DE, Boston College- Best tackling defensive end, too stiff
Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State- Great size and body control, not overly fast
Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama- Ideal range play, injury concerns
Keesean Johnson, WR, Fresno State- Good ball skills, questionable deep speed
Lamont Gaillard, C, Georgia- Physical and competitive, still learning the position
Joshua Miles, T, Morgan State- Elite length, pass protection needs work
Michael Dogbe, DE, Temple- Tough as nails, shorter than ideal
Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA- Top hands of tight end prospects, should have stayed in school
Kyler Murray Highlights
What To Expect
Given the overhaul the team just went through, its hard to see them making progress right away.
Kyler Murray will likely be the day one starter and has the athleticism to make big plays at the pro level, but he will need a lot of help from his supporting cast. Hopefully under Kingsbury, David Johnson can return to his 2016 form as one of the best dual threat running backs in the league. Larry Fitzgerald is past his prime but is still a serviceable target and Christian Kirk's healthy return will make things easier. Adding Charles Clay and Maxx Williams gives the Cardinals to quality receiving options. The big question mark remains with the offensive line. JR Sweezy is a suitable replacement for Mike Iupati, but there are still injury concerns with DJ Humphries and Justin Pugh.
The defense will be reverting back to a 3-4 front which will ultimately be for the better. Zach Allen looks like a quality 3-4 end and Corey Peters will be back at home at nose tackle. Chandler Jones could return to his All-Pro form at outside linebacker and Terrell Suggs will see a lot of time as a situational pass rusher. Going back to the old defense also means Haason Reddick will be back to his rookie form and will be a nice complement to Jordan Hicks. The secondary finally has a Robin in Byron Murphy to team up with Patrick Peterson's Batman. There is concern at safety on whether or not Budda Baker and Deionte Thompson will be healthy for a full season.
Given the rise of the Los Angeles Rams, every NFL offense has been looking for the next Sean McVay. Kliff Kingsbury is viewed as a quarterback guru, but has a losing record as a head coach in college. Given the uncertainty of the offensive line and learning a new offensive scheme entirely, don't expect the Cardinals to be competing for NFC West titles right away.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 5-11