As the NFL season inches closer and closer, it was announced yesterday that the Arizona Cardinals, along with others, will start training camp on July 28.
With the retooling Arizona did to the roster in the offseason, the Cardinals looks a lot better at different positions on paper. It will be up to the 53 men on the roster to go out there and prove it.
Many have the Cardinals as a team that can stick the NFL in 2020 and could possibly be in position to take a wild card spot come January. Here is how the 53-man roster could look on opening day.
The Cardinals went most of the season carrying just two quarterbacks on the roster. They will do the same to start the season here. Kyler Murray is expected to make a jump in production in year two, hopefully leading the Cardinals to a winning season. In just one year Murray become one of the young leaders on the team, taking control of the offense and helping others prosper.
Brett Hundley stepped in a couple times last year and was fully capable of running the offense. Although he isn't Kyler, Hundley has some of the traits in his game that resemble the young quarterback if he is needed to come in the game in a pinch.
When Arizona traded for Kenyan Drake, the hope was he would bring some juice to the run game. On Halloween night Drake would burst onto the scene against the San Francisco 49ers, rushing for 110 yards and a touchdown. In eight games Drake rushed for 643 yards with all eight of his rushing touchdowns coming as a member of the Cardinals. Drake could be one of the best running backs in the league this season and has been on record of saying the Cardinals can take the league by storm this season.
Edmonds and Benjamin will be fighting for playing time this season. In his second season, Edmonds rushed for 303 yards and showed flashes of what he can bring to an offense. Benjamin comes as a rookie drafted from Arizona State. Benjamin averaged 90.3 yards a game last season, using his quickness and his agility to get more yards.
It’s still hard to believe that the Arizona Cardinals were able to steal DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans. He can run every route with precession, while using his size to win battles at the line of scrimmage. He will win jump balls in the endzone and give the Cardinals options when in the red zone.
Larry Fitzgerald is returning for his 17th pro season. The veteran wide out is still productive at age 36 and continues to be a locker room leader and mentor to everyone on the roster. Christian Kirk took a major step in the right direction a season ago, catching 68 passes for 709 yards. With Hopkins now in the mix, Kirk and Fitzgerald may find themselves open more times than last year and do major damage in 2020.
Hakeem Butler missed all of last season with a broken hand. Getting the big target like him back in the offense will open things up for Kingsbury and Murray. He may make the roster this year, but it is definitely make-or-break for Andy Isabella. He was a non-factor in his rookie season, catching nine passes for 189 yards. The Cardinals can draft one or sign someone in free agency. The 2018 wide receivers will be put up to the test, let’s see how the answer the challenge.
Three tight ends from a year ago return to the fold for the Cardinals this year. Williams, Daniels and Arnold are serviceable tight ends that will contribute the best they can. The hope for the tight end position should be they improved in run blocking. If this group of tight ends can become better run blockers, this offense could develop into one of the best in the NFL.
Of the three tight ends, Arnold was the one that was coming along at the end that showed he can be a good tight end. The former New Orleans Saints tight end has 20 catches and 277 yards in his career. At 6-foot-6, 220-pounds, Arnold has the size that most coaches desire and has the athleticism to develop into a solid tight end.
The newcomer that could crack the roster is Dylan Cantrell. Cantrell played at Texas Tech under current head coach Kliff Kingsbury. He had 158 catches for 1,873 yards and 18 touchdowns in four years with the Red Raiders. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Cantrell is making a position switch from wide receiver to tight end. He is familiar with Kingsbury’s offense and could be a weapon in the passing game.
Most people will look at the Cardinals offensive line and look at it as a weak spot. However, many people will not recognize the growth the offensive line had throughout the year and played like a cohesive unit.
Most of the offensive line will return this year with the new addition of third round pick Josh Jones. The former University of Houston tackle could be moved to the right guard spot if Marcus Gilbert is healthy to start at right tackle and Justin Murray behind him in the depth chart.
Mason Cole will be inserted into the starting center position with the subtraction of A.Q. Shipley. The offensive line could be vastly improved from 2019 and keeping the Cardinals in games.
Corey Peters, Jordan Phillips and Zach Allen are probably going to be the starters on opening day, but you Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence will be in the rotation immediately. Lawrence could challenge Allen for the starting defensive end position in training camp. With Peters and Allen having injury history, Both Fotu and Lawrence could X factors on the Cardinals defense.
Chandler Jones has been one of the best pass rushers in the league for a while now. Jones has posted 60 sacks as a member of the Cardinals and has posted double digit sack totals five straight years. They brought in Devon Kennard to play on the other side of him in free agency, giving Jones a legit running mate.
The biggest weakness in this defense was covering the tight end. They addressed this problem by drafting Clemson utility man Isaiah Simmons and signing De'Vondre Campbell in free agency. If these two can take away a part of a team's offense, the defense could create more turnover opportunities and keep the team in games.
Jordan Hicks returns to man the middle and there is decent depth behind him. Rookie linebacker Evan Weaver was a solid run defender at Cal, finishing his four year career with 407 tackles with 23.5 tackles for a loss. The 2019 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year will make the most of his opportunities when he sees the field, whether it be special teams or giving someone a breather. Turner, Gardeck and Vallejo stood out last year when given their chances, and will contribute plenty on special teams.
The biggest addition to this group is the addition of Robert Alford. Alford missed the 2019 season with a broken leg. Having Alford on the field with Patrick Peterson and Byron Murphy will be a huge improvement from a season ago.
The corner to watch is undrafted free agent Zane Lewis. In three seasons at Air Force, Lewis had 94 tackles, five tackles for loss and two interceptions in 37 games. As a senior, the 6-foot-1 corner ranked fourth in the Mountain West with 15 passes defended and does really well in both zone and man coverage.
Budda Baker leads a group of safeties that is still vastly inexperienced. Both Deionte and Jalen Thompson played well at the end of last season but the hope is the two can emerge stronger at the back end of the Cardinals secondary.