State of the (Cardinals) Nation

On the right track?

Result: Missed Playoffs

2019 Regular season record: 5-10-1

2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 16th 22.6 PPG 

2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 28th 27.6 PPG

2020 Draft First Round Pick: 8

Coach: Kliff Kingsbury 

The Offseason Scenario:

When the Cardinals rolled into the 2019 draft with the number one pick, the general consensus was that they would take Kyler Murray.  Murray is a good player, but I saw more value in trading back to get extra picks and perhaps a proven defensive leader.

My take was simple: Even if Murray played at an MVP level, the Cardinals roster was too weak to get over .500. 

I rest my case.

With the exception of a divisional win against Seattle, Arizona failed to beat any teams with winning records.

Offensively, Murray did provide something of a spark, getting Arizona to the middle of the pack, but a defense that ranked near the bottom of the barrel doomed Arizona to another season in the basement.  This offseason the Cardinals must look to reinvigorate a defense that gave up nearly thirty points per game despite having two players in the top five in tackles (Jordan Hicks and Bubba Baker) and Chandler Jones generating as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks as any player in the league (19 sacks). It’s a unit that needs to make moves now to stand a chance next year in the brutal NFC West. 

Free Agent Frenzy:

It’s clear that Arizona needs to focus on the defense this offseason, but some opportunities are just too good to pass up.  Like the Texans looking to run an elite wide receiver out of town for some inscrutable reason. The DeAndre Hopkins deal might go down as one of the most inexplicable one-sided trades in NFL history.  The Cardinals stole the receiver of everyone’s dreams from Houston for veteran RB David Johnson, who had been benched in favor of the younger Kenyan Drake.

Outside of that mind-boggling humdinger, almost all of Arizona’s moves this offseason have been aimed at improving the defense.  The Cardinals added versatile linebacker De’Vondre Campbell from Atlanta, OLB/Edge Devon Kennard from Detroit and steady DT Jordan Phillips, who will generate some much-needed interior pressure for Arizona. All this work at the first level is great, but I’d like to see the Cardinals address the secondary as well.  It’s a unit that gave up more passing yardage than every team but the Lions and gave up the most pass plays over twenty yards (72) in the entire league.

Maybe Arizona can bring in some speedy secondary talent via the draft?

Seriously Premature Draft Hunches:

I asserted strongly that Arizona should have traded back in last year’s draft, and my hunch is that the Cardinals could turn the number eight pick overall into something more, multiple firsts, or a mid-range teams first and second round picks. 

Arizona’s areas of greatest need are in the secondary as mentioned above and along the offensive line, where they allowed the fifth-most sacks in the league. Impactful talent can be found in both of these areas in this draft class, but there are only a few NFL-ready superstars at those positions.  There’s likely a team that wants to trade into the top ten to nab to quarterback, and Arizona should be on the lookout to make a deal. If they stand pat at number eight overall, I expect that they’ll be looking for the best corner or versatile safety available.  

For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.

Image Source: USA Today

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