The Arizona Cardinals continue to add talent to their roster in search of their first playoff spot in six years. Unfortunately for them, they reside in the NFL’s toughest division — a major reason why the Cardinals were one of the most active teams in free agency.
Arizona was able to land J.J. Watt and A.J. Green, two veterans who will immediately pay dividends on a young roster. The Cardinals acquired Rodney Hudson and signed Brian Winters to improve the offensive line and altered the secondary by signing safety Shawn Williams and cornerback Malcolm Butler — better fits for the man-coverage scheme defensive coordinator Vance Joseph likes to run.
Franchise quarterback Kyler Murray may have the best group of wideouts in the NFL with DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, and Rondale Moore. This is a unit that will throw significantly in 2021, unless Chase Edmonds can change that philosophy as the No. 1 running back.
If the Cardinals are going to make the playoffs, the offense is going to have to carry a revamped defense. Will Arizona reach the postseason in Year Three of the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray era? Let’s take a look at the depth chart heading into training camp to see how Arizona stacks up.
Rookies denoted by (*)
Arizona boasts a talented group on offense, and finally added a veteran backup quarterback in case Murray suffers a significant injury. Colt McCoy is good enough to make a start or two, but this Cardinals offense revolves around Murray. Edmonds replaces Kenyan Drake (who left for the Raiders in free agency) as the starting running back, but will be challenged for snaps by James Conner — who felt out of favor with the Steelers.
The Cardinals’ top three receivers are set with Hopkins, Kirk and Green, but where does Andy Isabella fit into the equation? The former second-round pick will have to beat out Moore (this year’s second-round pick), A.J. Richardson, and KeeSean Johnson for playing time. Isabella, Richardson, and Johnson are battling for a roster spot.
The Cardinals have a major problem at tight end, but that position isn’t utilized much in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Cary Angeline, an undrafted free agent, could emerge as a red zone threat. Offensive line is a unit that improved, but can this group run block? D.J. Humphries was one of the best pass blocking left tackles in football last year, while Rodney Hudson is a significant upgrade at center.
Note: Bryon Murphy is the first-team slot cornerback, with Jalen Thompson as the second option.
The Cardinals pass rush is significantly improved with the addition of Watt and the return of Chandler Jones, who is back from a right biceps injury that limited him to just one sack last year (though he was a holdout from minicamp). Jordan Phillips will be challenged by Leki Fotu at the nose in what is expected to be one of the more intriguing battles in camp.
Isaiah Simmons will play the majority of snaps at linebacker, although the Cardinals can line him up all over the field. Zaven Collins, the team’s first-round pick, will also line up inside — which will make Jordan Hicks available for trade. Cornerback will be intriguing with Patrick Peterson not on the roster for the first time in a decade. Malcolm Butler and Robert Alford are the presumed starters as Darqueze Dennard — who signed last week — will challenge for playing time. Murphy will start in the slot, but can also play the outside if Arizona wants Simmons back in coverage.
Shawn Williams will start opposite of Baker in the secondary, as Charles Washington will battle for playing time in camp.