By Dave Kovaleski
The Arizona Cardinals did a lot of good things in the offseason. But will it be enough to make them a .500 team — or better? Yes, I think so.
The Cardinals were a team in transition last year, with their new rookie quarterback, Kyler Murray, and new head coach, Kliff Kingsbury. While they only won 5 games, the Cardinals gave their fans some hope with a strong finish, winning 2 of their last 3, including a win over the Seahawks. The Cardinals also discovered that their quarterback, Murray, the offensive rookie of the year, is indeed a franchise quarterback. It seems like the second time is the charm for the Cardinals, who used one of their top NFL picks on Josh Rosen just two years ago, but shipped him off when Murray came to town.
So now, the Cardinals have their quarterback and coach and they can start building upon that foundation.And build they did in the offseason, making perhaps the biggest splash by landing arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, DeAndre Hopkins, in a trade with Houston. He joins veteran future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk to give Murray a lot of weapons. They also re-signed running back Kenyan Drake.
The Cardinals also made a lot of improvements on their defense — a major weakness last year. On defense they signed De’ Vondre Campbell and Devon Kennard, and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips, who had 9.5 sacks last year and 13 tackles for loss for the Bills last year. They also drafted linebacker Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson with the 8th pick in the draft. In addition, the Cards drafted two other defensive linemen and another linebacker. They also drafted an offensive lineman.
The Cardinals play in a tough division that includes the past two NFC representatives in the Super Bowl, the 49ers and the Rams. Oh yeah, the Seahawks are also in the division. They face a brutal division schedule, but they have a pretty favorable non-division schedule. In their first six weeks they face the Redskins, Lions, Panthers, and Jets — four good opportunities for wins. They also have the Giants, Dolphins, and Eagles — more winnable games. They also play the Patriots, Bills, and Cowboys, in addition to their 6 division games. The Cardinals are going to surprise a lot of teams, score some upsets, and win some games in the division.
The Cardinals have a high upside and could be that breakout team that shocks the league and wins double-digit games. More realistically, I think this is an improving team that could be in the 8-8 or 9-7 range, which is solidly over their over-under line at 7.5 wins, I like the Cardinals in the over.