1 December 2020

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Arizona Cardinals: Flying high into next season

Why Kyler Murray, and the Arizona Cardinals will be a top team in the NFL next season

When the Arizona Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray last year with the first overall pick, they established their franchise quarterback. Murray performed exceptionally well, playing en route to the 2019-20 Offensive Rookie of the Year. The potential for the first year player is through the roof and will continue to progress during his career. As good as Murray performed, the supporting cast did not live up to expectations. However this year, we project a completely different narrative. The 2020 Cardinals free agency class has been one of, if not the best in franchise history. They successfully built a core around Murray… in one off-season. Here’s how they pulled it off –

Hopping for Hopkins

The Arizona Cardinals pulled the biggest heist of the off-season, and maybe of the last decade. The Cardinals pulled the trigger on a deal with the Houston Texans. Arizona landed Deandre Hopkins and a 2020 4th round pick in exchange for David Johnson and a 2020 2nd round pick as well as a 2021 4th rounder. This move had the whole sports world set aflame, mainly criticizing Bill O’Brien, the Texans GM and head coach. Once the deal was finalized, Arizona established a #1 receiver in the new red-birds offense.

Hopkins will draw so much attention from the defense due to his route running savvy, and the claws, he claws hands. Opposing defenses will look dumbfounded; they can slow down D-Hop from getting the ball, slapping a double team on him every play, and allow the likes of Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, or Andy Isabella to work in single coverage. The other option would be to leave Hopkins with a one on one match up, which time and time again he has proven to be more than capable of winning, even against some of the best defenders in the game. Hop can be the difference maker for the offense and will allow Murray to have more freedom to heave the ball around the field.

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Protecting the Franchise

Murray endured one of the most hard hitting seasons that he’s personally ever faced. He was sacked a whopping 48 times during his inaugural 2019-20 campaign. The offensive line was injured a majority of the season but that’s no excuse. Many experts are concerned that if Murray did not get help on the front, then he might end up getting injured at some point of his career. Cardinals GM Steve Keim recognized this and made some good moves.

Keim resigned tackles Justin Murray and Marcus Gilbert to 1 year deals. Murray filled in at right tackle for 7 games and was doing a solid job. Gilbert came from the Pittsburgh Steelers and was solid, when he was healthy. However, left tackle DJ Humphries had his best season this year. Humphries started all 16 games this year, and only had 13 total penalties which is very impressive, considering he played every single snap at left tackle. Keim showed his faith, and gave Humphries a generous 3 year, $45 million extension with about $29 million guaranteed. The front offense kept the key guys on the offensive line, and did a fantastic job in the draft; acquiring offensive tackle Josh Jones in the third round. Murray should have plenty of time to throw to his new target, Hopkins.

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