The NFL season is two months away! The Arizona Cardinals have high expectations going forward with Kyler Murray entering his second year and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. These high expectations have the team looking to be a potential playoff contender if all the right players perform. For each team, there are pieces who will have a larger impact than others. That being said, this is a list of players that will make a significant difference for the Cardinals for the 2020 season.
Make sure to check out all of our other team award predictions here.
MVP: Kyler Murray
Murray’s rushing and throwing threat will be significant for the team going forward. Murray could not only be the team MVP but even a potential dark horse candidate for the league MVP. The biggest barrier for Murray? The offensive line is still poor and did not improve. If Murray can’t escape the pressure or work his magic quick game like last year, we may see a different trajectory for the young quarterback then is being predicted now. Overall, Murray should excel in the Kliff Kingsbury offense and be the franchise quarterback who leads the Cardinals to perennial playoffs appearances. For the playoffs, the defense can still improve but Murray will make up for the deficiencies.
Offensive Player: Kenyan Drake
“Running backs don’t matter”; it is something I myself have said before, however, they can make an impact when they have homerun and explosive play ability. Drake is that modern-day running back though with the ability to score on any play. If Drake can threaten the defense for an explosive play or touchdown each game, he will be the offensive player which makes the biggest difference for the offense.
Drake is an offensive star, with his quickness and cutting ability. He’s the perfect running back for this system which runs a wide split and space run blocking style (including lots of outside zone schemes). Drake will be a dual-threat in receiving and rushing which will earn him the offensive player of the year for Arizona. He’ll be a league leader in stats and a significant part of the offense.
Defensive Player: Budda Baker
Many may say Chandler Jones is going to be the best defensive player, but I want to contest that and say Baker’s role is going to be more important. He’ll be asked to cover some of the most talented slot wide receivers, but play more zone allowing him to generate more turnovers. Moreover, his versatility allows him to cover key offensive weapons and always allows him players around the ball. Baker should be the most talented player on the defense this year, and his presence should be the difference between having an average defense and a solid one.
Offensive Rookie: Josh Jones
Jones is likely a lock as a week one start over Justin Murray and Marcus Gilbert. Jones’ movement skills and balance make him more “pro-ready” than the majority of tackles drafted, but he still lacks technique in pass blocking. The upside here is pass blocking can be something that improves over time. Eventually, Jones should be a great starter and the best offensive lineman on the Cardinals.
Defensive Rookie: Isaiah Simmons
Not that surprising if you followed Simmons hype. He’s an athletic freak with the play style to rack up eye-popping stats. He will be a defensive weapon used to stop offensive threats. The games against George Kittle will be significant as the team may ask him to be the answer.
Biggest Surprise: Zach Allen
A third-round pick in 2019 who was injured for most of his rookie season, Allen fits perfectly in the system with a nice blend of power and athleticism. While he won’t be on the watch list for league leader in sacks, he will be disruptive and be a significant part of the defensive line. The most significant games will be against run-heavy teams, where Allen will have a big impact.
Biggest Disappointment: DeAndre Hopkins
Why is Hopkins a disappointment? This might be more based on perception than reality. The main reason Hopkins is my disappointment is the stat line will not match his past years of production. His stats will not be as good, largely due to the shortened offseason, learning curve for many plays, and a lack of time to generate chemistry with Murray. Hopkins will be great for the team, but people may be disappointed by the production initially. Look for Hopkins to be the team MVP in the 2021 season. While he might not live up to his larger-than-life stat lines we have seen from him in the past, he’s still going to be a key contributor to the offense.
Questions and comments?
Hit us up on the Socials:
Check out our Facebook Group where you can read and post articles at The Scorecrow
Reddit Group where everyone can post without fear of being banned at The Scorecrow
Follow Brady Podloski on Twitter @BpodNFL
Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images