The NFC West is tough. The Seahawks will face three good teams and one is the Cardinals. But how did Arizona’s offseason go? To get more on this in just a bit, I asked Aarron Van Buren of FanSided’s Cardinals site Raising Zona five questions.
First, though, what do 12s fear the most? That Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray might be poised for a third-season breakout? Or that the Cardinals pass rush will overtake Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offensive line?
Maybe 12s don’t fear the Cardinals at all. But should we? If we should, the following five questions might be answered as to why.
Seahawks will face a better Cardinals team in 2021
12th Man Rising: The Cardinals made some significant additions this offseason, like JJ Watt and Malcolm Butler, and Rodney Hudson. Which additions do you think will help the most in 2021 and why?
Aarron Van Buren: I loved all three acquisitions by Steve Keim in free agency. If there is anybody whose impact will be the biggest, it’s J.J. Watt. Adding in one of the best defensive ends to ever do it is one thing. His game prep and leadership skills are something that Arizona has never had on defense. Can you name a memorable defensive player that non-Cardinals fans would know outside of Tyrann Mathieu? Probably not.
Watt’s leadership will provide that spark that Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t shown us yet- and that’s the intensity aspect. Watt is the instant leader of this defense and possibly the team. Expect Watt to be a possible Pro Bowl player this year if everything goes well.
Returning are healthy versions of DT Jordan Philipps and Chandler Jones. With Isaiah Simmons getting better by the day and newcomer Zaven Collins learning the ropes, it should be a fun front seven to watch.2.
12th Man Rising: On the flip side, Arizona lost Patrick Peterson and Kenyan Drake. Are there any players that the Cardinals lost that you think will really hurt when it comes to wins and losses this coming season?
Aarron Van Buren: It’s definitely Kenyan Drake. A lot of Cardinals fans didn’t like how Drake performed in 2020, and I am extremely confused by that. Drake nearly had a 1,000 yard rushing season and had 10 touchdowns. Drake was also Arizona’s only scoring threat down the stretch (see games against New England and the second game against the 49ers). These numbers were as close to prime David Johnson-like levels, and yet I got a ton of backlash on Twitter for saying letting Drake walk is a mistake. Their anger is misguided, as the interior offensive line was terrible all year.
James Conner has never played a full season, and Chase Edmonds has struggled to perform against good teams consistently. 2020 7th round pick Eno Benjamin didn’t get a single snap anywhere last year, so his potential is yet to be discovered.
12th Man Rising: I really like the Rondale Moore pick in the second round for Arizona. How did you think the Cardinals drafted overall and which players might help them the most this year?
Aarron Van Buren: I was initially frustrated with this pick as I was hoping the Cardinals would take a cornerback. It’s grown on me, however, and to add in another legitimate receiving threat in the slot will only help this offense and what it wants to do. What that means are quick passes that increase YAC and letting playmakers get out and into space.
As for the rest of the draft, I’d give it a B-minus. Taking Zaven Collins when the linebacker’s room was one of the most solid on the team last year made no sense. I thought for sure it had to be between Najee Harris and or Greg Newsome II. It will be interesting to see what Marco Wilson and Tay Gowan do in the secondary, especially with Wilson’s vertical jump that measured 43 inches on his pro day.
12th Man Rising: The Seahawks and Cardinals both have training camp approaching but there still could be moves to be made. Do you see Arizona adding any more players in free agency and is there one or two you’d really love to see them add?
Aarron Van Buren: As of right now, the Cardinals only have about $11M in cap space. There has been speculation that either Zach Ertz or Xavien Howard could land in the desert, but I don’t think there will be any extra trade moves at this time. I do see them signing either Todd Gurley or Adrian Peterson (again). Having a veteran body to play sparingly and take over starting duties would be a wise move in my eyes.
12th Man Rising: How will you grade the Cardinals offseason overall and is Arizona a better team heading into 2021 than they were in 2020?
Aarron Van Buren: There’s no doubt that the Arizona Cardinals improved more so as a whole team as opposed to specific position groups. It would have been a phenomenal offseason had the team not picked Collins in the first round and brought back Robert Alford. The past is the past, and we’ll see how these guys perform.
The Cardinals offensive line is a night and day difference with Rodney Hudson at the center position, and his leadership and skill should help the team decrease its embarrassing total of 32 false start penalties from last year. If that works, a ton of drives will be better, or at least give the defense more time to rest.
The main thing for this team is the pass rush. Can they do it against the good teams when it matters and make life easy for the secondary. If they can’t, then the team will be playing from behind often and that’s not something the Cardinals can afford to do on a week-to-week basis.