The Cards are entering 2020 with a much deeper roster than their 2019 counterpart. However, there’s still a few glaring holes on the roster that, if tested, could spell problems for the team this year.
Honorable Mention: Backup QB (if longterm)
The reason this is an honorable mention is because if your starting QB goes down, you’re usually almost always screwed as an organization regardless. While there’s teams who still win games (the Steelers last year) and Brett Hundley proved himself well, it’s not like he’s a proven veteran starter who can take over and host a winning record in Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme like Drew Stanton was able to under Bruce Arians.
That said, if Covid-19 hits and Kyler ends up sitting, Hundley and Chris Streveler (who’s likely to be more of a Taysom Hill gadget player) don’t inspire a lot of confidence in a brutal NFC West, that said, Hundley deserves the benefit of the doubt after last year’s impressive preseason and Seattle game. If push comes to shove, and it’s a longer term then some may wonder if the team should have sought an upgrade.
#1. Backup Guard
The Cardinals saw tremendously improved play from their starting guards last season, with Justin Pugh having a bounce-back year and J.R. Sweezy being a surprisingly good pickup on the cheap.
But after them the team has:
-Max Garcia who didn’t play at all last year
-2nd year player Lamont Galliard (might be the backup center)
-Steven Gonzalez (a rookie)
-2nd year player Sam Jones
-And a number of swing tackles (Brett Toth, etc.)
The Cards are really hanging their hat on a guy who was coming off a serious injury even halfway through the season in Garcia, who dates back to OL Coach Sean Kugler’s Denver days. If Sweezy or Pugh struggles they really don’t have any one to turn to and if injury or Covid happens, it’s just as dire of straits given the lack of experience elsewhere on the roster.
Garcia needs to stay healthy and effective to give Kyler Murray a pocket and run-game push.
#2. Lack of a consistent deep threat wide receiver
Why is this one #2 and not the top one, you ask?
Because Deandre Hopkins is a do-it-all receiver who can be a downfield playmaker as a deep threat. However, he’s not a 4.3 burner player but gives Arizona enough of a threat to force me to drop this one to the second slot.
Andy Isabella was impressive every time he touched the ball....just....he only touched it a few times. And seems to be more of a slot receiver type in the long-run. The team lost Damiere Byrd and Hakeem Butler’s more of an outside guy despite the deep speed who can make contested catches.
Without adding anyone else in free agency besides UDFA JoJo Ward, the team’s really hoping for Isabella to step up in Year 2 and Christian Kirk to blossom similar to the Buccaneers game. The concern is that if the team can’t find someone who can take the top off of the defense, that the weapons the Cardinals possess could stumble and teams double-covering Hopkins might lead to a more dismal outlook.
If they can fix this and a player w/ Isabella’s speed can go off? The sky’s the limit for this offense.
#3. Pass Rush opposite Chandler Jones
When the Cardinals signed 37 year old Terrell Suggs they were hoping for a pass-rush renaissance similar to the pairing of Dwight Freeney with the up and coming Markus Golden back in 2015.
What they got instead was a typical “Cardinals signed a star player who gets one last big paycheck in the desert on his way out” disappointment.
They signed Devon Kennard who, albeit, has 14 sacks in the last two seasons and also drafted a linebacker in Isaiah Simmons who can really get after the passer on blitzes.
But Simmons seems likely to line up on Jones’ side and while Kennard is undoubtedly more athletic and an upgrade in coverage...the lack of a consistent double-digit sack player who can draw attention away from Jones might be a fault that the Cardinals didn’t address. I don’t think that Markus Golden was the “right” choice as far as Vance Joseph’s scheme goes, but when Denver made moves to pair Bradley Chubb with Von Miller it gave them an edge and undoubtedly if Arizona gets no push upfront outside of Jones, a similar putrid pass rush could follow if DC Vance Joseph doesn’t start dialing up more creative blitzes than he did a year ago.
(Hey, maybe Simmons can end up being the Jamal Adams type of pass-rusher that they need similar to when Daryl Washington moved from ILB to the edge on 3rd downs many a year ago)
#4. Who’s helping out Corey Peters?
The defensive lineman for the Cards got a one-year wonder who’s hoping he can prove to be a perennial Pro-Bowler moving forward in Jordan Phillips.
But who else is next to their starting (and 30 year old) veteran defensive lineman?
-Two Rookies (Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence)
-Adam Shuler & Trevon Coley
If you recognized any of those names besides those rookies, then congrats because you actually paid attention to what Miles Brown was doing last year!
In all fairness, this was clearly a spot Arizona knew they had to address for the future, but with having a on-off 4 year player as their primary backup to Peters, it makes it difficult to properly guage how well Arizona’s depth is at the position and most critics would knock the Cards for not adding a second veteran rotational player of a higher caliber. I’ve got no problem with that criticism and hope that Peters can be as effective as he’s been the past few years in anchoring the defense.
#5. Depth in the Secondary
The Cardinals’ current starting secondary consists of:
-A 30 year old corner in a contract year who played in the 10 worst games of his career
-A 31 year old corner coming off of a broken leg and a hurt ankle the season before who missed the whole season
-A 2nd year player who might be a slot corner at the next level
-And two corners who’ve started less than a season in totality in Kevin Peterson and Chris Jones
Imagine losing one of them to injury or if Peterson/Alford are ineffective? Yikes.
The good news is that the Cards seem to be in better shape with a motivated Peterson and a more experienced Byron Murphy but the fact that the team hedged their bet on their players from 2019 rather than adding a backup plan is a bit scary with how their defense was 31st in the NFL with a leaky secondary being a big part of that.
If the Cardinals are going to put their defense back into the respectable graces of “average” then that secondary has to improve. And right now it might be one injury or slip-up away from sending the team right back to where it was in 2019 should Vance Joseph balk at the lack of an outside veteran CB presence and go back to a soft zone prevent type of defense.
What are your thoughts on the gaps?
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