Detroit Lions fans undoubtedly have some Week 1 jitters after last season. The New York Jets dismantled new Lions head coach Matt Patricia era before it even started and did it with a rookie quarterback, to boot.
So when the schedule came out in early April and the Arizona Cardinals followed it up by drafting a rookie quarterback a few weeks later, Lions fans were understandably a bit shaken by the outlook of another potential Week 1 letdown, despite the “easy” matchup on paper.
Of course, this year is different in many ways. Chief among all is the fact that Arizona not only has a new quarterback, but a completely new coaching staff, including a head coach with literally no NFL coaching experience.
So are the Lions doomed to repeat history or will they exhume the demons from last year? Let’s take a closer look at the Arizona Cardinals.
3-13 record (4th in NFC West)
32nd in points scored, 26th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 32nd (32nd on offense, 18th on defense)
Key free agent additions:
CB Robert Alford (IR), LB Terrell Suggs, LB Jordan Hicks, G J.R. Sweezy, OT Marcus Gilbert (trade)
Key losses: QB Josh Rosen (trade), S Antoine Bethea, S Deone Bucannon, G Mike Iupati
2019 NFL draft picks:
Round 1 - QB Kyler Murray
Round 2 - CB Byron Murphy
Round 2 - WR Andy Isabella
Round 3 - DE Zach Allen
Round 4 - WR Hakeem Butler (IR)
Round 5 - S Deionte Thompson
Round 6 - WR KeeSean Johnson
Round 6 - C Lamont Gaillard
Round 7 - OT Joshua Miles
Round 7 - DE Michael Dogbe
Round 7 - TE Caleb Wilson
The Cardinals were absolutely awful last year. They were easily the worst offense in the league, showing no signs of life in the run or passing game. Defensively, they were acceptable, but by no means threatening.
Arizona addressed their weakest position from last year—offensive line—but by no means did it fix the situation. The Cardinals ignored the offensive line until Day 3 of the draft, and their two offseason acquisitions—J.R. Sweezy and Marcus Gilbert—aren’t exactly the best of the bunch. They’ll start for Arizona, but whether they’re much of an upgrade remains to be seen.
Defensively, the Cardinals added a few key pieces, including a solid (but aging) pass rusher (Terrell Suggs), a rookie stud cornerback (Byron Murphy) and a tackling machine (Jordan Hicks). However, the defense will take a big hit early on as their biggest free agent signing, cornerback Robert Alford, suffered a preseason injury and landed on IR. Additionally, All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson is serving a six-game suspension, leaving the pressure on Byron Murphy.
However, the biggest change, without a doubt, is on offense. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is bringing his Texas Tech Air Raid offense to Arizona, and he found himself the perfect quarterback in first-overall pick Kyler Murray. Despite being more talented on defense than offense, the future of Kingsbury and the Cardinals relies on this becoming one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
Can it work at this level? What does it even look like with NFL talent? Are the Cardinals just trying to ride this trend of young, offensively-flashy head coaches? We’ll have to wait it out and see.
2019 preseason (1-3)
You never want to read too much into the preseason, but Murray got off to a pretty slow start. In three game appearances, Murray completed 23-of-36 passes for 193 yards and a 77.7 passer rating.
Here’s a look at the 10 drives the Cardinals ran with Kyler Murray at quarterback during the preseason:
Drive 1: 10 plays, 43 yards, punt
Drive 2: 6 plays, 13 yards, punt
Drive 3: 3 plays, 9 yards, punt
Drive 4: 3 plays, 0 yards, punt
Drive 5: 3 plays, -10 yards, safety
Drive 6: 3 plays, 5 yards, punt
Drive 7: 8 plays, 54 yards, FG
Drive 8: 3 plays, 4 yards, punt
Drive 9: 12 plays, 65 yards, FG
Drive 10: 12 plays, 56 yards, FG
All that being said, the Cardinals have not shown their hand at all when it comes to displaying their offense for all to see. Just ask running back Chase Edmonds.
“I think Kliff and the guys have done a great job keeping it under wraps,” Edmonds said. “We’ve kept it really vanilla, super vanilla and super basic in preseason. After seeing some of the install plays we have, it’s very creative. I can’t wait for the opening up.”
Biggest strength: Edge Defenders.
With Suggs joining two-time Pro Bowler Chandler Jones on the edges, the Cardinals have a formidable pass rush that should give Taylor Decker and Rick Wagner a tough challenge start to the season.
Biggest weakness: Offensive line/cornerback
Kyler Murray has already been sacked three times in the preseason, and looks like he’ll be on the run for most of his rookie campaign. PFF currently has their offensive line ranked 30th.
As for cornerback, with their top two options gone, relying on a rookie corner and mediocre-at-best veteran Tramaine Brock, the Cardinals’ back end should be vulnerable in Week 1.
With Patrick Peterson suspended and Robert Alford on IR, these are Arizona's cornerbacks for at least six weeks. This is the worst unit in the NFL, right? pic.twitter.com/NKJRNCFFZX— Vincent Verhei (@FO_VVerhei) September 2, 2019
Vegas line for Sunday: Lions by 2.5.