What's In the Cards For The Arizona Cardinals In 2019?
Football season is fast approaching, and the Arizona Cardinals are the talk of NFL training camps. Following a disastrous season in 2018, the team is once again rolling out something brand new.
The Cards’ latest incarnation features another rookie head coach and a brash young quarterback who promise to deliver excitement back to long-suffering fans.
Lately, the only constant around the Arizona Cardinals has been change — and that change has been garnering a lot of attention.
Less than four years ago, they were a game away from the Super Bowl — with one of the league’s top coaches in Bruce Arians and a well-rounded, veteran roster.
Now, with Arians recently unretired in Tampa, the Cards are left with their third head coach in as many seasons, after Steve Wilks was shown the door following last season’s woeful 3-13 campaign.
But the door has opened on a younger generation and a new face of the franchise.
A Face For The Team
“Somebody sent me a picture of what I look like on there," said new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, discussing his portrayal in the most recent Madden NFL video game. "I want to get adjusted on looks rating. So I was mad, I look like I’m on the Walking Dead.”
Discussions about video games is not something you normally hear from an NFL head coach, but Kingsbury, who not only has a voice for radio but also moviestar good looks, is not your ordinary NFL head coach.
A former quarterback, he brings a fresh, fast-paced passing attack known as the “Air Raid” offense from the college ranks after six seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, Texas Tech.
Kingsbury will try to bring that college mentality to the pros.
“I think you see more and more of the college schemes and schematics showing up in an NFL game, so hopefully with how we’re blending things together, we can put together a quality product on offense.”
Developing that offense for the NFL, however, is still a work in progress.
“You know, I’m not sure exactly what we’re gonna look like just yet. We’re still working through that,” Kingsbury said. “The NFL has seen a bunch of different offenses in its 100 years, so we want to be a good offense. We want to score points and protect the football like anybody else.”
That offense is in the hands of the team's No. 1.
Kyler Murray will keep the digit he wore when he won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma last season. As a rookie, he will also be the primary weapon on offense.
Murray went 43-0 as a starter through high school and led the Sooners to a 12-2 record last season, so he’s not used to defeat.
“I haven’t really thought about losing, so I don’t really know. But, I don’t plan on it,” he said when asked about the prospect.
Murray carries the confidence and poise of a savvy vet and the legs of a 22-year-old who can sprint with the speediest NFL players.
Last year, while winning the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, Murray accounted for more than 50 touchdowns while leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff and an eventual loss to Alabama in the Orange Bowl.
But he realizes he could take a few hits — to his body and his confidence — in Arizona.
“Playing early, in my freshman year in college, struggled a little bit," he said. "And I think that’s prepared me for a little bit of failure, but that’s part of it, and I’ll know how to handle it when it happens”.
The Texas native is barely old enough to drink, but Murray knows Kingsbury’s playbook better than nearly all of his teammates, having run a similar offense at Oklahoma.
“It’s gonna take a lot of reps between me and the guys, getting on the same page," he said. "Obviously, this is coach Kingsbury’s first year, so just finding that groove, and once we do, we’ll be dangerous.”
For that, the dynamo will need some help.
The Exit Button
The Cardinals drafted Murray with the No. 1 overall pick this year, which led to last year’s rookie quarterback — Josh Rosen — being traded to Miami. The 5-foot-10-inch Murray is small for an NFL quarterback. But teammate and future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald says Murray’s dazzling speed is turning heads and will allow him to scramble out of trouble.
“He can get us into any play, anytime, and he has the ultimate weapon with that exit button,” Fitzgerald said.
“When things break down, he can get going pretty quickly. I think that’s going to be a dimension that we’ve never had here. I’ve never played with a quarterback that was that explosive.”
Fitz, soon to be 36, comes in to his 16th NFL season second all-time in career receiving yards.
But don’t dare call him old.
“I feel young, regardless," he said. "I don’t think I’m an old man. Having him, and knowing that he’s the future for the next 10 years, it makes you feel confident.”
Help will also have to come from David Johnson, one of the NFL’s most versatile and productive running backs before a wrist injury slowed his progress two years ago.
And that new offense, whatever it looks like, won’t have a chance without a defense to back it up.
A New Era
To fortify that side of the football, the Cardinals added former Arizona State University linebacker Terrell Suggs. The veteran linebacker won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and has been in the league one year longer than Fitzgerald.
“Being in the league 17 years, I have some experience in that area," Suggs said, "and I’ve learned from Hall of Famers, some of the best and it’s good to share some of that wisdom with the guys.”
Suggs and the rest of the defense will be starting the season without star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has made the Pro Bowl in all eight of his seasons. Peterson will miss the first six games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, a choice he regrets.
“Obviously I made a mistake that I wish I could have back, but I can’t take that back," he said, "It sucks that I will be out, for me, the organization and my teammates.”
Peterson said there are no hard feelings between him and the Cardinals and that he expects to stay in Arizona.
After preseason dress rehearsals, the new era will officially begin Sept. 8 in Glendale against the Detroit Lions. That’s when Murray, Kingsbury and the new-look Cardinals will kick off the season, and unleash the Air Raid offense on the NFL.