Top Questions Heading Into 2020 Training Camp, Part Two

Big Red

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Kyler Murray has thrown a few passes in walkthroughs. Isaiah Simmons and his rookie class have donned their practice jerseys. The Cardinals have been able to do a couple of things field-related, all while trying to manage the coronavirus. That is what training camp is and will be like.


But in this context, football will still matter. And while we touched on Part One of some of the biggest questions facing the Cardinals heading into camp, here are some more upon which to chew:


WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE KENYAN DRAKE FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON?


Even with the injuries at running back, it was a little surprising when the Cardinals traded for Kenyan Drake last season – until he turned out to be exactly what they needed in the backfield. Drake couldn't have fit any better with Kyler Murray, rushing for 643 yards and eight touchdowns in half a season. Beyond just taking those stats and doubling them for a 16 games, the presence of Drake – with Murray in the backfield with him – creates so many options in the run game. It pairs with a receiving trio of Hopkins-Fitz-Kirk nicely. Drake looked so explosive in his first half-year with the Cardinals. He's still looking for a long-term contract, so the future is also potentially motivating, but mostly, he's the right guy in this offense.


DO THE CARDINALS HAVE ENOUGH OF A PASS RUSH BESIDES CHANDLER JONES?


The success of Chandler Jones last year and career-high 19 sacks were amazing on their own – without taking into account the diminishing returns the Cards got from the other edge rusher, whether it was Terrell Suggs showing age and limitations to Jones playing less of what he does the best in deference to Suggs to finding other help in Cassius Marsh or Haason Reddick. Now the Cardinals will try local product Devon Kennard (and some Reddick), and while Kennard isn't a player known to pile up sacks, he's also versatile to give Jones the ability to focus on the pass rush. Add in potential sub-packages from rookie Isaiah Simmons, and the Cards are hoping it's enough of an improvement – although it will be interesting to see if they try to find more depth as a Keim Time signing.


DOES THE SPOTLIGHT SHINE HOTTER ON RIGHT TACKLE OR MASON COLE?


There will be curiosity about how the Cardinals handle their right tackle spot, although Kliff Kingsbury made it clear that if Marcus Gilbert is healthy, the veteran will be the guy expected to start, ahead of Justin Murray and ahead of rookie Josh Jones. It's fair to wonder about Gilbert, who was playing well before tearing his ACL in the Thursday practice before the regular-season opener, and who has been injured in each of the last three seasons. Still, it's also fair to wonder where Mason Cole – the presumed starting center with A.Q. Shipley gone – is in his development. The Cards didn't bring back Shipley and Cole was always kind of expected to step in, but part of that plan was to work with Cole in the offseason. That didn't happen. So the Cards are relatively inexperienced at the spot (although Cole did start all season in 2018 after Shipley's ACL tear), with second-year man Lamont Gaillard the potential backup.


DID THE CARDINALS UPGRADE THE DEFENSIVE LINE ENOUGH?


The team added Jordan Phillips, who had 9½ sacks in a career year for the defensive tackle. They drafted Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence with two fourth-round picks. They believe Zach Allen, the 2019 third-round pick, will be ready to return after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury. Those all will help a line that was stitched together with duct tape and baling wire at times in 2019 because of injuries and other issues. Corey Peters remains the steady veteran in the lineup, but the Cards need more production from the unit – and especially more push in the middle, whether it be against the run or collapsing the pocket. Phillips, with the big free agent contract, will be the key. His numbers the rest of his career never looked as good as last season, but he – and Vance Joseph – believe he has been trending up before that. If that's true, it changes the dynamic of the unit.


WHAT CAN DAN ARNOLD BE, AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR "12" PERSONNEL?


Many fans still aren't familiar with Dan Arnold, the tall tight end who was acquired via waivers from the Saints and caught a couple of touchdown passes in his brief time with the Cardinals. He made an impression, not just in games but in practice. The Cards think he can develop into a weapon, especially in the red zone. For a team that started Kliff Kingsbury's tenure with four wideouts often and no tight ends, the evolution toward using more tight ends – even "12" personnel, meaning one back and two tight ends – was set in motion. If Arnold and Maxx Williams can continue to find their way with Kingsbury, the coach is going to have a host more options to spring on opponents when it comes to offensive creativity.

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