The Arizona Cardinals have had an incredibly exciting offseason. When the 2017 season ended, the Cardinals had no head coach, zero quarterbacks on the roster, a dearth of offensive lineman, no dynamic wide receiver besides Larry Fitzgerald, and very little cap space to fix all these issues. By cutting Tyrian Mathieu and using some draft day magic, Arizona somehow addressed all of those issues. The Cardinals hired an excellent leader in coach Steve Wilks. They signed veteran quarterback Sam Bradford and traded up for possibly the best quarterback in the draft, Josh Rosen. They also brought in several new starters along the offensive front to protect their new quarterbacks. Drafting explosive playmaker Christian Kirk opens up fresh possibilities for an offense that couldn’t move the ball if it wasn’t in the hands of David Johnson or Fitzgerald. Now as teams head into training camp there are several questions football fans are hoping the Cardinals answer over the next month:
Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen?
Most believe Bradford will open the season as the starter, but Wilks stated he would not hold rookies back from playing if they can help the team win. Josh Rosen was drafted to be the future of the Arizona Cardinals. His quick understanding of the playbook and ability to command the huddle make it possible for him to play week one. On the other hand, the Cardinals are paying Bradford $20 million this season, and he has been very effective when surrounded by talent. Despite not having their quarterback or running back last season, the Cardinals somehow finished 8-8 in 2017. This is a team ready to compete, and Bradford simply puts them in a stronger position to win out of the gate. As long as the Cardinals hold a winning record and Bradford is healthy, Rosen will likely have to wait for his turn. Many believe it’s inevitable that Bradford will get injured at some point this season, but I’ll ask you this, what if he doesn’t?
Will David Johnson sign a new contract, or be franchise tagged like Le’Veon Bell?
General Manager Steve Keim has made it clear that Johnson is a foundational player around which the Cardinals want to build. Todd Gurley just set the running back market with a very solid deal with the Rams. It’s assumed Johnson’s deal will be in a similar dollar range as Gurley’s; 4 years/$60 million. With the Cardinals desire to retain him and Johnson’s commitment to the team that drafted him, it seems likely the two will make a deal before the season begins that pays Johnson as the elite player he is.
What kind of offense can we expect from Mike McCoy?
The Bruce Arians vertical passing game is firmly in the past. The offense now turns to new play caller, Mike McCoy. Mike McCoy’s offense in San Diego surpassed 5,400 total yards in each of his 4 seasons as head coach. Last year with the Denver Broncos, he was fired mid-season after their offense failed to deliver on a weekly basis without a quality quarterback. With two competent and cerebral quarterbacks in Arizona, McCoy has riches to work with at the most important position in football. However, questions remain; Who is going to be called upon to produce in this offense outside of Johnson and Fitzgerald? Will the tight ends be involved more? Will a wide receiver besides Fitzgerald become a reliable target? Preseason games will hopefully shed some light on what this new offense is going to look like.
Who will be the most targeted wide receiver outside of Larry Fitzgerald?
The Cardinals top wide receivers are J.J. Nelson, Chad Williams, Brice Butler, and rookie Christian Kirk. Each player brings a different skill set to the field, which will emerge as the top target next to Fitzgerald? Nelson has the most experience with the Cardinals and has ridiculous speed on the outside, but can he overcome the dropped passes? Williams was a raw prospect drafted last year, known for his physicality. Can he take a step forward in his route running? Butler comes over as a free agent from Dallas, whose length and speed are that of a prototypical wide receiver. However, is it telling that Dallas let him walk given they might be the most WR desperate team in the NFL? Kirk was just selected in the second round of the draft. At Texas A&M his explosive skill set was mostly displayed from the slot. How can they work both Kirk and Fitzgerald on the field at the same time? How this group is utilized is one of the most interesting stories yet to be told by Mike McCoy.
With training camp opening up and pre-season games starting in a week, this will be a busy month in the football world. With all these questions surrounding the new look Cardinals, this will be one of the most exciting pre-seasons we’ve seen for a long time.