ARIZONA CARDINALS

Arizona Cardinals predicted as good worst-to-first candidate in 2020

Jan 5, 2020, 7:07 AM | Updated: 8:51 am
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals walk off the fi...
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals walk off the field during the NFL preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers at State Farm Stadium on August 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Chargers 17-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Even though the Arizona Cardinals finished last in the NFC West for a second season in a row in 2019, there were bright spots that may point to a fairly quick turnaround.

A franchise quarterback has been established in Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury improved the team’s record in his first year as a head coach in the NFL.

This led NFL.com’s Gil Brandt to rank the Cardinals as the second-most likely team to go from worst-to-first in 2020.

“Kyler Murray’s strong rookie season, which included a not-insignificant number of inspiring wins driven by his ability to make plays with both his feet and his arm, will power a lot of optimism in Arizona,” Brandt said in the article, adding Kingsbury did a “heckuva job.”

Murray started each game for the Cardinals after being drafted No. 1 in the 2019 draft, completing 64% of his passes for 3,722 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He added another 544 yards on the ground, 5.8 yards per carry, with four touchdowns.

Murray is a candidate to win the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and is a finalist in the NFL Rookie of the Year fan vote.

Brandt put together a similar list last year, saying it would difficult for 2018 last-place teams to finish first in 2019. He predicted the Cardinals would have the lowest chance to turn the tables in 2019, at the time citing the recent lack of stability at the head coaching position and struggling offensive output in 2018.

There are a few stipulations that need to happen to make Brandt’s more positive Cardinals outlook come true in 2020.

He said the Cardinals offseason priorities should be improving the defense under coordinator Vance Joseph that ranked as the worst in the sport in 2019.

Brandt also mentioned Arizona would be in a better position to flip the script if running back Kenyan Drake returned.

Drake burst onto the scene with Arizona after coming over from the Miami Dolphins in a trade during the season, rushing for 643 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald putting off the retirement life and returning for one more season with the Cardinals would help as well.

Climbing to the top of the NFC West would be no small feat for the Cardinals, as the division was one of the best in football in 2019.

Arizona would have to upend two 2019 double-digit win teams in San Francisco (13-3) and Seattle (11-5), as well as the Los Angeles Rams (9-7) who took a step back after reaching the Super Bowl in 2018.

Brandt ranked the Miami Dolphins as the best candidate for a worst-to-first turnaround next year, saying the resilient bunch that managed to go 5-11, even with all the trades, will have tons of cap space and draft capital at their disposal.

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