9 Arizona Cardinals offseason questions, answered by Kliff Kingsbury
Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury spoke to the media Tuesday for the first time since the 2020 league year began on March 18.
He spoke in depth about how the Cardinals are preparing for the NFL Draft from home (those details can be found here). To summarize other topics touched on during his meeting with reporters, here is a distilled list of pertinent questions as the offseason continues toward the April 23-25 NFL Draft.
1. Will the Cardinals and Texans complete the DeAndre Hopkins-David Johnson trade before the draft?
Arizona’s trade of running back David Johnson and two draft picks to the Houston Texans for receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round choice is not yet official, Kingsbury confirmed.
Coronavirus restrictions have impacted the two players getting physicals and paperwork being signed, but Kingsbury is confident it will get done in the next two weeks.
“We’ll get it done,” Kingsbury said. “Obviously the medical field and personnel have bigger fish to fry … I have no doubts it’ll be done before the draft.”
2. What is the status of free agent center A.Q. Shipley?
Kingsbury suggested the Cardinals still could bring back free agent center A.Q. Shipley. Third-year pro Mason Cole, who started all of 2018, could slot in as his replacement if he doesn’t return.
“A.Q., it’s still a work-in-progress,” Kingsbury said. “He did a phenomenal job last year, leadership-wise, to step into a college offense, if you will. The way he led that and bought in to the tempo and different things we were doing, I couldn’t have been more impressed with him. We’ll see where that goes.”
3. Is the roster in position for the Cardinals to draft the best player available at No. 8, regardless of position?
With the eighth overall selection, the Cardinals don’t have obvious holes to fill among their starters after signing three players to the front-seven on defense and trading for Hopkins, giving them a No. 1 receiver.
“I think when you look at where the roster sits as opposed to last year, (GM) Steve (Keim) and his guys have done a tremendous job of really filling needs where we feel like we can line up today and be a much improved football team personnel-wise than where we sat last year at this time,” Kingsbury said. “It does set the draft up where we feel we’re free to take the best available pick …”
4. Speaking of which, do the Cardinals feel good about the right tackle situation, as is? Many mocks project them selecting an offensive tackle at No. 8.
The Cardinals re-signed 12-game starter Justin Murray and also veteran Marcus Gilbert, who has battled leg injuries over the past three years. Gilbert did not play last season after Arizona traded a 2019 sixth-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers to make him their projected starter.
“We feel really good,” Kingsbury said of the right tackle position. “Marcus, prior to his injury last year, we thought was the best lineman we had as far as how he’d been playing up to that week in the season. Tremendous leader, veteran, has played at a high, high level for a long time. Want him back fully healthy and see what he’s got.”
Kingsbury added that he “couldn’t be more impressed” with Murray learning on the fly after he was a waiver pickup heading into Week 1.
“Two guys that we feel good about, however it shakes out at right tackle,” Kingsbury added.
5. How will the three front-seven additions help the defense?
Kingsbury credited outside linebacker Devon Kennard as a character addition and underrated part of the run-stopping unit. Of course, the Cardinals hope he adds a pass-rush threat opposite Chandler Jones.
Meanwhile, 341-pound tackle Jordan Phillips can play any of the three interior line positions: the nose, the 3-technique and as a 5-technique.
And at inside linebacker, De’Vondre Campbell impressed the Cardinals with his ability at “covering tight ends down the seam,” Kingsbury said.
6. Will the Cardinals be more willing to play more 10-personnel (four-receiver) sets with DeAndre Hopkins in the fold?
Sort of a “yes,” sort of a “no.” Kingsbury admitted he likes four wideout looks, but then reiterated the Cardinals used it heavily to start Kyler Murray’s rookie season to help him ease into life as an NFL quarterback.
“We’re not afraid to roll it out there,” Kingsbury said. “I think the first month (of 2019), it’s what we felt comfortable with our quarterback spreading things out, being in those open sets where he could see and operate … but we’re going to adapt to our personnel.”
Arizona adjusted to more tight end use later on in the season, but Kingsbury still used four-receiver sets 18% of the time. After the Seattle Seahawks (10%), no other team used that grouping more than 4% of its snaps.
7. Will missing hands-on time with Kyler Murray due to the coronavirus restrictions inhibit how he develops heading into his second season?
“Do I think it’s going to stunt his growth? I don’t think so. I think he’s kind of figured out what he has to do,” Kingsbury said, adding Murray has film available to him and knows expectations and the workload.
8. Will Arizona be searching for a third running back?
With Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds in the fold, as well as a re-signed D.J. Foster coming off an injury, Kingsbury indicated the Cardinals still might upgrade at running back.
That’s something to consider heading into the draft.
“That third spot, we’ll see,” Kingsbury said, reminding that injuries hit the position in a wave last season. “We’d like to have three where we can roll through and not lose much.”
9. What is Kingsbury watching in his free time?
After binge-watching Season 3 of “Ozark” in one night, Kingsbury is watching — and recommending — “All or Nothing: Manchester City.”