King: No team added impact player on offense, defense like Cardinals
It’s hard to argue the Arizona Cardinals don’t look better on paper at this moment compared to the tail end of 2019.
A depth chart, however, doesn’t win games. Outlining why Arizona might improve from a 5-10-1 season doesn’t account for the fact that every other team feels the same optimism at this point, nor the fact that the NFC West should be plenty competitive in 2020.
But NBC Sports’ Peter King can frame the Cardinals’ offseason improvements one way that should have their fans feeling confident.
“No team in the NFL this offseason has gotten a better player on each side of the ball, collectively, as DeAndre Hopkins on offense and Isaiah Simmons on defense,” the columnist told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday. “You will notice those guys in the first series of the first game of this season, whenever that is. That’s how impactful both of those guys are going to be.”
Hopkins made 104 receptions for 1,165 yards and seven scores in 2019 for the Houston Texans and has been one of the most heavily-targeted receivers in the NFL over the past few years.
Adding him to a receiver group that includes Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk should put all three players in a better spot than they’ve been in: Each will have more weapons around them and will play in more fitting roles.
Quarterback Kyler Murray is expected to grow in his second season under head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and Kingsbury’s own comfort in his second year additionally projects well for 2020.
On defense, Simmons’ role will remain a mystery until the Cardinals feel out what suits him best. As a 6-foot-4, 238-pound athlete with the speed to cover receivers and the strength and length to rush the quarterback, he not only could fix problems for the defense but change the complexion of opposing coordinators’ gameplans.
Of course, other roster additions in free agency and the draft change Arizona’s trajectory moving forward as well.
But couple in a few big wins for the Cardinals in the past few months with the risky moves that general manager Steve Keim made in the last two offseasons, and things are looking up.
He hired and fired coach Steve Wilks, replacing him with Kingsbury, then drafted quarterbacks back-to-back in the first round of the 2018 and 2019 drafts.
“Now, how many people around the league when Kliff Kingsbury was hired as coach of the Arizona Cardinals were like, ‘Oh my god, what a great hire’?” King said, circling back to last offseason. “Everybody was saying, ‘Wow, this guy had a losing record in college football and now at a time of tremendous importance for that franchise, you’re hiring him to run your team.’
“(Keim) did hit a triple with both moves.”