ARIZONA CARDINALS

Then and now: Jordan Phillips part of Cardinals’ (again) restacked D-line

Jun 26, 2020, 8:07 AM | Updated: 3:31 pm

Jordan Phillips #97 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a sack against Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tenness...

Jordan Phillips #97 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a sack against Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans (not pictured) during the second quarter at Nissan Stadium on October 6, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals believe they’ve plugged holes and built depth. On paper they look improved, though they’ve yet to hit the practice field due to the coronavirus.

They speak about flashes of offensive brilliance last year, the growth of quarterback Kyler Murray and a thinly manned defense’s improvements to end 2019 as reasons to be optimistic about 2020.

But the biggest reason for optimism is the upgraded roster. How different does this 2020 roster really look compared to the one that began the first training camp under head coach Kliff Kingsbury?

By position, here’s a then-and-now comparison of the roster last offseason next to the current 2020 Cardinals team based on our 2019 July preview series leading into 2019 training camp.


Then

Projected 2019 starters

DT: Corey Peters, Rodney Gunter

DE: Darius Philon

Depth

DT: Vincent Valentine, Terrell McClain, Miles Brown

DE: Zach Allen, Robert Nkemdiche, Michael Dogbe, Immanuel Turner

Biggest storyline: Will Darius Philon and Rodney Gunter reach another level?

X-factor: Robert Nkemdiche enters a contract year after team does not pick up fifth-year option


Now

Starters

DT: Corey Peters

DE: Jordan Phillips, Jonathan Bullard

Depth

DT: Leki Fotu, Rashard Lawrence, Trevon Coley, Miles Brown

DE: Zach Allen, Michael Dogbe

Biggest storyline

It feels like eons ago that the Cardinals were going to lean heavily on Darius Philon and Robert Nkemdiche to get them through 2019. That’s because the duo only made it into the preseason and training camp, respectively, before Arizona moved on from them.

Just as camp began, Nkemdiche was released heading into a contract season for being out of shape. Philon, an offseason free agent signing, was arrested on assault charges and promptly let go after the first preseason game. So the Cardinals had a merry-go-round of faces around Corey Peters and Rodney Gunter last year, be it due to injuries or the coaching staff just searching for production.

With Gunter walking in free agency, Cardinals took another risk this offseason by offering a $30 million contract over three years to Jordan Phillips. He liked the opportunity to play the majority of snaps in Arizona and wanted to work under first-year defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, who returns to Arizona after a prior stint in the desert.

In his fifth season, Phillips broke out last year with the Buffalo Bills, tallying 9.5 sacks with his 6-foot-6, 341-pound frame. He’ll have to be healthy and productive to be worth the big payday.

More generally, his addition and that of draftees Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence give Arizona a youthful — and girthy — boost to a room that had little depth a year back.

X-factor

The defensive line has enough returning players to feel good about improvement. Drafting two tackles who could produce right away has a lot to do with that.

The wonder is which player can solidify himself as the third starter. Jonathan Bullard was healthy for only nine games in 2019 but was steady when he played. Second-year pro Zach Allen maybe found himself in over his head after being forced into immediate action once Philon and Nkemdiche were off the roster. He’s coming off a season-ending neck injury.

Fotu is the prospect whose athleticism could push him into the conversation to be an immediate-impact player, and Lawrence brings some steadiness after being groomed by Ed Ogeron at LSU.

They all could be options to command a number of snaps alongside Peters and Phillips. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim needs at least one of them to hit as a starting-caliber player this season.

Arizona Cardinals

BJ Ojulari looks on at OTAs...

Tyler Drake

Cardinals questions post-NFL Draft: Who separates themselves at pass rusher?

The Arizona Cardinals' pass-rushing department is in need of someone firmly taking the reins within the outside linebackers room.

9 hours ago

Marvin Harrison Jr. poses after getting drafted by the Arizona Cardinals...

Tyler Drake

Marvin Harrison Jr. jerseys: Can Arizona Cardinals finally buy them?

Marvin Harrison Jr. signing his rookie contract simultaneously opened the door for Cardinals fans to secure the wide receiver's jersey.

1 day ago

Marvin Harrison Jr. catches a pass during Cardinals rookie minicamp...

Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals sign Marvin Harrison Jr. to 4-year contract

The Cardinals signed rookie wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. to a four-year contract that includes a fifth-year option on Thursday.

1 day ago

BJ Ojulari at OTAs...

Tyler Drake

Growth of Arizona Cardinals’ BJ Ojulari, Garrett Williams on display at OTAs

Second-year pros BJ Ojulari and Garrett Williams could be competing for significant roles for the Arizona Cardinals this offseason.

1 day ago

Cardinals leadership and mental health awareness discussion...

Tyler Drake

Leading the right way: Cardinals, Jonathan Gannon host high school coaches for panel on uplifting athletes

A handful of Arizona Cardinals made time out of their day to discuss the value of the leadership with local high school coaches on Tuesday.

2 days ago

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at L...

Character Counts

Kyler Murray makes championship match of charity chess tournament

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray doesn't mind some chess in his spare time and he elevated that hobby on Wednesday.

2 days ago

Then and now: Jordan Phillips part of Cardinals’ (again) restacked D-line