PFF: Cardinals 2020 roster ranks in bottom half of NFL
Pro Football Focus believes the Arizona Cardinals’ addition of DeAndre Hopkins was one of the best this offseason.
But between Arizona trading for the elite wide receiver and adding three starting-caliber players to its front seven in free agency, PFF still doesn’t grade the Cardinals roster in the top half of the NFL. PFF’s Ben Linsey ranked Arizona with the 24th-best group of players entering 2020, basing that off the the website’s grades for the projected starters.
First, the good news, via Linsey:
It’s hard to overstate how huge the addition of DeAndre Hopkins is to this offseason. With Larry Fitzgerald living primarily as a possession and slot receiver at this stage of his career, quarterback Kyler Murray needed a true primary threat in the passing game — and Hopkins is one of the best in the business. By PFF’s WAR metric, Hopkins was one of the five most-valuable non-quarterbacks in the NFL last season, and he has some of the best hands in the league. Murray and Hopkins should waste no time building a dangerous connection.
According to Linsey, the Cardinals’ biggest concern should be the lack of a pass-rush around Chandler Jones.
Arizona feels that it significantly upgraded that aspect of the defense this year. It signed defensive lineman Jordan Phillips after he recorded 9.5 sacks from an interior position with the Buffalo Bills last year.
The Cardinals also added No. 8 overall pick Isaiah Simmons and could use him from coverage situations to pass-rushing ones. Throw in fellow inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (2.0 sacks) and outside linebacker pickup Devon Kennard (7.0 sacks) and on paper it appears the team improved in terms of the pass-rush.
Linsey remains skeptical.
Jones’ 90.5 pass-rushing grade since joining the Cardinals in 2016 ranks 10th among all edge defenders, but Devon Kennard — the projected edge defender on the other side — hasn’t earned a pass-rushing grade above 60.0 since 2014. Jordan Phillips (despite what the sack numbers last season might suggest), Corey Peters and Zach Allen can’t be relied on for much pass-rushing push, either.
Phillips enters 2020 believing he will receive more snaps than his limited roles he’s held so far in his NFL career. Likewise, Kennard believes that playing under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will more than ever put him in down-hill pass-rushing situations where sacks will be available.
Beyond the veterans attempting to meet their own high expectations, overcoming concerns about the defensive line should come down to rookies and fellow 2019 fourth-round picks Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence making an immediate impact — or the improvement of second-year pro Allen, whose rookie season was cut short due to injury.