Barnwell: Cardinals dramatically upgraded weaponry since 2019

Jul 13, 2020, 8:47 AM

Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake (41) runs against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nic...

Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake (41) runs against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) and middle linebacker Fred Warner (54) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

(AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, like many of us, doesn’t really know who qualifies as the Arizona Cardinals’ fifth-best offensive weapon.

He just knows that the first four look pretty good.

In his annual pre-camp ranking of every NFL team’s offensive weapons, the ESPN writer ranked Arizona ninth, a massive leap from their 27th ranking a year ago. Two trades since his 2019 rankings have most everything to do with the more optimistic review of the Cardinals’ offensive skill players.

Last season, they traded for Kenyan Drake, who racked up 814 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns after being given a reprieve from the tanking Dolphins. Arizona followed up this offseason by stealing DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans in the David Johnson trade, which might have qualified as further addition by subtraction. With Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk both returning, the Cardinals could easily justify a higher position in the top 10.

Yes, we it turns out adding a unanimous top-five wide receiver in Hopkins changes the games for the Cardinals. But Barnwell hedges against hoping for too much.

He wonders if Fitzgerald might be on the decline, doesn’t know if Drake can keep pace with his fantastic play in eight games with the Cardinals last season and isn’t sure Kirk can be consistent enough.

Drake, he notes, scored six times in eight touches inside the 5-yard line, even though the league-average rate is 45%. Putting up 5.2 yards per carry for an entire season after he did so as a newcomer last year would be impressive, for sure.

As for Kirk, well, at least he was productive with 709 yards receiving on 107 targets. That came in three fewer games than Fitzgerald’s 804 yards and 109 targets over a full regular season. Kirk’s consistency leaves a little bit to be desired, though a serious ankle injury held him back to some degree last year.

Nearly 36% of Kirk’s 709 receiving yards and all three of his touchdowns came in two games. Andy Isabella, a second-round pick last year, had 166 receiving yards across back-to-back games in midseason and just 23 yards otherwise, while fourth-rounder Hakeem Butler was a disappointment in camp before missing the entire season on injured reserve. There’s a lot of mouths to feed in this offense, but it would hit another level if Kirk can push ahead of Fitzgerald.

Barnwell’s exercise is only looking at five players deep and taking into account only their expected impact on the 2020 season (salary value and future years don’t matter). And again, it’s apparent he’s not sure who can be considered No. 5 right now.

If one of Isabella, Butler or another player can force his way into that No. 5 spot, Arizona will be in good shape.

Presented By
Western Governors University

Arizona Cardinals

Rome Odunze...

Alex Weiner

How did Rome Odunze measure at NFL Draft Combine after meeting with Cardinals?

Before taking the field to run the 40-yard dash, Rome Odunze met with several teams sitting atop the draft, including the Cardinals.

5 hours ago

Olumuyiwa Fashanu...

Jesse Morrison

NFL Draft OL prospect Olu Fashanu had ‘smooth meeting’ with Cardinals, Jonathan Gannon

One of the top prospects in the NFL draft, offensive tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu seemed interested in the Cardinals at the NFL combine.

9 hours ago

JC Latham...

Alex Weiner

Alabama OT JC Latham met with Cardinals, says playing with Kyler Murray would be a ‘dream’

JC Latham met with the Cardinals at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he was enthusiastic about the prospects of playing with Kyler Murray. 

9 hours ago

Quinyon Mitchell runs 40-yard dash at combine...

Jesse Morrison

With Cardinals needing cornerback, Nate Wiggins, Quinyon Mitchell excel at NFL combine

The Arizona Cardinals need to address cornerback and two corners, Quinyon Mitchell and Nate Wiggins, showed out in Friday testing.

13 hours ago

Terrion Arnold looks on...

Tyler Drake

‘He did jam me:’ Cardinals’ Jonathan Gannon goes 1-on-1 with Terrion Arnold at NFL Combine

Jonathan Gannon confirmed Terrion Arnold jammed him up during the defensive back's formal interview with the Cardinals at the NFL Combine.

19 hours ago

Marvin Harrison Jr. celebrates...

Tyler Drake

Gannon: Cardinals ‘had really good interview’ with Marvin Harrison Jr. at NFL Draft Combine

Marvin Harrison Jr. was among the plethora of prospects the Arizona Cardinals met with at the NFL Draft Combine this week.

1 day ago

Barnwell: Cardinals dramatically upgraded weaponry since 2019