NFL Network’s Rosenthal projects Arizona Cardinals’ 2022 starters

May 20, 2022, 11:45 AM
James Conner #6 and Byron Murphy #7 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate as they run off the field af...
James Conner #6 and Byron Murphy #7 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate as they run off the field after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 23-13 at Lumen Field on November 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Roster moves are far from over with a number of big-name free agents remaining on the market, but the next phase of the offseason kicks into gear next week.

Voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) begin Monday. For the first time, Arizona’s returning veterans, winter acquisitions and rookies can take the practice field together.

With the next offseason benchmark ahead, NFL Network’s Gregg Rosenthal projected the starters for the Arizona Cardinals with notes about each position group.

Rosenthal’s projected Cardinals’ starting offense:

QB: Kyler Murray

RB: James Conner

WRs: A.J. Green, Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore

TE: Zach Ertz

LT: D.J. Humphries

LG: Justin Pugh

C: Rodney Hudson

RG: Will Hernandez

RT: Kelvin Beachum

Rosenthal did not include wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins since he will miss the first six weeks due to a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

That said, he does project Murray and Brown to continue their rapport from Oklahoma.

Marquise Brown’s strengths as a deep outside threat definitely fit better with Murray than with Lamar Jackson. When Brown and Hopkins are on the field together, this should be a fun vertical offense, which is rare in today’s NFL.

Brown and Hernandez are the only two newcomers Rosenthal has slated to start. Arizona can also utilize rookie tight end Trey McBride and running back Keaontay Ingram.

Arizona was 15th in the NFL in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) last season, according to Football Outsiders.

The organization has seen enough from head coach and play caller Kliff Kingsbury to extend him through 2027, but his offense will be counted on to help propel the Cardinals through a difficult schedule and some key departures on defense.

Rosenthal’s projected Cardinals’ starting defense:

DL: J.J. Watt, Zach Allen

Edge: Markus Golden, Devon Kennard

ILB: Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons

CB: Byron Murphy Jr., Marco Wilson, Jeff Gladney

S: Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson

The Cardinals have a younger defense from last season entering the summer. They used four picks on defensive players in the draft and lost veterans Chandler Jones, Jordan Phillips and Jordan Hicks.

Rosenthal noted that Arizona’s greatest potential for improvement comes from its younger defenders stepping up.

That includes Simmons, Collins, Allen and Wilson among others.

With Jones leaving for the Las Vegas Raiders, Rosenthal still has concerns for the Arizona pass rush, though.

A signing like Justin Houston would make sense here. For now, the Cardinals are counting on some combination of Markus Golden, Devon Kennard and Dennis Gardeck to help replace Chandler Jones.

Rookies Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders could step into roles early, as well.

Rosenthal finished by noting Arizona could use further reinforcements at running back, edge rusher, defensive tackle and cornerback.

There are a few options to retain 2021 contributors like nose tackle Corey Peters and cornerback Robert Alford to help bolster those spots.

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NFL Network’s Rosenthal projects Arizona Cardinals’ 2022 starters