Roundtable: Bold predictions for the Arizona Cardinals in 2022
There is star talent on this Arizona Cardinals team, for sure. Depth could be an issue, as could too few upgrades on the defensive side of the ball.
A lot in 2022 depends on the Cardinals improving internally, be it quarterback Kyler Murray, coach Kliff Kingsbury or young first-round picks Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins.
So before Arizona embarks on the season with a Week 1 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, we asked our Arizona Sports hosts, editors and reporters two questions about this year’s team. First we asked to set expectations for a successful season. Now we allow our insiders to go out and take a stab at a player-specific prediction.
Give us your boldest prediction for one specific player you think will stand out, struggle or surprise.
Dan Bickley, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: Marquise Brown. His speed is real and so is his connection with Murray, a best friend and former college teammate. And if the Cardinals truly develop a consistent over-the-top threat, the offense will be unstoppable.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: Dan Bickley, my esteemed on-air partner, thinks I’m crazy for thinking this (and many other things not related to this question), but I’ve got a feeling about A.J. Green this season. For as disorganized and disjointed as his connection with Kyler Murray appeared in 2021, the duo still hooked up 49 times for 766 yards. That comes out to 15.6 yards per completion. Only Deebo Samuel, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Lockett and Van Jefferson averaged more per catch with that many receptions.
I know both parties talked in the offseason about improving communication and chemistry, and despite the fact that hardly anybody of note played (or practiced much) this preseason, I believe that will happen. Green could very well be the team’s leading receiver for the six-week stretch DeAndre Hopkins is suspended to begin the year.
Ron Wolfley, co-host of Wolf & Luke: Zach Allen. The fourth-year defensive lineman has developed under the watchful eye of J.J. Watt and the production is starting to turn into projected expectation. Allen has gotten better every year he’s been in the league, and his numbers have steadily climbed up over those years. His body has changed; he is stronger, evidenced by the number of games played, tackles, sacks and high fives from legends. If he stays healthy, he will be a player the Cardinals look to extend later this season.
Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke: Boldest? How about Isaiah Simmons gets Defensive Player of the Year votes? If he can do everything they’re asking – take the next step in his development, become more consistent, play all over the field, make game-changing hits and wear the green dot – he’ll make a name for himself around the league in a hurry. Not saying all that happens this season, but you wanted bold and there aren’t many players on this defense not named Budda Baker who I believe have more game-altering ability than Simmons.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Allen will nearly become the player the Cardinals are paying Watt to be. But I also think the draft pick of Zaven Collins will grow more dubious by the week.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Have to go with one of the pass rushers here: Myjai Sanders, Cameron Thomas or Victor Dimukeje. I will go with the sixth-round pick out of Duke in Dimukeje. He seems poised to break out after a good preseason. All depends on the opportunities he is given, but if he is given the chance, I think he can excel.
Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com Cardinals reporter and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast: It’s officially Simmons’ time in the desert. He picked up a new position title and is expected to relay the play calls to the defense. He’s garnered so much trust from this coaching staff that it would be negligent for me not to have him as Arizona’s standout player of the season. He’s going to be all over the field, stuffing the stat sheet and impacting games along the way. His 105 tackles, seven passes defensed, 1.5 sacks and one interception from a year prior should be the floor for the star backer in 2022.
Erik Ruby, Arizona Sports contributor and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast: As great as Zach Ertz has been, I have a sneaky feeling he might not live up to expectations this season. With A LOT of offensive firepower and DeAndre Hopkins returning halfway through the season, I think Ertz might find himself lost in the shuffle. He’ll be consistent because he can catch and perform on the field, but I don’t think he will be that huge playmaker some are banking on.
Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor: Allen will be one of the three or four most impactful players on the Cardinals’ defense. Last year, Allen played through a significant ankle injury and said that “tape was the only thing” holding his ankle together. He was still pretty decent while playing through it, so it’s not difficult to produce some level of optimism on how he will look fully healthy in Year 4. Watt was great when he wasn’t sidelined too, so, in general, I expect the defensive line to be pretty good this year.
Jake Anderson, ArizonaSports.com editor: I could go with Simmons, Collins or Jalen Thompson – although Thompson’s ascension might come as more of a surprise to the rest of the league and not as much to those of us here in the Valley. But I’m going to go with Rondale Moore, simply because of the opportunity he’s going to get in the first six weeks without Hopkins available to suit up. I think last year’s second-round pick will flourish and be able to utilize his speed and burst both down the field and with YAC.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com lead editor: The Cardinals let Chandler Jones walk in the offseason and did nothing to replace him. They also signed veteran linebacker Nick Vigil despite having youngsters Simmons and Collins supposedly ready to play.
*Brian Windhorst meme* Now why is that?
Is it perhaps that they want to use star backer Simmons so heavily on the edge, where it isn’t clear if he’s pass-rushing, dropping into a zone like a safety or covering the slot in man-to-man? Is it because they can combo that with Baker, making opposing quarterbacks determine what those guys are going to do and forgetting about other necessary stuff? There’s a reason they changed Simmons’ job title and gave him green dot duties in Week 1. He is ready and in line for a Pro Bowl type of season.