Cardinals roster questions, wild cards: Who plays 2nd fiddle to Hollywood Brown?
Jul 12, 2023, 12:17 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2023, 5:08 pm
(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
The Arizona Cardinals look a whole lot different than they did this time a year ago.
And with a reset in culture, coaching staff and front office comes a reset in the roster.
Each position group has undergone change this offseason, from quarterback to special teams specialists.
There’s still plenty of time for personnel tweaks between now and training camp next month. But until then, let’s take a deeper dive into how the Cardinals’ roster is currently constructed.
This time, we turn our attention to a new-look wide receivers room with question marks near the top of the pecking order.
The Arizona Cardinals’ big roster questions: WR
1. Can Hollywood Brown take over as Arizona’s lead man at receiver?
With DeAndre Hopkins’ release, Brown is the undisputed No. 1 option entering the year.
Regardless of how Hopkins’ tenure in the desert came to a close, there are big shoes to fill for the wideout.
That’s not to say, however, he’s completely new to the idea of the being a team’s go-to guy.
Before his time in Arizona, Brown was the Baltimore Ravens’ leading wide receiver for three seasons. While he had little competition in the WRs room, he did have tight end Mark Andrews to contend with when it came to splitting targets.
But despite the limited competition, Brown only reached the 1,000-yard mark once (2021). Some of that was due to the run-first mentality behind quarterback Lamar Jackson. Some of that was due to Brown’s inconsistencies. He did, however, reel in at least six touchdowns in each of his three seasons with the Ravens.
He had a small sample size as Arizona’s No. 1 option in his first season with the Cardinals, too.
With Hopkins suspended six games for PED use, Brown was far and away quarterback Kyler Murray’s favorite option, racking up 43 catches on 64 targets for 485 yards and three touchdowns. The wideout appeared well on his way to posting career marks before a foot injury placed him on the injured reserve.
This time around, Brown is back to full strength, though won’t have that same familiarity he had to start the season with Murray still on the mend from his ACL tear.
Instead, he’ll have Colt McCoy, Clayton Tune, David Blough or Jeff Driskel to work with to start the season.
The pressure’s on for Brown, who will have more eyes on him in a contract year, to consistently produce with defenses honed in on stopping him first.
2. Who is the No. 2 guy on the roster?
Beyond Brown, there is a discussion to be had as to who exactly is second fiddle.
There are definitely multiple options to consider, with Rondale Moore and Zach Pascal the two veteran names to watch.
Moore has flashed his speed and big-play ability over his first two seasons in the league. Availability — and a gameplan that mistakenly kept him behind the line of scrimmage more times than not — have been Moore’s biggest issues.
Moore has yet to surpass the 500-yard mark and has just one touchdown in each of his first two seasons as a pro. Staying healthy for the majority of the season can help change that moving forward.
Then there’s Pascal, one of Arizona’s biggest wideouts on the roster that has familiarity with head coach Jonathan Gannon from their time in Indianapolis and Philadelphia together.
In a crowded Eagles WRs room last season, though, Pascal saw little offensive action with 15 receptions for 150 yards and a score. That output, even with the murkiness surrounding the QB situation, should tick up in Arizona with targets there for the taking.
But while Moore and Pascal are veteran leaders in the clubhouse to secure the spot, there’s a new face that could very well shoot up the depth chart in a hurry.
The wild Card
Rookie wide receiver Michael Wilson has quickly entered the conversation as someone who could move the needle offensively. The 2023 third-rounder out of Stanford has been a talking point since he arrived to rookie minicamp.
In addition to his size at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Wilson showed off his quick-twitch ability and appeared very comfortable with everything the coaching staff was throwing his way.
Just take it from Gannon and wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Drew Terrell, who both praised Wilson’s work ethic and progression this offseason.
“Michael has come in as a rookie, we said, ‘Hey man … this is what we’re expecting from you. Here’s your role’ and he’s taken to it,” Gannon said during offseason work this past June. “He’s doing a really good job, especially for a rookie.
“I think in any offense it moves a little fast and where we are today, he’s lightyears ahead of when he came in here for rookie minicamp. It’s good to see.”
And it’s not just how he’s doing it, it’s where.
Throughout organized team activities and both minicamps, Wilson has primarily worked as the team’s X receiver. Some of that was due to the absence of Brown at some of the workouts. Most of it came from how he was attacking the role — in the playbook and on the field — he was in.
But much like Moore, Wilson’s production will only go as far as his availability takes him.
Ahead of his NFL journey, Wilson struggled to remain on the field for the majority of his college career at Stanford. Only twice (2018-19) did he appear in double-digit games during the course of his five seasons with the Cardinal. Beyond that, Wilson played in 14 games combined over his last three collegiate seasons due to a pair of foot fractures and a broken collarbone.
If not for an impressive Senior Bowl showing, there’s no telling where Wilson would have landed.
Now, he’s got a legit shot to earn valuable snaps and vie for starting role in a new-look offense in need of another playmaker.