Thu, 07 Jul 2022

2022 Opponent Breakdown: Arizona Cardinals

Los Angeles Rams
21 May 2022, 18:24 GMT+10

Stu Jackson

Continuing our series of offseason opponent breakdowns following the 2021 schedule release, theRams.com examines Los Angeles' Week 3 road opponent and Week 10 home opponent, the Arizona Cardinals (Week 3 - Sept. 25, 1:25 p.m. PT on FOX; Week 10 - Nov. 13, 1:25 p.m. PT on FOX).

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2021

The Cardinals got off to a red-hot start last season, winning their first seven games before suffering their first loss. During that stretch, quarterback Kyler Murray played like an MVP candidate, with multi-touchdown games in five of those first seven contests.

However, in that lone loss - a dramatic 24-21 one to the Packers on Thursday Night Football - Murray limped off the field late in the game with an ankle injury that would cause him to miss the next three games.

Meanwhile, top receiver DeAndre Hopkins exited that same game in Green Bay with a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the next three games. A week earlier, defensive lineman and marquee free agent signing J.J. Watt suffered what was initially thought to be a season-ending shoulder injury.

While Arizona's reserves filled in admirably to help them reach 9-2 by their Week 12 bye, everything would unravel over the final six games - Hopkins suffered a season-ending torn MCL in Week 14 - as the Cardinals finished 2-4 in that span and limped into the playoffs with an 11-6 record.

The Cardinals still earned the No. 5 seed and rematch with the Rams in the Wild Card round, and Watt returned in time for the playoffs, but they would get knocked out in the first round with a 34-11 loss to the Rams at SoFi Stadium.

Changes

After making splashy moves like acquiring Watt, plus running back James Conner, center Rodney Hudson and wide receiver A.J. Green last offseason, this offseason was less eventful for Arizona.

Outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who finished second on the Cardinals defense with 10.5 sacks, signed a 3-year deal with the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent. Leading receiver Christian Kirk signed a four-year deal with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent.

Conner was scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, but Arizona avoided that by signing him to a 3-year contract extension.

The biggest transaction so far came on Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, when the Cardinals traded the No. 23 overall pick to the Ravens for wide receiver Marquise Brown and a third-round pick, reuniting Murray with his college wide receiver.

Head coach

Kliff Kingsbury enters his fourth season as head coach of the Cardinals, compiling a 24-24-1 regular season record (0-1 playoffs) through his first three seasons. His contract was extended through the 2027 season in early March.

What to watch for

Cardinals passing attack without Hopkins in Week 3, the Murray-Brown connection, Cardinals pass rush

Hopkins was suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, which means he will miss the first matchup between the two teams. Although tight end Zach Ertz and wide receivers A.J. Green and Rondale Moore return, no Hopkins and no Kirk means Murray's passing targets will look a little bit different.

The addition of Brown continued the trend of teams reuniting starting quarterbacks with their college wide receivers. Historically, this approach has produced mixed results, but the potential impact of that chemistry between Brown and Murray can't be ignored.

Meanwhile, the Rams offensive line will be preparing for a Cardinals defensive front looking to replace Jones and his production.

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