7 big questions facing the Cardinals in 2021

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The Arizona Cardinals enter the 2021 season with some higher expectations. After just missing the postseason in 2020 after starting the year 6-3, the feeling is playoffs or bust.

Some believe that head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim are a bit on the hot seat at the moment and there could be changes if they fail to improve.

The roster is better than it was across the board and arguably at every individual position, but there still are questions entering the season.

What are the biggest questions the Cardinals face in 2021?

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How much better can QB Kyler Murray be?

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He was better last season than his rookie campaign. He was a Pro Bowler. But how much better will he be in 2021? Can he take the next step and become a dynamic passer in addition to being a dynamic playmaker with his legs? The talent is there. Will he trust his receivers to throw to a spot rather than wait for an opening? Some have questioned his leadership. Early returns from the offseason lead one to believe he has taken the role of a vocal leader.

Will Kliff Kingsbury get in the way?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Cardinals have done exactly what was expected of them overall in the first two years with Kingsbury as head coach. The players like him. They believe in his offense. He has had questionable decisions in games but nothing so far says he is a bad coach or a very good coach. Will the offense take off this year or is his offense truly not something made for the NFL?

Can they stay healthy?

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Only one defensive lineman played all 16 games last season and that player — Angelo Blackson — is not on the team this year. Chandler Jones, Jordan Phillips and others were on injured reserve last season. Phillips opens the season on IR. But can the key contributors stay healthy, even with recent history of injuries?

Can new aging veterans produce?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Cardinals went out and added multiple former Pro Bowl players in their 30s. The play of defensive end J.J. Watt, receiver A.J. Green and center Rodney Hudson will be key. Cornerback Malcolm Butler was another but has retired, leaving another question at cornerback.

Do they have enough at cornerback?

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The Cardinals were planning on having a starting trio of Malcolm Butler, Robert Alford and Byron Murphy at cornerback this season. That is a solid, if not good, group if healthy. However, Butler is retired and that leaves Murphy and Alford with fourth-rookie Marco Wilson. Wilson has impressed so far, but he will face an elite receiver duo in Week 1 as the Cardinals face the Tennessee Titans, who have Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. Alford has not played a down in the regular season since 2018. Murphy is a budding star but will those three be enough to hold up in the back end of the defense?

Will the young linebackers be good?

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The Cardinals opted for experience at almost every position. That was not the case at inside linebacker. Isaiah Simmons, entering his second year, and rookie Zaven Collins will man the middle of the field. Simmons will be asked to play multiple positions in a multitude of roles, which will give veteran Jordan Hicks some playing time, but the Cardinals are betting on the athleticism of Simmons and Collins. Will that gamble pay off?

Will Matt Prater be better than Zane Gonzalez?

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Gonzalez was great for the Cardinals, except when they needed him to hit a critical kick between 40 and 49 yards. His miss to win the game in New England last season ended up being the difference between making the playoffs and not. Prater has had a storied NFL career. He is one of the best clutch kickers there has ever been. However, he wasn't much better statistically than Gonzalez in 2020. Gonzalez made 72.7% of his field goals. Prater made 75% of his. He missed seven kicks from 40 yards and beyond. History says he is a better option than Gonzalez and Prater made a game-winning kick as time expired for the Detroit Lions to beat the Cardinals last year, so we know he can do it.

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