The Arizona Cardinals will open the season Sunday afternoon at home in State Farm Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs. While the Cards are sizable underdogs, they were one of the best teams in football for the majority of the 2021 season.
While everyone will certainly have their eyes on stars like Kyler Murray, who are some of the other names that will be crucial in this matchup?
WR Hollywood Brown
Hollywood Brown’s arrival in the desert couldn’t be more important than it currently is.
The Cardinals are down WR DeAndre Hopkins to suspension and now Rondale Moore to a hamstring injury. Paired with the loss of Christian Kirk to free agency, the receiver room has certainly taken a hit.
Brown will look to exploit a suspect Chiefs defense from last season. Without the other receiving threats, however, he may see a fair share of double coverage.
If the Cardinals are going to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and company, they’re going to need a huge day from their new star.
ILB Zaven Collins
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
The selection of Zaven Collins in the first round last year has been scrutinized by many, mostly due to his lack of playing time in his rookie year.
For better or worse, Collins will be the primary option at inside linebacker come Sunday afternoon. He’ll be paired alongside Isaiah Simmons and Nick Vigil, depending on the formation.
Last season, Collins flashed early but then received little to no playing time, despite the team’s deficiencies in rush defense. He’s one of the bigger question marks of the defense just based on his lack of playing time.
Collins becoming the player they thought he was coming out of Tulsa would pay dividends in fixing the team’s rushing defense.
Star LB Isaiah Simmons
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
When Simmons fell to the Cardinals at the eighth pick of the 2020 draft, it seemed like a no-brainer. Even with prospects like CeeDee Lamb and Tristan Wirfs still available, the team couldn’t pass up on the positionless star from Clemson.
Two years later, it appears Simmons may finally be deployed all over the field. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has labeled him as the team’s star linebacker. He’ll likely see snaps at inside linebacker and safety, but could slide into slot cornerback packages due to the team’s deficiencies at that position.
Perhaps Simmons will rush the passer from the edge in certain blitz packages. He’s shown an incredible ability to get off blocks when he’s blitzed in the past.
The sky is the limit for Simmons this season. His ascension into a positionless star would patch a lot of the question marks on defense.
TE Trey McBride
Trey McBride did not see much action in the preseason.
The team’s 2022 second-round pick was used primarily as a blocker in the home preseason match against the Baltimore Ravens, which he did show promise doing.
However, a tight end with a second-round selection is drafted to be an impact pass catcher, which he clearly was in college. Given the team’s injuries at the wide receiver position, might we see a solid debut through the air for McBride?
The Cardinals selected McBride, despite tight end being one of the team’s biggest strengths. They clearly view him to be a star in the making.