Arizona leaves mandatory minicamp with more questions than answers along with some promising developments
With mandatory minicamp finished and the start (officially) of the NFL offseason, let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of what was taken away from minicamp and how it relates to the Cardinals’ upcoming NFL season.
We’ll start with the positives:
#1. No media for Kyler Murray…but no holdout either
Kyler’s agent and Kyler himself started a rocky offseason for the team with the infamous Instagram deletion as well as a letter to the organization asking for a new deal.
The Cardinals’ front office retorted (courtesy of veteran reporter Chris Mortenson) and it felt for a while that a rift could be impending.
Now? The biggest concern with Murray is simply that he didn’t speak to reporters like the other 31 quarterbacks did…not if he was going to show up, participate or pull another wildcard move.
Kent Somers pointed out that you’d like to see Murray do what the other QB’s did, and some Cardinals fans pointed to how Murray has gotten dragged by Arizona media questioning his body language and ability to be a franchise QB at times as to a reason why he wasn’t speaking to media.
All in all, I think that while it’s good that Murray’s camp and Arizona are talking like adults now, there’s good points to be made on either side. Murray’s Dan Patrick interview & his demeanor when losing has left him open to criticism, but he’s also spoken to media this summer and has otherwise been professional.
I think it’s alright to point out that AZ media at one point was considering trading away Kyler Murray for the likes of Deshaun Watson (with some advocating it) and that he even spoke to the media…and that you’d still like to see your QB not be a story as a lone outlier amidst expectations. Hopefully everyone gets a little better moving forward, on all sides.
#2. Eno Benjamin breakout incoming?
Eno Benjamin has seemingly gone from a roster bubble guy to a developed player ready in his 3rd year for a larger role.
Eno Benjamin ‘looks like he could be a starting running back’ https://t.co/Q1hcYTfp6q
— Jess Root (@senorjessroot) June 17, 2022
Benjamin could slide right into the Chase Edmonds “receiving” back role that Edmonds had in 2020 and while he was the lead back in 2021, the contract doled out to James Conner might mean that he ends up as the RB2, unlike Edmonds.
It’s a pleasant surprise as former Chief RB Darrel Williams was projected for this spot and seeing a young, drafted player take the next step would be good news for Arizona
#3. Gimme Moore
Rondale Moore has also been talked up quite a bit by the Cardinals…
Kliff Kingsbury has had a lot of good things to say about Rondale Moore throughout the entire offseason pic.twitter.com/S3wGRj6t9Z
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 16, 2022
If Hollywood Brown ends up on the outside, will Moore take over Christian Kirk’s role? Or stay as more of the jet sweep player in their scheme?
Time will tell as to how they will be able to use his skill set especially when Hopkins comes back.
And now for 3 negatives coming out of minicamp…
#1. Hudson Not Here
Yeah…most Cardinals fans (and maybe the coaching staff) seemed to be a bit blindsided by the news that C Rodney Hudson was a no-show, unexcused for minicamp.
GIven that his contract signed has still 2 years left and he was coming off a down season, there didn’t seem to be financial issues. Perhaps Hudson simply wants to be elsewhere, or could demand a trade.
In 2021, the report was that he would have signed with Kansas City if he was a free agent, but Arizona gave up a 3rd round pick for the rights to him in a deal. This should have locked the position up for the foreseeable future, but interest in the likes of Tyler Lindenbaum and C Cam Jurgens remained for the Cards, meaning that they might have known that a departure, via retirement or elsewise, might be coming.
If nothing else, that seems solidified now with Justin Pugh discussing a potential long-term move to center for the rest of his career, and it would not shock me one bit if Hudson is mulling over his NFL future and hangs it up, with Pugh taking over as the team’s starting center.
Kyler Murray, as a shorter quarterback, likely needs quality interior offensive line play more than some other quarterbacks, and with Aaron Donald in the division, Arizona losing Hudson would not only be a poor return on investment after one season but would continue the pattern of players retiring versus playing for the team. I think Pugh can do well, but you want to gain talent, and not lose it, if you’re looking to capitalize on your 11-5 season last year if you are Arizona.
#2. Cardinals are (bleeped) at Cornerback
I’m going to come out and say it. I think that the Cardinals are going to at some point, either now or next offseason, make a trade for a starting cornerback.
The reason why is simple: Keim and this coaching staff has been reticent to trust starting jobs to rookies out of the get-go, and whenever Steve has diagnosed an “immediate” need at a position, they look first to free agency, and then look to the draft, with a player behind a cheaper veteran if possible.
Two great examples the last few years were the trades for Hopkins and Hudson. But let’s not forget…they were willing to pay a premium as well.
In 2020, if Hopkins wasn’t available? Arizona would have matched Dallas’s offer for impending free agent Amari Cooper. And who could forget their pursuit of Packers C Corey Linsley in 2021? This past season, the Cardinals pursued Hasson Reddick but were outpriced by Philly at the pass-rushing spot, and I believe from what I know that they were in on CB Carlton Davis from the Buccaneers, who actually may have taken 1-2 million less per season in returning to the Bucs with the news of Tom Brady’s return from retirement.
Oh and let’s not forget just a few months ago in which Keim traded away his first rounder for another receiver in Hollywood who won’t even be the #1 after 6 weeks!
Given how little trust many fans have in Keim’s drafts and the way that he works, unless the Cardinals have a disastrous season and are picking at the top end of the draft, I’d guess that he will be attacking free agency or giving up yet another draft pick to fix a problem that he himself seems to have created. The Byron Murphy play was solid but it hasn’t been an answer…and the crux of the Marco Wilson deal deserves praise. But, when Wilson is slated to be the ONLY corner on the roster next year (Jeff Gladney’s tragic death really screwed over many plans but there’s no way around it)….yikes.
You’re kinda screwed and Robert Alford might be back yet again on a 1 year deal. Arizona moved on from Larry Fitzgerald to another player of his caliber at the receiver spot, but there has been no Patrick Peterson replacement yet on the roster. I think Arizona will end up with no choice but to fix the problem in an expensive way…unless Byron Murphy Jr. has a season for the ages and cements himself as a CB1.
#3. Linebackers Leading? Or moving positions?
The defense for Arizona seems to be a concern for many (more on that in a bit) but Isaiah Simmons has talked about stepping up as a leader in a big way. And this is welcome news to fans after seeing the departure of Jordan Hicks in the offseason:
Isaiah Simmons wants to exert himself as a leader this season. https://t.co/jq1uSre6gc
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) June 16, 2022
Simmons had the internet in AZ in a tizzy after playing at Safety with the first day of practice underway, and to be honest, that might be his best spot on the field. The fact that he and DC Vance Joseph still have called him a linebacker, of course, has me believing that he might be more of a hybrid defender who plays in coverage to help Arizona’s defensive backs out with a currently weaker secondary in place.
The former top 10 pick didn’t play much down the stretch, so now in year 3 it’s his time to shine. Likewise, fellow first round LB Zaven Collins has caused a stir with the acknowledgement that he hasn’t had a set defensive role yet.
While some might decry that Collins is going through the same thing that we saw from Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick and even Simmmons as far as struggling to stick, I think that we see progress this year, and maybe Simmons finally has the breakout season fans have been waiting for.
The alternative, when you’re looking at an OL, Pass Rush and Secondary overhaul to be in need of finding new linebackers? Well, I wouldn’t envy the organization one bit. We’ll see how well they do but the signs from minicamp weren’t great. Hopefully training camp provides the answer to that question once and for all.