The Arizona Cardinals’ 34-11 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams was the final flameout of an 11-6 playoff season.
And with a philosophy of continuity this offseason, they now find themselves approaching the 2022 season once again ready to play in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions.
They’ve not made it easy on themselves. The Cardinals will be without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the team’s first six games of the season due to a suspension.
Hopkins was among the absences Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson noted while placing the Cardinals No. 14 overall in a set of power rankings. They’re among nine teams in Monson’s “Eyes on the Playoffs” tier.
The Cardinals somehow made a big splash move over the offseason and still may have lost ground to their rivals. Marquise Brown was acquired in a trade for their first round pick, but Brown has to replace DeAndre Hopkins as the team’s No. 1 receiver for the duration of Hopkins’ suspension (six games) before he can add value relative to last year’s offense. The team also lost Christian Kirk and Chandler Jones — two important players at key positions. Arizona’s success relies on it finding a way to not tail off again as the season progresses.
After receiving his large contract extension, quarterback Kyler Murray will attempt to get back to the playoffs and win his first playoff game after falling short a season ago against the Rams.
Defensive end J.J. Watt will also enter the season healthy after enduring injuries last season that kept him sidelined from Week 8 on until that ugly Wild Card game for Arizona.
Brown will reunite with Murray after they spent two years together at Oklahoma. The receiver hauled in 75 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Murray’s Heisman year with the Sooners, before the quarterback became Arizona’s No. 1 pick and the Ravens drafted Brown in the first round.
Brown is coming off his first 1,000-yard season in the NFL, a career-high total of 1,008 yards with another career best of 91 catches.