The theme of the Arizona Cardinals’ offseason has generally been perceived two ways.
Either Arizona went all-in by signing veterans who needed an environmental refresh or it went all-in by trading and spending on over-the-hill veterans.
No matter which way you lean toward, what has gotten lost in acquiring J.J. Watt, Rodney Hudson and A.J. Green, among others, is that those players have changed the locker room dynamics.
The Cardinals believe it’s for the better, and in concert with Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald no longer being around, altering the personality ecosystem was a big piece of the roster turnover spanning 2020 and 2021. How it goes, we’ll see starting this week.
Owner Michael Bidwill spoke to the calculations he and general manager Steve Keim made regarding fitting a leadership puzzle of veteran voices with returning stars like Kyler Murray, Budda Baker and Chandler Jones.
“I think it’s about growing the young leaders that we have,” Bidwill said on Monday’s edition of The Dave Pasch Podcast. “There’s so many great leaders that we have on this team and making sure as we bring on new leaders — DeAndre (Hopkins) from a year ago, J.J., Rodney Hudson — they’re all doing a terrific job. We’re asking all those coaches to make sure they’re leaders in each one of those rooms. They’re doing it anyway, but we’re really putting an emphasis on it from top to bottom.
“I think it’s really showed and it’s given the space for those young leaders to speak up and to be able to speak to their teammates. I think Kyler has showed a lot of leadership. In his third year, he needed to get comfortable and he’s gotten comfortable holding his teammates accountable.”
Of course, Murray is tasked with leading a roster that last season underachieved on offense. On defense — Watt aside — the team has put the onus on a younger players from the defensive front to the backend.
If the Cardinals are to overachieve compared to the nationally unfavorable expectations this season, it will likely be Murray’s production that can push the team into playoff contention.
He threw 26 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in his second season, completing 67% of his passes while scoring 11 rushing touchdowns on 6.2 yards per carry.
Murray’s dynamic ground game took a hit when he was banged up later in the year, and that had a bit to do with a team going 6-3 to begin 2020 only to finish at 8-8.
It’s not lost on Arizona that the quarterback’s production, even if he’s healthy, can take the team only so far. Bidwill told Pasch that the team indeed expects Murray to take his leadership to another level.
And Bidwill believes he’s seeing that before a Week 1 game against the Tennessee Titans.
“I think it’s natural for any young player to come in, it’s gotta be an intimidating situation,” Bidwill said. “You come in at 22 years old and you’re expected to be the leader of the entire team and not just one side of the ball. It’s going to take a little bit of time. I think he’s done that, he’s done a good job.
“He’s organized (workouts and team events) in Dallas in the offseason, he’s been communicating with his teammates and certainly at training camp he’s holding them accountable out on the practice field. You can see it.”