Storylines were abundant in the Arizona Cardinals’ season-opening win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Arizona was in control from start to finish, limiting a high-powered Titans offense in a 38-13 beatdown in Tennessee.
It was only the first game of the season, but there were quite a few takeaways from Arizona’s first victory of 2021.
A look at what we learned about Arizona after Week 1:
The defense looks legit, starting with Chandler Jones
While the Cardinals offense gained steam as the game went on, Arizona’s defense was the biggest positive to come out of Sunday’s win.
Holding Titans running back Derrick Henry to 58 yards and no touchdowns, the Cardinals slammed the door shut on Tennessee’s game plan.
An ineffective Henry doesn’t bode well for a team that breads its butter in the play-action game.
J.J. Watt, while he didn’t have a sack, was big in pressuring Tannehill. Chandler Jones’ five-sack outing speaks for itself.
The defensive line’s pressure allowed the Cardinals’ cornerbacks to settle in, too. Rookie Marco Wilson looked like he had been there before, Robert Alford played with confidence and Byron Murphy was flying all over the field.
“Yeah, we talk about starting fast,” Kingsbury said after the win. “I think more than anything as a team, when they play from ahead they can pound you and really put you in a tough situation. So we did exactly what we wanted to, particularly defensively, starting things fast, getting them off the field, and putting pressure on them.”
Early penalties something to watch
The Cardinals’ offense put up five touchdowns on Sunday, but it wasn’t without its hold-your-breath moment early on.
Arizona’s first drive ended with a 34-yard field goal from Matt Prater but was shaping up to be so much more. The biggest problem? Penalties.
The Cardinals were plagued by penalties all last season, so much so that it was a major point of emphasis this offseason. Arizona made it a point to get better in that area, calling in referees to give the dos and don’ts over training camp.
But of the offense’s first 10 snaps, Arizona was dinged with two holding calls, an illegal man downfield and a false start within the first five minutes of play.
Luckily for the Cardinals, they settled down and played much cleaner football the rest of the way, with four penalties to show over the rest of the game.
The question is, can they come out the gates in Week 2 less sloppy?
Kyler Murray’s preseason play appears to be a non-factor
Quarterback Kyler Murray’s preseason snaps, or lack thereof, was a popular topic this year with so many wondering just how ready the signal caller would be come Week 1.
Once the yellow flags stopped raining down, Murray went to work, completing 21 of his 32 pass attempts for 289 yards and four touchdowns. He only ran the rock four times, but added 20 yards and a score.
There wasn’t much catch-up in finding a rhythm with his favorite targets, either, with DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk combining for 153 yards and four touchdowns. All told, Murray spread the love between five pass catchers.
“I thought he did a great job of extending plays today, and he had some big-time checks on two touchdown throws,” Kingsbury said of Murray. “He was locked in, understood the game plan, and really executed well.”
Jordan Hicks is gonna have a big role
Part of what stood out with the defense Sunday was the personnel grouping among the linebacking corps.
Zaven Collins may be the starting MIKE linebacker, but that doesn’t mean Jordan Hicks is going to be a benchwarmer on the sideline.
Hicks was on the field more times than not in Tennessee, recording four tackles and providing a veteran presence in the middle.
Defensive coordinator said Hicks would have a big role with the defense this season and from the early returns, he’s not wrong.
Rondale Moore’s role appears to be all encompassing
With Eno Benjamin’s inactive status Sunday, rookie Rondale Moore was given full autonomy as the team’s sole returner in the special teams game on Sunday.
Moore recording one kick return and two punts, combining for 46 yards.
Offensively, the rookie was looked at five times, making four catches for 68 yards.
The only place he didn’t see a touch was in the ground game, but was still used in some play actions.
The moment wasn’t too big for Moore, who has shown steady growth since arriving for rookie minicamp in May.