The Arizona Cardinals open 2020 NFL training camp on July 28 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:
How wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins impact the offense?
Hopkins gives the Cardinals the elite playmaker at receiver they haven't had since Larry Fitzgerald was younger. Since 2013, Hopkins ranks third in the league in receiving yards. He's arguably the best pass-catcher in the NFL and is undoubtedly one of the best playmakers. Hopkins' presence will have an immediate impact on three people: quarterback Kyler Murray, wide receiver Christian Kirk and Fitzgerald. Murray, the reigning rookie of the year, gets another reliable option, one who can go deep, go under, go across, go wherever.
As he has with Fitzgerald, Murray will know if he puts the ball near Hopkins, he'll catch it. Hopkins will also take away at least one primary defender -- likely the other team's star cornerback -- if not two, adding in a safety or linebacker. That's one or two less people to focus on Fitzgerald, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Kirk, a reliable receiver if he can stay healthy. The Cardinals' offense was playing fast at the end of last season and adding Hopkins could take it up a notch.
What's a realistic expectation for Kyler Murray in Year 2 and where must he improve?
This isn't hyperbole: MVP contender. He won rookie of the year last season and has a year of experience. And that's without talking about a much-improved offense around him. Murray silenced critics last season, passing for 3,722 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Murray's evolution was clear on a weekly basis. Once the game slowed down for him, Murray showed what made him the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft: Elite arm strength and speed and a sharp football mind.
With the aid of a year's worth of tape, Murray will be able to fix the gaps in his game, namely making better decisions with the ball. During the early part of last season, Murray tried to make plays happen when nothing was there, often forcing himself to scramble backward, losing yards. He improved in that area as the season progressed and that improvement should continue into this season.
Can Chandler Jones set the NFL record for sacks now that he has help on defense?
Can he? Yes. Will he? It depends. Barring an injury, Jones will be Jones again -- one of the top pass-rushers of the last decade. He has five consecutive double-digit sack seasons, the most in the NFL. He finished last season with 19 sacks and that was without a sack in three games and less than one sack in two others. And it was without a legitimate pass rush around him. That's changed. The Cardinals added depth on the defensive line with tackle Jordan Phillips and off the edge with the likes of Devon Kennard, De'Vondre Campbell and first-round pick Isaiah Simmons.
If any or of all those players can produce on a weekly basis, Jones' job will be easier than it was last season, when he was often double teamed and chipped. The goal for the Cardinals' defense is for the rest of the front seven to be feared enough to where offenses can't double team Jones. If that happens, Jones' path to the 23 sacks -- which would be a new NFL record -- will be clear.
With David Johnson gone, what's the plan in the Cardinals backfield?
Kenyan Drake will get the ball and the reps. Drake signed a one-year tender worth $8.4 million this offseason, after coming to Arizona in a trade with the Miami Dolphins back in October. He quickly took over as the Cards' primary ball carrier, replacing Chase Edmonds and David Johnson in the rotation. In eight games with the Cardinals, Drake rushed for 643 yards and eight touchdowns. Drake will begin the season as the starter with Edmonds as his backup, followed by rookie Eno Benjamin and D.J. Foster.