The 2021 season is set to be a massive one for the Arizona Cardinals. In the third year of the Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury era, the pressure is mounting for a playoff run. This past off-season, general manager Steve Keim has revamped the entire roster, bolstering it with All-Pro-caliber talents like J.J. Watt and A.J. Green. There are expectations for this Cardinals team after failing to reach the playoffs in the previous two seasons. This article will take a look at the Arizona Cardinals under pressure in 2021.
Arizona Cardinals Under Pressure for the 2021 Season
Steve Keim has been a staple of the Arizona Cardinals organization. As the Cardinals general manager for the better part of a decade, his tenure has seen the acquisition of Carson Palmer, Arizona’s march to the NFC Championship Game in 2015, and, perhaps most significantly, the abandonment of the Josh Rosen project. If not because of his ability as a general manager, his fantastic rapport with team owner and president Michael Bidwill will likely secure Keim’s future in the desert.
This past off-season, Keim has been at the top of his game. Taking a pragmatic approach, he quickly discarded those who were subpar, and replaced them with better talent. Displaying the breadth of his abilities as a general manager, Keim first pulled off the signings of Watt and Green in free agency. He then traded for a massive need in Rodney Hudson, before executing a clear vision in the NFL draft. He coped with the loss of cornerstone Patrick Peterson and a completely barren cornerback group, by filling out the room with a blend of youth and veteran talent. Cap wizardry has allowed Keim to build arguably one of the most formidable rosters seen during his time in Arizona.
All of that being said, some of Keim’s deals are still unproven, especially in the older players. The depth chart in the cornerback room is anything but clear. Looking ahead, Keim needs to get Chandler Jones a new contract and may encounter problems in later years thanks to this year’s cap gymnastics. However, for Arizona’s all-in year in 2021, Keim has done his part in building a competitive roster. Now the Cardinals need to make sure all of the moves were worth it.
Kyler Murray is the Cardinals franchise quarterback. In just two years in the NFL, K1 has shown enough to warrant that title. However, the pressure is on Kyler Murray in 2021 to continue on the trajectory to superstardom. Seen in fellow quarterbacks Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, Year 3 has to be the year in which Murray truly displays the full extent of his abilities.
In 2020, Murray established himself as one of the most dynamic threats in the NFL. With an electrifying running style rivaled by only that of Lamar Jackson, clips of Murray putting defenders on skates were plastered all over social media all year long. However, Murray has admitted that, after suffering with injuries last year, that his legs “are a luxury.” With 2021 comes an improved receiving corps and an infinitely better offensive line. Murray has the tools to demonstrate the passing talent that made him a star in college.
K1 will be the Cardinals starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. However, with the weapons he’s been surrounded with, he has to continue to show improvement. His performance this year could ultimately influence what his second NFL contract will look like.
Kliff Kingsbury might be under the most pressure for the Cardinals in 2021. Inextricably linked to Kyler Murray up until this point, this might be where their paths diverge. Whilst Murray’s future with the Cardinals is most likely safe, there are still significant doubts about Kingsbury as a head coach. He was heralded as an offensive dynamo coming out of Texas Tech, where Patrick Mahomes was his quarterback. But Kingsbury has yet to translate the potency of the “Air Raid” offense to the NFL. Struggles with the intermediate passing game, as well as issues with game management have raised questions over Kingsbury’s ability to lead the Cardinals going forward.
In 2021, Kingsbury has all the tools necessary to quell any doubts about his coaching ability. He has a quarterback in his ascendancy, who is expected to explode in his third year in the scheme. Rondale Moore, one of the draft’s most versatile players, matches the supposed innovation of Kingsbury’s offense. Developing and implementing the full range of the “Air Raid” offense has to be a priority. Achieving consistency with such is a sure-fire way to solidify Kingsbury’s future in Arizona. However, with several players approaching the end of their prime, and Kyler Murray’s rookie deal expiring soon, the team may have to consider if Kingsbury is the best man for the job going forward.