Training Camps can be a double edged sword. On one hand they remind us that the NFL season is rapidly approaching. On the other hand, they remind us that every teams season is fragile and a single injury can turn a build up into a come down.
Already, the Arizona Cardinals have experienced the worst of what training camp has to offer. For the second year in a row, projected starting CB Robert Alford was lost for the season before taking a single regular season snap.
His absence thrusts the CB2 position back into the spotlight as a potential Achilles heel for a defense the Cardinals spent a lot of resources improving this offseason.
After ranking dead last in total defense last year, the team was hopeful the additions of Devon Kennard, Jordan Phillips, Devondre Campbell, Isaiah Simmons and the return of a healthy Robert Alford could propel the defense into a similar transformation year over year that the offense experienced between 2018 and 2019.
That just got a lot harder with the reshuffling of the deck at corner. And the Cardinals making the leap to a playoff team just got a lot harder.
With just over three weeks to go before the start of the 2020 NFL season, which Cardinals players currently rank as the most indispensable if this team wants to take a major step forward? You know I love to rank things so here is my list.
- Kyler Murray - Not much else needs to be said but its still a pleasant change of pace for the franchise that a QB occupies the top spot which certainly has not been true most of this team's existence in Arizona. The 2020 Cardinals go as Kyler Murray goes.
- Chandler Jones - You aren't winning many games in the NFL if you can't get to the QB. For the last few years, Chandler Jones has been a one man pass rush. While the addition of the veteran Devon Kennard should bolster the team's pass rush, it doesn't really matter if Jones isn't on the field. If Jones can't play the domino effect on the rest of the defense would be massive.
- Patrick Peterson - P2 spent eight years as one of the most consistently dependable players on the Cardinals roster, alongside Larry Fitzgerald. Last year, we saw the enormous consequences on the defense when he was not playing at his typical All Pro level. The secondary cratered and the defense was awful. Even though he's coming off his worst year as a pro, Peterson remains one of the Cardinals most critical players.
- DJ Humphries - The late summer addition of Kelvin Beachum seemed like a great insurance policy at LT in case Humphries reverted to his injury plagued ways. 2019 was the first season of Humphries career that he did not finish the season on the IR. When Marcus Gilbert opted out, it depleted the Cards depth and likely re-allocated Beachum's experience to the right side. In the event that DJ Humphries can't go, it's entirely possible Beachum makes the switch back to LT but then the RT position will either be manned by a rookie in Josh Jones or last year's turnstile - Justin Murray. Not ideal.
- Byron Murphy - Murphy was drafted with the 33rd overall pick in 2019 to be the third corner to Peterson and Alford. Now, for the second year in a row he'll likely be playing out of position and under the microscope outside. It was a mixed bag last season as Murphy gave up chunks of yardage and lots of TD's but also showed the stickiness that had the Cards celebrating when he fell to the second round. With the injury to Alford, Murphy is again going to be a huge part of the Cards defense.