Every Monday, I'll be bringing you my 1st and 10 blog post for the Arizona Cardinals which will feature the single biggest story from the game, followed by 10 additional thoughts.
Here is the first installment for the 2020 NFL season:
First: Kyler Murray justified the hype in the first game of his second season.
- Kyler did not have a great game. He missed some open receivers, still didn't clean up his pocket awareness as much as hoped and otherwise led an underwhelming offense for the first three quarters of the game. But when this team needed someone to make plays, Kyler made the plays that led the team to a big win. Think about it this way: How many starting QB's would you bet on to have won that game for the Cardinals in the way that it needed to be won? Four? Five? Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and maybe Deshaun Watson? The skill set required to confound a very good 49ers defense is probably limited to that group. Kyler did it. Winning when you aren't at your best is a very important attribute for any potential franchise QB. For Week 1, Kyler proved once again that he is The One.
- The Cardinals defense was much maligned in 2019 and Vance Joseph was likely entering Mike McCoy territory with any defensive letdowns in Week 1. When Raheem Mostert gashed the Cardinals offense for a 76 yard catch and run for the first TD of the game, I was firmly on Vance Joseph watch. It didn't matter the context, the Cardinals defense was not good early in this game. Then, the rest of the game happened. A goal line stand at the 1. Budda Baker flying all over making plays. Flustering Jimmy G into mistake and missed play after missed play. At the end of the game, Vance Joseph was no longer on the hot seat, he was finally able to hang some pictures and unpack all the boxes at his Valley home.
- DeAndre Hopkins is a joy to watch. Hopkins hauled in 14 passes for 151 yards in his Cardinals debut. While none of the catches were the jaw-dropping-played-on-a-loop kind, all of them felt meaningful. His excellence in execution (please add some pink wraparound shades to the pre-game wardrobe DeAndre), precision in route running and reliability for Kyler Murray are going to be fun to watch for 15 more games this season and many more beyond.
- Bill O'Brien already bore the brunt of my first Cardinals rant but really, he should probably be fired today for separating Hopkins from DeShaun Watson
- OLine Island did not see the influx of visitors that I expected. Facing arguably the best defensive front in football, the line held up in its first stress test of the season. Kelvin Beachum had the highest PFF grade at 64.8, while DJ Humphries, Justin Pugh and JR Sweezy all graded out amongst the worst at their position across the NFL. Despite that, the offensive line did not prevent the Cardinals from securing a victory and that alone is progress.
- Budda Baker does not care about your INT takes. Racking up 15 tackles and 0 picks, Baker earned every penny of his new deal on Sunday. He even Tonya Harding'd George Kittle's knee. Or technically Jeff Gillooly'd it on a clean tackle. His performance was all the more impactful considering the Cardinals lost Jalen Thompson from their secondary early in the game .
- The only thing more apocalyptic than the Bay. Area sky over the weekend was Jimmy G's performance. Not only did he miss wide open receivers with regularity, his game ending pass behind receiver Trent Taylor summed up how much he didn't do to lead his team to a victory. While the 49ers were without Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, Jimmy G's performance validates the offseason rumors of why the team kicked the tires on Tom Brady.
- Isaiah Simmons debut was a debacle. Its good news that this wasn't the lead item for the Cardinals. There's a hefty margin for error built into to all rookie expectations considering the truncated offseason and preseason but Simmons was still exposed. Kyle Shanahan purposefully picked on the rookie, running plays at him often times with lots of success. No one is giving up on Simmons or calling him a bust but he needs to get better in a hurry to stay on the field. PFF graded his debut at a team worst 27.1. For the record, Mekhi Bechton was graded out as the 12th best tackle in football after his Jets debut.
- Other concerns post Week 1: Christian Kirk's disappearing act, Kliff Kingsbury's offensive play calling and abandonment of the run early on, sloppy penalties plaguing the Cardinals a year after having the 5th most penalties of any NFL team in 2019.
- Under the Radar Stars: Chase Edmonds, Chris Streveler, Angelo Blackson was the Cardinals best defensive lineman, Sean Kugler is a magician and Andy Isabella's continued disappearing act is oddly impressive.
- What's Next: A Washington Football Team that sacked Carson Wentz 8 times.