The Arizona Cardinals welcomed the 2021 season by thumping the Tennessee Titans. We welcome the 2021 season by bringing back our day after 1st and 10 column. Without further ado...
1st: Kyler Murray showed everything you hoped he would
- Kyler was spectacular. He handled pressure better, made better decisions (save for his INT) and completed passes at every level. He threw accurately short, medium and deep and from different arm angles and locations on the field.More than that, Kyler just looked and played with a confidence he hasn’t always shown. Murray has always had supreme confidence in his athletic abilities but hasn’t always played like the most prepared or focused guy on the field. That changed on Sunday. He was lethal. A more advanced Kyler is a dangerous, dangerous weapon for the Cardinals to possess.
1. The Cardinals announced their arrival onto the NFC playoff scene with Sunday’s win. Often overlooked in every NFC West and NFC playoff conversation in the preseason, the Cardinals are going to matter. Talent wise there is zero separation between the Cardinals and the rest of the NFC West. Their greatest deficit is in the leadership ranks and if Kyler goes quantum, even that might not hold them back.
2. One of the reasons I picked the Cardinals to win by double digits was the Titans vulnerability at RT. This Cardinals pass rush is like a pack (school?) of sharks; they smell a vulnerability and they will attack it. A great pass rush can mask a lot of defensive deficiencies and the Cardinals pass rush is off to a great start.
3. Chandler Jones had a monster performance which caused an eruption of “SIGN HIM” screams on social media. Why would the Cardinals do that? The Cardinals should dangle the contract as long as they can to maximize this kind of motivated Chandler Jones. Then instead of an extension, they should follow the Seahawks/Duane Brown, Patriots/Stephon Gilmore and Dolphins/Xavien Howard model with a bigger paycheck this year without adding years to the deal.
4. Very few sequels are better than the original but the Kyler/DHop Show might be the exception. Unfortunately, AJ Green might be the norm. Green did not look good against the Titans. He was targeted on six passes, caught two for 25 yards and even that feels like a generous stat line. Green made a rookie mistake catching a ball on the sideline with his foot out of bounds and more concerning for the “AJ Green is going to bounce back” hype machines, like Larry Fitzgerald, he doesn’t appear to be one of Kyler’s guys.
5. The Cardinals secondary held up remarkably well against AJ Brown and Julio Jones. A lot of that credit goes to the pass rush but it was also clear the Cardinals cornerbacks took the challenge of the game personally. Can this unit hold up long term once the praise starts flowing in? Can this unit hold up long term injury wise? Those are the big questions.
6. Isaiah Simmons had a really good sophomore season debut. He led the Cardinals in tackles, had two passes defensed and an INT. The best news about Simmons performance was he was not a liability in any way for the Titans to expose. He played over 90% of all snaps with Zaven Collins played in just 34% of the snaps. The better Simmons plays, the more time it buys Collins. So far, one out of two ain’t bad.
7. The Cardinals sloppiness from last year trickled into 2021. Last season the Cardinals were the most heavily penalized team in the league and started out hellbent on defending their title. Arizona had four different penalties on the first drive of the game. They burned through their timeouts early in both halves, same as they did last year. While lack of preseason reps may be partially to blame, in game disorganziation has been as big of a staple of Kingsbury’s career as Ray Bans.
8. Under the Radar Stars: Rodney Hudson, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, Jordan Hicks and Matt Prater
9. Weekend Soundtrack: “Nothin About You” - Brooks and Dunn, dedicated to Kyler Murray
10. What’s Next? At home against the Vikings. Its the only home game of the first month of the season for Arizona and they’ll face a dysfunctional Vikings team that just lost to the Bengals in OT. One of my favorite bets before the season was the Vikings season win total under because this team feels like it tuned Mike Zimmer out a long time ago. The Vikings are basically the NFC’s version of the Titans. Likely a team that peaked two years ago, loaded with skill position talent but lacking a difference making QB. The only red flag is the Vikings were just humiliated by the Bengals and it may already be their season on the line in Glendale.