Entering year two of the Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury, the Arizona Cardinals made a splash move, trading for DeAndre Hopkins. Despite a nontraditional offseason, the Cardinals started the 2020 season 6-3 with a Hail Mary catch by Hopkins to secure the 32-30 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 10. However, after that, the Cardinals finished 2-5 over their final seven games and missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record. An injury to Murray in Week 11 against the Seattle Seahawks hurt the Cardinals’ offense, as they scored 30 or more points only once the rest of the season.
What Went Right
Led by Murray and Hopkins, the Cardinals averaged over 25 points per game this season, including over 28 per game at home. Murray improved off a successful rookie season, increasing his completion percentage by 2.8 percent. He also threw six more touchdowns while throwing only 12 interceptions for the second year in a row. The big difference for Murray was the increased workload on the ground. Murray had 40 more rushing attempts and 275 more rushing yards, and seven more rushing touchdowns this season compared to last year.
The addition of Hopkins was critical for the Cardinals. He gave Murray the go-to wide receiver that he lacked last season. Hopkins caught 115 passes on 160 targets for over 1,400 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his first season in Arizona. His 71.9 percent catch rate was a career-high for Hopkins, as he had a catch rate lower than 60 percent in five of his previous seven seasons. Entering next year, Hopkins and Murray should only improve on their chemistry from this season.
What Went Wrong
Future Hall of Famer Chandler Jones was limited to five games after suffering a biceps injury against the New York Jets. The injury ended his season with only 11 total tackles and one sack. Before this season, Jones hadn’t missed a game, during his time, with the Cardinals. During that span, he averaged 15 sacks per season. Without Jones on the field, the Cardinals’ defense gave up 22.9 points per game, including almost 28 per game on the road. The good news is Jones should be ready for the start of the 2021 season at 100 percent.
While the Cardinals had a few players surprise this season, their rookie class struggled to make an impact. First-round pick Isaiah Simmons finally got on the field in the second half of the season. However, the rest of the rookie class played limited snaps, especially on offense. Third round offensive tackle Josh Jones played a total of 55 offensive snaps as a rookie. Meanwhile, fourth-round defensive tackles Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence combined for 20 total tackles this season. All three should have an increased role in 2021.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Kyler Murray
In the first half of the season, Murray was in the MVP conversation, scoring at least two touchdowns in each of his first 10 games. However, Murray had zero touchdowns in three of his final six games this season. Despite the drop off in play in the second half of the season, Murray still finished seventh in the league in rushing touchdowns. His 11 rushing scores were second among quarterbacks, only behind Cam Newton. If not for an injury he suffered against the Seahawks, Murray would be in the MVP race, and the Cardinals have made the playoffs.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Josh Jones
The Cardinals didn’t draft many rookies on the offensive side of the ball. However, Jones was the most impactful this season. While he only played 55 offensive snaps, he played a role on special teams. During the offseason, the Cardinals signed long time veteran Kelvin Beachum to a 1-year deal to play right tackle. While Beachum played well this season, Jones should take over as the starter next season.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Isaiah Simmons
Early in his rookie season, Simmons struggled to get on the field, playing an average of 12 defensive snaps per game over the first seven weeks of the season. However, he started to earn the trust of the coaching staff and earn more playing time. With more time on the field, Simmons produced, recording 78 percent of his 54 tackles over the final nine games of the season. Furthermore, Simmons played over 50 percent of the defensive snaps in four games this season, with all four coming in the second half of the year. Simmons was able to make an impact in the second half of the season and should have a breakout season next year.
Biggest Surprise – Haason Reddick
After the Cardinals declined the fifth-year option on Reddick’s contract in the offseason, many had written off the former first-round pick. However, with Jones missing most of the season, Reddick had a career-year, recording 12.5 sacks after totaling 7.5 over the first three years of his career. He also recorded a career-high 15 tackles for a loss in 2020. The Cardinals have a decision to make this offseason with Reddick. They need to determine if he’s finally playing in the right role to succeed or was this a one year wonder.
Biggest Disappointment – Kenyan Drake
When the Cardinals traded for Drake before the 2019 trade deadline, many had high hopes for him after finishing the season on a hot streak. However, Drake struggled at times in 2020, rushing for under 80 yards in 11 of 15 games. He averaged four yards per carry and 63.7 rushing yards per game this season. By comparison, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry and 80.4 rushing yards per game last year. After playing the year on the transition tag, Drake heads into free agency this spring. Coming off a disappointing season, he likely will be playing elsewhere in 2021.
One Burning Question
Should the Cardinals Re-Sign Haason Reddick?
Before the season, many had labeled Reddick a bust. However, with his new role on defense, he finished the year with a team-high 12.5 sacks. Furthermore, his 12.5 sacks ranked fourth in the league. Ideally, the Cardinals would like to bring Reddick back next season to pair with Jones. However, they are projected to have limited cap space and may not be able to afford him. Even if they can, should they sign Reddick to a long term deal? The Cardinals have to decide if this year was his breaking out season or a one year wonder season.