Arizona Cardinals 2021 Season Recapby Jackson Caudell January 19, 2022 0 comments
The Arizona Cardinals started off as well as any team in the NFL this season. A 7-0 start and some big wins over eventual playoff teams had the Cardinals thinking about a Super Bowl run. However, much like last season, the Cardinals collapsed down the stretch. Despite making the playoffs, there are now questions that head coach Kliff Kingsbury is going to have to face. This team has made some big moves in the past two offseasons, but it has resulted in zero playoff victories. It will be an interesting offseason in Arizona.
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What Went Right
The start of the season could not have been better for this team. Kyler Murray was playing like the MVP frontrunner, their receiving corps seemed deep and dynamic and their defense could create pressure and force turnovers. The offseason additions of James Conner, J.J. Watt, and Rodney Hudson were paying huge dividends. Arizona looked like a true contender for the first half of the season. Rondale Moore was the team’s most impressive rookie on a week-to-week basis and gave Murray another option to throw to.
What Went Wrong
The second half of the season. A 7-1 start gave Cardinals fans hope, but that was soon gone. This team again faded in the second half. This has become a pattern for Kingsbury-led teams, dating back to his days as the head coach at Texas Tech. A problem that this team seems to have is depth. One of the reasons the Cardinals have been unable to finish strong is their lack of depth at many positions. Injuries to Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and Hudson doomed this team. Another thing that went wrong was the play of some of their rookie class. First-round pick Zaven Collins did not live up to his draft position in his first year. Rookie cornerback Marco Wilson was continuously picked on and gave up plays in coverage.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Kyler Murray
There does not need to be much debate about this topic. Murray is the most important player for the Cardinals and there is not a close second. Murray finished the season with close to 3,800 yards passing and 24 touchdowns. He was dynamic on the ground as well, racking up over 400 yards and five touchdowns there. During the first half of the season, Murray looked like the MVP front-runner. The thing is, this is the second season in a row he has started out hot and faded. Murray had some struggles in the latter part of the 2021 campaign and did not look like the same quarterback.
For the Cardinals to keep climbing upwards, they are going to need Murray to put together a full season. He is one of the best young players in the NFL but lacks consistency at times. Murray had a dynamic season for the Cardinals and is the main reason they won games and they will continue to build around their star quarterback for the future.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Rondale Moore
For a team that already had playmakers at the wide receiver position, Moore was awfully impressive during his rookie campaign. One of the biggest playmakers in college football while at Purdue, Moore had the same role in Kingsbury’s offense. He is able to take short passes and make the most out of them. Moore was terrific after the catch and also had a role on special teams returning kicks.
Finishing the year with 54 receptions for 435 yards of offense is solid for a guy that had a lot of positional competition. One thing that Moore is going to have to improve upon is his down-the-field ability. This season, Moore was mostly used as a short-catch player who had to make plays after he caught it. Becoming a deep threat will make him a more dangerous player for the Cardinal’s offense next season.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Marco Wilson
Wilson was not great this season, but he was one of the few rookies on the defensive side of the ball that played every week. He did not finish the 2021 season with an interception, but he did have four pass deflections and two forced fumbles. Arizona traded up in the draft to get the former Florida Gator and he was up and down in his rookie season. He gave up big plays in coverage and was picked on quite a bit in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. However, Wilson is just a rookie and will be counted on to improve and help this defense take the next step.
Biggest Surprise – A.J. Green
When the Cardinals signed Green, most thought it was due to name recognition only. Green looked like he was aging rapidly and did not have many contributions left in him. He was one of the best wide receivers in the NFL for years while playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, but was not effective his last few seasons. This season with the Cardinals, Green was Arizona’s second-leading receiver with 54 catches for 848 yards and three touchdowns. He was the most consistent big-play threat for the Cardinals this season and led the team with 15.7 yards per catch. Green is a free agent after the season and it will be interesting to see if Arizona has any interest in bringing him back for another run.
Biggest Disappointment – DeAndre Hopkins
This season being a disappointment is not all on Hopkins. The wide receiver dealt with numerous injuries and was not able to suit up in the playoffs. In 2020, Hopkins was showing the league why he was one of the best players in the game and more of the same was expected this season. He got off to a nice start but was soon on the sideline for several games. For this team to take the next step and become a true contender, Arizona is going to need Hopkins to return to All-Pro form. If healthy, he is one of the best receivers in the league. The Cardinals desperately need him healthy.
One Burning Question
How will Arizona Approach the Offseason?
The Cardinals made a lot of short-term deals last offseason. Guys like Conner and Green are going to be free agents in a few months. Those guys were major contributors for the team this season, but Green is aging the Cardinals have younger players at wide receiver. Arizona could opt to try and run it back with all of those guys, but it might opt to try and find younger replacements.
This team lacks depth and is going to have to be smart during free agency and the draft next season. There is talent on the roster, but not enough young depth. Arizona took a step by making the playoffs this season. Now, they have to build the roster to be able to not fade during the second half of the season and make an actual playoff run.
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