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Dallas Cowboys 2020 opponent previews: Arizona Cardinals

Today we check out the Cowboys Week Six opponent, the Arizona Cardinals.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Training Camp Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals File

2019 Record: 5-10-1 (Missed Playoffs)

Last Meeting: 9/25/17 Dallas 28 - Arizona 17

Head Coach: Kliff Kingsbury (Second year)

Key Additions: WR DeAndre Hopkins, LB De’Vondre Campbell, DL Jordan Phillips, LB Devon Kennard, WR Larry Fitzgerald (Re-signed), RB Kenyan Drake (Re-signed), OT Marcus Gilbert (Re-signed), S Chris Banjo (Re-signed), OT D.J. Humphries (Re-signed)

Key Departures: LB Brooks Reed, RB David Johnson, DL Rodney Gunter, WR Damiere Byrd, TE Charles Clay, LB Joe Walker

2019 Overview

Despite their 5-10-1 record, the Arizona Cardinals were one of the more entertaining teams in football during 2019. Led by the combo of first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, Arizona was intriguing to watch week in and week out.

Murray was under constant duress all season long, being sacked 48 times, but still was able to put up solid production in his first year. The former Oklahoma Sooner is a true dual-threat quarterback and under Kingsbury’s tutelage was able to use both facets of his game to his advantage.

Aside from Murray, Arizona had solid seasons from newly-acquired running back Kenyan Drake and receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk on offense. On the defensive side of the ball the Cardinals had some big-time struggles. Arizona gave up 24 or more points in 11 of their 16 games, giving up 30 or more seven times.

All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones led the entire NFL with 19.0 sacks, but the Cardinals secondary really struggled. Pro-Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson missed six games due to injury contributing to the struggles of the secondary.

Player to watch.....DeAndre Hopkins, WR

The Cardinals made one of the most impactful moves of the offseason back in March when they acquired All-Pro wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, from the Houston Texans. Since entering the league in 2013, Hopkins has been one of the premier receivers in football, despite inconsistent play from his quarterbacks.

In 2019, Hopkins was named a First-Team All-Pro for the third consecutive season, catching 104 passes for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns.

In the Cardinals’ offense, Hopkins has a chance to be even more dynamic than he was in Houston. Paired with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, Hopkins will have a much more consistent receiving corps than he did with the Texans. He also will play for a very talented offensive-minded head coach in Kliff Kingsbury.

You could make a legitimate argument that Hopkins is the best receiver in all of football, and the Cardinals acquired him without even giving up a first-round pick. Murray and Hopkins will make up one of the best quarterback/receiver combos in the NFL and will likely lead to Hopkins making All-Pro for the fourth straight season in 2020.

Don’t Forget About.....Patrick Peterson, CB

After being the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, cornerback Patrick Peterson has been a consistent, dominant presence on the Arizona defense for nine years. The former LSU Tiger missed the Pro-Bowl for the first time in his career in 2019, mostly due to missing six games due to injury.

The three-time All-Pro has recorded 37 takeaways over the course of nine seasons, hauling in two interceptions in 2019. Peterson’s production did take a slight dip last season. According to Pro Football Focus, he had his lowest-rated defensive season since 2014, but his overall score was highly skewed by two poor performances against the 49ers and Buccaneers.

Back fully healthy in 2020, Peterson figures to make a huge impact on the defensive side of the ball for the Cardinals. Peterson is a true lockdown corner when at full strength, and additions on the defensive side of the ball should set him up for likely a Pro-Bowl year in 2020.

Look Out For.....Isaiah Simmons, LB

One of, if not the best, value pick in the 2020 NFL Draft was the Cardinals selecting versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons with the eighth pick. The former Clemson Tiger was by far the most versatile defender in the draft class, possessing the ability to play nearly every position on the defensive side of the ball.

At Clemson, Simmons was an absolute stud. In his final year in the orange and purple, he recorded 104 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks. Simmons also intercepted three passes and recorded eight pass defenses. The linebacker is a freak athlete, running a 4.39 40-yard-dash at 6’4, 240 lbs.

Simmons has already received high praise for his performance so far at camp. NFL Network’s Jeffri Chadiha called Simmons a “new age defender,” commenting on his ability to be a hybrid player.

“Well the Cardinals do love having him on their defense,” Chadiha said. “You’re talking about a guy who’s 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and as one person in the organization I talked to yesterday described as a freak, smart kid. When I texted this guy, who put up a video of Simmons in practice setting the edge. Talking about this guy taking on offensive lineman, going out and covering tight ends, covering receivers at 240 pounds. He’s going to be at linebacker right now but he’s going to play all over the field for them. A new age defender for a team certainly on the rise.”

Simmons looks to make a huge overall impact on the Arizona defense in 2020. Simmons or Chase Young seem like the heavy favorites to win Defensive Rookie of The Year, and if he plays to his potential it may be enough to lift the Cardinals defense to make them true contenders.

Overall Review

Without a doubt, the Cardinals are going to be a much better team in 2020. The question is, just how much better will they be? It all starts with the Arizona offensive line. The Cardinals did re-sign D.J. Humphries and Marcus Gilbert in the offseason and drafted tackle Josh Jones from Houston in the third round.

With Murray entering his second year and Hopkins and Drake adding more firepower to the offense, the offensive line needs to pick up their play for the Cardinals to be a dangerous team.

On the defensive side of the ball, the dominant Chandler Jones returns for another season, and star rookie Isaiah Simmons will be a huge addition. The secondary is the biggest cause for concern for Arizona, and much like the offensive line, their play will likely be the deciding factor if Arizona will be a true contender or not.