In 2021, the Arizona Cardinals had an unexpectedly strong season, winning their first seven games of the season and ending it with an 11-6 record.
They did poorly in the playoffs, getting run off the field by the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the wild card round, 34-11.
Some have wondered if Arizona’s success this past season was a mirage.
But now, after a couple of recent moves, it may be ready to seriously contend for the world championship this coming season.
Could the Cardinals be getting close to ending the longest title drought in the National Football League?
The Cardinals Will Have A New Weapon
Arizona already boasted a potent offense with DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver, a Pro Bowl dual-threat running back in James Connor and an ascendent quarterback in Kyler Murray.
Hopkins has been one of the NFL’s premier wideouts for several seasons now, and although he missed seven games in 2021 with a hamstring ailment and a torn MCL, he is sure to bounce back strong in 2022.
A reminder that DeAndre Hopkins is still the league’s best receiver. pic.twitter.com/YKsPzBnBNS
— PHNX Cardinals (@PHNX_Cardinals) February 20, 2022
Connor, whom the Cardinals acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, gave them 15 touchdowns this past season, which was tied for second place among all running backs.
Arizona also enjoys the services of receiver A.J. Green, and the seven-time Pro Bowler will be back with the team for another season.
But now, the Cardinals have added another game-changer to their roster.
On draft day, they nabbed Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who is a close friend of Murray’s, from the Baltimore Ravens.
Hollywood Brown x Kyler Murray
M A G I C ✨@OU_Football pic.twitter.com/CBZj6NobuV
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 29, 2022
Brown had 1,008 yards and six touchdowns last season, and at age 24, he may still have room for improvement.
The Cardinals’ offense looked outstanding through the first half of the 2021 campaign, as they often put up 30 or more points without breaking a sweat.
Although it fell off a bit late in the season when they lost four of their last five contests, they still finished 11th in points scored and eighth in total yards gained.
Those numbers may get at least a little bit of a boost in 2022, especially if a certain former Oklahoma star and Heisman trophy winner keeps improving.
Murray Is The Key
A few days ago, the Cardinals picked up the option for the fifth year of Murray’s rookie contract, which means that he will be with the team for two more seasons, at least.
This past season, he got off to a red-hot start, throwing 17 touchdown passes through the first seven contests of the year while posting a passer rating of 116.8 during that span.
Murray came down to earth a bit after that, but he still ended the season with 3,787 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and a 100.6 passer rating, despite missing three games due to an ankle injury.
He is also one of pro football’s best running quarterbacks, as evidenced by his 819 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in 2020, and his 423 yards and five touchdowns this past season on the ground.
Critics have pointed to Murray’s modest size (he’s just 5-foot-10 and just over 200 pounds) as something getting in the way of him becoming a truly elite quarterback.
But if Murray gets there soon, he and his teammates could be hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.