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Cardinals push for playoffs with QB Murray, improved defense


CAMP SITE: Glendale, Arizona.

LAST YEAR: In their first season with coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray, the Cardinals were exciting on offense and showed promise for the future. Team’s defense was among the NFL’s worst and the big reason they had a losing record. Murray showed ample playmaking ability after being selected No. 1 overall from Oklahoma. A mid-season trade with the Dolphins brought RB Kenyan Drake, who played well during the last half of season. Though the defense struggled, linebacker Chandler Jones and safety Budda Baker made the Pro Bowl.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: WR Deandre Hopkins, LB Isaiah Simmons, LB Devon Kennard, LB De’Vondre Campbell, DT Jordan Phillips, OT Josh Jones, DT Leki Fotu, DT Rashard Lawrence, OT Kelvin Beachum.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: RB David Johnson, WR Damiere Byrd, WR Pharoh Cooper, TE Charles Clay, C A.Q. Shipley, DL Rodney Gunter, DL Zach Kerr, LB Cassius Marsh, LB Joe Walker.

PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: The Cardinals would have liked to have more time developing Murray, who will have a new No. 1 receiver in Hopkins. They’ve also made lots of changes to defense and would like to have seen how all their new pieces fit.

CAMP NEEDS: All eyes will be on Murray to see how big of a jump he makes in his second season. There’s also a potential position battle at right tackle, where returning starter Justin Murray, veterans Marcus Gilbert and Beachum, and rookie Jones are all in the mix. The defense will be work in progress with coordinator Vance Joseph figuring out how veterans Kennard, Campbell, and Phillips fit in his system. Joseph also must figure out how to best to use Simmons, the No. 8 overall pick who was a do-everything defensive star at Clemson.

EXPECTATIONS: The Cardinals want to push for a winning record and a spot in playoffs for the first time since 2015. Considering roster improvements, that’s not totally unrealistic, but the NFC West is a tough place to be. The San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, and Seattle Seahawks all expect to make the playoffs as well.


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