PHOENIX — The Cardinals take on the Titans at 10 a.m. Arizona time Sunday in their season opener.
Here are five things to watch for during Week 1 of the NFL season.
Can the Cardinals “contain” Derrick Henry?
Containment has been the only hope for opposing defenses over the last three seasons. Henry has averaged no less than 4.5 yards per carry in any season as an NFL running back.
The Titans bruiser destroyed NFL defenses for an average of 5.4 yards per carry on his way to a 2,027-yard campaign in 2020 and is likely salivating at the thought of facing a rookie middle linebacker in Zaven Collins.
Vance Joseph and the Cardinals defense need to tackle as a team and limit the run game. How do they do this? That’s anybody’s guess.
Is Kyler Murray much improved?
Let’s begin by saying he doesn’t need to be improved greatly from the QB who took the league by storm in the first few weeks of 2020. With that said, he does need to sustain that effort better in the second half of the season.
The talent is evident and Murray has improved every year at every level of the game, but there comes a point in the NFL when talent alone doesn’t get it done. Can Murray complete to his second and third reads on a regular basis? All reports are K1 did this in training camp, but will it translate to Sunday in Nashville?
How does Chandler Jones look?
The great unknown coming into the season is the health and effectiveness of Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones. When healthy, he is a flat-out stud coming off the edge. Unfortunately, he wasn’t remotely healthy in 2020 and missed time in training camp too. The Cardinals were hush-hush on what Jones was dealing with this preseason, but you can bet all eyes will be on him Sunday in Nashville.
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Does Kliff Kingsbury bring a swagger to his coaching?
Swagger does not mean style because very few people would question Kingsbury’s ability to walk the red carpet. I’m talking about confidence - and dare I say, arrogance. Kliff Kingsbury might have the most to prove in terms of Cardinals who are trying to show they belong.
Clock management, play calls, fourth-down decisions and timeout demeanor are all valid things fans could have questioned Kingsbury on last season. The Cardinals head coach might take a risk that doesn’t work out, but does he look confident in doing so? I am watching to see if coach Kingsbury has become the leader, he needs to become to get this team to the playoffs. I’m watching if he walks around with the swagger it takes to be the man in charge.
How do the Cardinals cover Tennessee’s wide receivers?
Julio Jones is a problem all by himself but throw A.J. Brown in the mix and now defensive coordinators are having nightmares.
The idea of covering these massive wide receivers is a problem for every NFL defense, especially the Cardinals who come in with questions at cornerback.
Arizona was thin at the position before Malcolm Butler retired, but now they’re putting trust in a rookie - Marco Wilson, a veteran who hasn’t played in almost three years – Robert Alford, and third-year corner – Byron Murphy Jr. If for some reason the Titans running game isn’t working, expect the passing game to be utilized often.
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