The Arizona Cardinals kick off the season against the Tennesee Titans on the road with both teams hoping to start the upcoming season off on the right foot. The Cardinals missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season with an 8-8 record while the Titans won the AFC South division with an 11-5 record last year. Both teams are hoping to make massive leaps in the upcoming season and the kickoff game will be a great test for both rosters.
Cardinals hope to improve on both sides of the ballThe Cardinals looked like a playoff team when they started out last season with a 5-2 record only to finish the season 8-8. The hope is that the offense can take a big leap in the third year of head coach Kliff Kingbury's offense as the unit scored 25.6 points per game last season. Kyler Murray looks to improve off a season where he had 3916 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns while also rushing for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns but will need help on the offensive side of the ball. The lack of support in the run game is why the Cardinals acquired running back James Connor in the offseason who will split carries with Chase Edmunds, who had 448 rushing yards for the Cardinals. In the passing game, Murray will look to all-pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who 1407 receiving yards last season, as well as fourth-year starter Christian Kirk and free-agent signing AJ Green to help spread out the offense.
While the offense struggled at the end of the season, the defense also hopes to step up after allowing 22.9 points per game. The front of the defense will return pass rusher Chandler Jones, who is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL but missed 11 games last season to injury who will join free-agent signing JJ Watt on the defensive line. In the middle of the field, the Cardinals will hope that second-year linebacker Isaiah Simmons steps up in addition to first-round selection Zaven Collins to join veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks in the middle along with safety Budda Baker, who had 118 tackles along with two interceptions. The question for the defense is who will help out Baker in the secondary with veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson leaving in the offseason, making this season a crucial one for third-year cornerback Byron Murphy who looks to step into the number one corner role in coverage.
Titans look to offense to carry the team againThe Titans went 11-5 and were led by one of the best offenses in the NFL, scoring 30.7 points per game. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a great season with 3819 passing yards and 33 passing touchdowns but the offense was truly carried by arguably the best running back in the NFL in Derrick Henry, who had 2027 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, leading all running backs in both categories. In addition, the offense is only getting stronger with the passing game adding one of the best receivers in the NFL in Julio Jones, who the team acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason who will join AJ Brown, who had 1075 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last season, in helping make the passing game even better.
While the offense was one of the best last year, the defense struggled, allowing 27.4 points per game. The hope is that acquiring pass rusher Bud Dupree will help the team upfront with Harold Landry being the team leader in sacks last season with 5.5 as the defensive line failed to generate pressure throughout the season. The strength defensively is in the secondary with safety Kevin Byard leading the team in tackles with 111 while safety Amani Hooker led the team with four interceptions last season. Ultimately, the Titans need to find cornerbacks who can eliminate receivers in one-on-one coverage as the Titans last season were susceptible to teams that could find favorable matchups down the field.