We explored the offense yesterday, so now we have the defensive side of the ball in my annual prediction of what the lineup will be for the opening regular-season game of the year – whenever that might be.
The coronavirus has made it more difficult to analyze, given the lack of an offseason, but let's try nonetheless:
DE – Jordan Phillips. The biggest addition of free agency, literally and figuratively. He's coming off a career year in Buffalo, and the Cards are counting on him to make an impact on the interior.
NT – Corey Peters. Steady as they come, the one player the Cardinals have been able to count on with the defensive line.
DE – Zach Allen. His rookie season derailed by injury, the Cardinals need him to become the player they hoped he'd be when they took him in the third round last year.
OLB – Chandler Jones. He was magnificent last season, totaling 19 sacks and getting into the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. It's not fair to expect another 19 sacks, but the Cards need him to do the heavy lifting at pass rush again.
ILB – Jordan Hicks. Answered all the questions about his ability to stay healthy, playing every single snap and having a solid season. Might not have to be the iron man this year with Campbell and Simmons there to help out.
ILB – De'Vondre Campbell. Yes, there is the chance first-round pick Isaiah Simmons finds his way into the starting lineup. But given Campbell's experience and price tag, along with Simmons' lack of work in the offseason thanks to the world 2020 has left us with, I'm guessing the veteran gets the nod and Simmons is worked into the lineup in a lot of different ways.
OLB – Devon Kennard. The Cards are hoping he can be a solid bookend for Jones now that he's come home.
CB – Patrick Peterson. After an awful 2019 in so many ways, P2 carries a lot of confidence he can have a return to his Pro Bowl level heading into his contract year. He's the linchpin to this defense.
CB – Robert Alford. Was playing really well in training camp before the unfortunate broken leg. Peterson's return to form is crucial, but getting Alford to play a solid No. 2 – the plan for 2019 – is no less important.
FS – Budda Baker. Made his first Pro Bowl and heads into his contract year trending up.
SS – Jalen Thompson. Showed enough flashes as a rookie that the Cardinals look like they are counting on him to be the guy to team with Baker at safety. Would be a nice payoff on a supplemental fifth-round pick.