The three biggest things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Lions at State Farm Stadium:
Kyler/Kliff Combo Commences
This is what the 2019 season boils down to, in so many ways. What Kyler Murray does at quarterback for the Cardinals, and what Kliff Kingsbury does not only calling plays and orchestrating the offense, but also how he leads the team in his first season. The story won’t be completely written after 60 minutes against the Lions, but it isn’t as if Murray and Kingsbury aren’t anxious to get into a game that counts, and play offense like it counts. How the Lions deal with Murray will be intriguing. It’s hard to believe, even with some ups and downs, that Murray won’t have at least pockets of success in Week One. How Kingsbury organizes things to allow Murray to do it is the other part of the story.
Who The Cardinals Want On Their Islands
The Cards have to prove a few different things on defense, not the least of which is an ability to stop (or at least slow) the run after getting run over most of 2018. But that doesn’t overshadow the unknown on the back end, where the Cardinals are without starters Patrick Peterson (six games for suspension) and Robert Alford (at least eight games for a broken leg) long-term. Tramaine Brock must start, even though he was playing the slot last year in Denver. Either Byron Murphy or Chris Jones will be the other starter, and neither have ever played a regular-season defensive snap. (And whoever doesn’t start of those two will still play when the Cards go to the nickel.) The Lions have a good quarterback in Matthew Stafford, they have some solid receivers in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola (and a sparkly new tight end in T.J. Hockenson.) The Lions figure to run – you have to test this Cards’ run defense – but the Cardinals’ cornerbacks will get plenty of work. How well they hold up will go a long way in determining the course of the first half of the season.
Let’s Just Be Up Front With All This
If it weren’t for Murray’s arrival, the top story on offense very well could be the offensive line. It’s been the topic of conversation for a few years now, and the Cardinals are again trying to refurbish and relaunch the five guys who aren’t just trying to protect the quarterback (in what could be a system that is unlike one they’ve played in previously) but also clear some room for the “redemption” season of running back David Johnson. There are so many levels to the offensive line analysis – from the play itself, to how Kingsbury will deploy them (with or without a tight end?) to its ability as a group to stay healthy. And the spotlight doesn’t figure to dim after one game.