If football is back, it's natural that the questions around the Cardinals would be as well.
The Cardinals open training camp July 26 at State Farm Stadium, and the team will be trying to make a back-to-back playoff appearance for the first time since 2014-15 after an 11-6 season. It's a different team than the one that ended the season, however. No Chandler Jones, no Christian Kirk, no Chase Edmonds. Hollywood Brown has arrived, but still no DeAndre Hopkins, who was out with a knee injury at the end of last season and now must sit the first six regular-season games this year with a suspension.
Now coach Kliff Kingsbury will craft a new version of his team, building to the regular-season opener on Sept. 11 at State Farm Stadium against the Chiefs. Training camp is a time to sort out the big questions facing the team. Part Two will post Sunday.
WHAT KIND OF POST-CONTRACT KYLER WILL WE SEE?
Now that Kyler Murray has his new contract, what does that mean for the quarterback? He'll be 25 in a couple of weeks and going into his fourth year. He is no longer a "young" player. He is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowls but also back-to-back rough ends to the season. The new deal emphasizes what the organization has made clear from the time he was drafted -- Murray is the linchpin of the future. His status and play will always be the starting point before each camp as long as Kyler is in a Cardinals uniform – as he goes, so will go the season.
AS HOLLYWOOD ARRIVES, WHAT IS D-HOP'S ROLE?
Hopkins' suspension looms over the coming season. Missing your top skill player for six games can never be a good thing. How the Cardinals prepare Hopkins for a season in which he will have to be away from the team from Sept. 5 to Oct. 17 is another matter. Of course, that's why they brought in Marquise Brown – Hollywood, not for flamboyant nature, but because he hails from Hollywood, Florida – to ease the hurt of Hop's absence and to bolster the receiving corps when Hopkins does return. Brown and Rondale Moore will be the biggest keys at the position until Hop returns, with A.J. Green hopefully able to provide some down-the-field targets that made the offense so tough during their undefeated start last season.
IS THE OFFENSIVE LINE SET?
Now that the Cardinals know they have Rodney Hudson back at center after an offseason of uncertainty, the men up front have clarity. Hudson in the middle, D.J. Humphries at left tackle, Justin Pugh at left guard. Kelvin Beachum seems like the probable right tackle, although maybe Josh Jones can finally make a push after being drafted in the third round in 2020. At right guard, Will Hernandez was signed as a free agent, but Justin Murray will try to come back and give him a challenge. The line when healthy early last season was effective during the team's 7-0 start. Now they need to stretch it out over the whole season.
WHO IS RB2 (AND IS IT JUST ONE GUY)?
James Conner is RB1. Behind him? When Darrel Williams signed, with his extensive experience, he seemed like a likely choice – and he still may be. But Eno Benjamin got perhaps the most praise of any player this offseason from Kingsbury, and he might fit the role of the departed Chase Edmonds better than Williams. Or maybe Keaontay Ingram can make quick headway in the NFL game. It's one true camp battle to watch unfold.
WHEN WILL MAXX RETURN AND HOW MUCH WILL MCBRIDE DO?
Zach Ertz is TE1, but tight end 2 – on a tight end roster that is deeper than any year since the Cardinals moved to Arizona – remains in question. Maxx Williams was off to the best start of his career last season before a knee injury derailed his season and led to the trade for Ertz. Williams is still rehabbing and his availability for the start of the season is still up in the air. The Cardinals spent their top draft pick – a second rounder – on Trey McBride, a pass-catching two-way tight end from Colorado State. McBride may be needed early, as Williams gets back to health and the Cardinals potentially use more two-TE sets to get defenses thinking.