Projecting Cardinals’ Statistical Leaders for 2021 Season

Getty Images Budda Baker celebrates a play against the New England Patriots in 2020.

The 2021 season is very special for all 32 NFL teams including the Arizona Cardinals. It’s the first season with 17 games.

I know what everyone was thinking when it first became official. If you know the movie Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, there’s a famous scene where actor Ryan Reynolds says, “but why?

It mostly had to do with money, but every team now plays an additional game against their opposite conference. The Cards’ 2021 schedule has nine teams that made the playoffs last season, and their opponents’ overall winning percentage last season was .507. So it won’t be easy, to say the least. If you haven’t seen it already, we predicted the Cardinals’ season and record here.

It’ll take some time to get used to, especially with statistics for players of 17 games. Speaking of stats, these are our statistical predictions for each position on the Cardinals. We will also put a star next to each player who will make the Pro Bowl.


Quarterback

  • Kyler Murray*: 4,384 yards, 846 rushing yards, 32 passing TD’s, 12 interceptions, 10 rushing TD’s

Kyler was on track to being in the MVP conversation in 2020 but the shoulder injury he suffered in Week 11 against the Seattle Seahawks took a toll on him. That also forced him to not run as much. Murray has stated he wants to scramble less this season, which could make for more passing attempts. The Cardinals finished in 19th in DVO last season, and Kingsbury should begin to use the intermediate game as well as pre-snap motion. The Cardinals were last in pre-snap motion in 2020. Kyler’s gotten better weapons this season in A.J. Green and Rondale Moore and should make a bigger leap.


Running Back

  • Chase Edmonds: 902 yards, 6 touchdowns, 48 receptions, 464 yards, 3 touchdowns
  • James Conner: 552 yards, 7 touchdowns, 15 receptions, 142 yards, 1 touchdown

The trade for Rodney Hudson should make the rushing attack even better. According to Alex Weiner of Sports Illustrated, the Cardinals’ run blocking finished with the fifth-highest stuff rate and third-fewest adjusted line yards last year. Edmonds can benefit and should be an early-down back and pass-catcher. It wouldn’t be shocking if Edmonds has more than 1,300 scrimmage yards in 2021. Conner can be used at the goal-line or third-and-short plays, which is the reason Conner could lead in touchdowns for running backs.


Tight End

  • Maxx Williams: 24 receptions, 286 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Demetrius Harris: 16 receptions 182 yards, 0 touchdowns

The Cardinals ran 10-personnel more often than any other team. They lost Dan Arnold to the Carolina Panthers in free agency and haven’t made any changes other than adding Demetrius Harris. Williams should lead the tight ends in 2021, but we wouldn’t be shocked if Arizona finds a tight end before the trade deadline.


Wide Receiver

  • DeAndre Hopkins*: 121 receptions, 1488 yards, 11 touchdowns
  • A.J. Green: 66 receptions, 726 yards, 7 touchdowns
  • Rondale Moore: 63 receptions, 692 yards, 6 touchdowns
  • Christian Kirk: 55 receptions, 610 yards, 4 touchdowns
  • Andy Isabella: 32 receptions, 340 yards, 2 touchdowns

Hopkins should have a higher touchdown total than his six in 2020. His supporting cast on paper is much better than last year with 37-year-old Larry Fitzgerald having the second most receptions. Green can provide outside help and can rejuvenate his career with a better quarterback. He’ll definitely be a comeback player of the year candidate if he can stay healthy, which is a big question mark. The addition of Moore can be used in the middle of the field and even in the backfield. Like we mentioned earlier, Arizona should use pre-snap motion and Moore would be primed for that role. Arizona will deploy four WR sets by using Kirk and Moore in the slot.


Defensive Line

  • Chandler Jones*: 59 tackles, 16.5 sacks
  • J.J. Watt: 55 tackles, 8.0 sacks
  • Jordan Phillips: 32 tackles, 4.5 sacks
  • Corey Peters: 39 tackles, 3.0 sacks
  • Zach Allen: 38 tackles, 3.0 sacks
  • Rashard Lawrence: 34 tackles, 2.5 sacks
  • Leki Fotu: 20 tackles, 1.0 sack

Edge rusher Chandler Jones will wreak havoc and become a dominant force like he was in 2019. While Watt’s sack numbers didn’t jump out in 2020 with just five sacks, he was eighth in tackles for loss and had 12 quarterback knockdowns. Having the support of Jones and players like Corey Peters and eventually getting back Jordan Phillips from injury can make a difference. The Cardinals were fifth in sacks in 2020 without Jones for most of the year, imagine what the defensive line can do this season.


Linebacker

  • Isaiah Simmons*: 118 tackles, 6.0 sacks, 4 interceptions
  • Zaven Collins: 114 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 1 interception
  • Jordan Hicks: 89 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 interception
  • Markus Golden: 40 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 0 interceptions
  • Devon Kennard: 29 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 0 interceptions
  • Dennis Gardeck: 19 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 0 interceptions

We expect Isaiah Simmons to have a tremendous year two for the Cardinals. What’s better than the Cardinals drafting another linebacker who can create mismatches in Zaven Collins? This linebacker group is one of the best the Cardinals have had in years. Hicks can even see time on the field if Simmons plays at the slot, safety or edge.


Cornerback

  • Robert Alford: 64 tackles, 2 interceptions, 10 passes defended
  • Byron Murphy: 60 tackles, 3 interceptions, 12 passes defended
  • Marco Wilson: 45 tackles, 2 interceptions, 8 passes defended
  • Luq Barcoo: 18 tackles, 0 interceptions, 5 passes defended

This group is a cause for concern after Malcolm Butler retired and it’s a tad shocking that on September 9, the Cards’ still haven’t addressed it. Still, Alford is the number 1 cornerback and despite the counting stats, it’s not going to be easy in the early part. We do expect Byron Murphy to make a jump in year three, who was the best-graded cornerback by PFF in the preseason. Marco Wilson will get more snaps as the games go on, and he will surprise people with his athleticism. If the Cardinals are alive come the trade deadline, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Cardinals still try to add one more piece to this group.


Safety

  • Budda Baker*: 126 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2.5 sacks, 8 passes defended
  • Jalen Thompson: 82 tackles, 1 interception, 0 sacks, 2 passes defended
  • Charles Washington: 26 tackles, 0 interceptions, 0 sacks, 1 pass defended

Baker received his first All-Pro selection in 2020 and should receive another one this season. He even was ranked No. 19 in NFL’s Top 100 list in 2021. Budda is a tremendous tackler and can even apply pressure to the quarterback if needed. Jalen Thompson is a bit of an overlooked player on the defense, who is just 23-years-old. He did very well in his rookie season, totaling 57 tackles and one interception. Thompson suffered an ankle injury and a season with no preseason, which was hard for him. But Thompson is someone to watch on defense that not many talking-heads are mentioning.

 


Kicker

  • Matt Prater: 27/33, long of 54 yards, 49/53 extra points made

Adding Prater will be a difference-maker and a breathe of fresh air after what Cardinals fans went through in 2020 with Zaine Gonzalez. Prater brings a ton of veteran experience at the age of 37 and will be getting plenty of attempts with Arizona’s offense. A two-time Pro-Bowl selection in 2013 and 2016, Prater is regarded as one of the best long-distances kickers in history. It’s worth mentioning Prater hasn’t missed a game since 2014. The Cardinals are fortunate to have gotten the veteran in the offseason.

 


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