It’s easy to forget there were so many Arizona Cardinals players that excelled against the Tennesee Titans on September 12. Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and the five-sack performance from Chandler Jones are key players that headlined a tremendous 38-13 victory on the road in Week One.
“Man, he won the game,” Hopkins on Murray. “At the end of the day, it says W or a loss. He had five touchdowns. He prepared like he was going to have five touchdowns. He demanded everybody else to be on their A-game. When we messed up, Kyler was the first one on us. I expected that out of him the way he’s prepared this offseason.”
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But there are some players that made a big difference in this game that won’t get the headlines. We’ll touch on four players who stepped up and shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The second-year linebacker Isaiah Simmons had a total of nine tackles and was all over the field, including catching a Ryan Tannehill interception. It was expected prior to the season that Simmons would make an impact everywhere on the field.
But to have an exceptional performance against a playoff-caliber team on the road in Week One? This is very encouraging to see for every Cardinals fan. Simmons played 91% of the snaps and stuffed Derrick Henry twice, who’s one of the most ferocious runners in the game.
ESPN’s Field Yates thinks Simmons is the most improved player in the league, looking like the same kid from college.
But Simmons with all of his humbleness, admits there were things that need to be adjusted for the next game.
“We came in with really high confidence, but we have so much to clean up.”
He had a decent amount of snaps at the edge position and at the slot. We wouldn’t go against Simmons’ odds of getting to the quarterback next week against the Vikings.
The performance by third-year cornerback Byron Murphy has to feel comforting for Cardinals fans. He was aggressive and limited Julio Jones and others.
To add some context, according to Pro Football Focus, Byron Murphy Jr. had the 8th highest overall defensive grade among CBs through Sunday. His teammates Alford had the 10th highest grade. Murphy’s coverage grade of 78.5 ranked fourth among corners.
Murphy can move inside at the slot and outside, which could be what defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s plans to do for the season.
Veteran left tackle D.J. Humphries was given the captaincy for the second-straight season in 2021.
“It’s one of my highest honors I’ve received as a player…being an offensive lineman, I’ve never really received any awards..it’s something that I’ll tell my grandkids about.”
Humphries was given a tough task against Titans’ free-agent addition Bud Dupree and he passed with flying colors. The left tackle allowed no pressures throughout the day.
When you don’t hear about an offensive lineman during a game, that’s normally a good thing. Humphries was fifth on the team in PFF offensive grades with a 78.7 grade. Titans reporter Turron Davenport said Dupree attempted to bull rush Humphries, but 307 lb tackle had an answer for everything.
The Cardinals were the only team to have three wide receivers with 80+ grades from PFF. The leader of the pack wasn’t Hopkins in that department but it was the 24-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona in Christian Kirk with 85.9. DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore went just after him.
Kirk came up with five receptions, including two touchdowns in the first week and just so happens to be heading into his contract year. While the rookie Moore played extremely well, it’s fair to say Kirk didn’t have the spotlight on him before the season. Now, he gets to play exclusively in the slot and had the third most routes on Murray’s 36 dropbacks.
We could pump the brakes given it’s just one game against a defense notorious for giving up points. But many didn’t expect this outcome.