The Seahawks host the Cardinals Sunday looking for a win that would keep them on top of the NFC West heading into the final week of the regular season. To learn more about the Seattle's Week 16 opponent, we reached out to azcardinals.com senior writer Darren Urban with five questions about the Cardinals:
Q: With almost a full season under his belt now, how has Kyler Murray's rookie season gone relative to the expectations that come with being the No. 1 pick. Would appear Cardinals fans have reason to be excited about the future, yes?
Urban: I would say yes, there is definitely optimism about the future in that regard. Murray has shown he indeed was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, and assuming he continues to learn his craft, it's hard to imagine him not becoming a franchise quarterback for years to come. The tools were there, and you could see that in the offseason. But the way he handles himself, the way he learns from mistakes and takes care of the ball, even the way he knows how to protect himself given his smaller stature, those are all things that could've been a problem for a rookie. The speed and arm talent were already apparent. Given that many good players can make a significant jump from Year One to Year Two, 2020 should be fun to watch unfold for Murray.
Q: Is the last time Seahawks fans are going to get to see one of the best receivers of all time, Larry Fitzgerald, play at CenturyLink Field?
Urban: If I had to guess – and it's just a guess – I'm going to say no, and that Fitz will make another appearance at CenturyLink in 2020. He’s says he doesn’t know what he’s doing yet, and I believe him there. But I think after he gives it some thought, he ultimately will decide to go again. I think he still enjoys the whole process, not only the work but the locker room. And he enjoys adding to his numbers. And his bank account. And with Murray, maybe the Cardinals can make a quick turnaround in the standings next year too. I know he'd rather not go out after back-to-back seasons like this.
Q: Kenyan Drake is new to the team since Arizona and Seattle last played each other, what has he added to the offense?
Urban: Drake, simply, fits really well in what Kliff Kingsbury likes to do. Enough so that it has relegated David Johnson to the bench. Drake has looked explosive in the run game, and he works well with Murray on the zone-read. As the season has gone on, Kingsbury has morphed his offense, and it looks less Air Raid-y than the first time the teams played. They run the ball pretty effectively, and Drake is a reason why.
Q: The defensive numbers obviously haven't been great this season, but it looks like that unit has played a little better the past two weeks, including four takeaways. What has gone wrong on defense this year, and what has led to some improvement of late?
Urban: Right now, they just don't have the personnel across the board to be as effective as they want to be. Injuries and other factors have cost them guys they were counting on this season, they are very young in the secondary, and Patrick Peterson is just now rounding into form after his suspension. Chandler Jones is a beast rushing the passer, but that has been an inconsistent element, and they are going to need to upgrade their defensive line. The improvement, I think, has to do with more comfort with Vance Joseph's system, especially for some of those younger players. And if Peterson can play these last two like he did against Cleveland, that'll make a difference too.
Q: Who are a couple of players, beyond the obvious big names, who you think could be X-factors in this game.
Urban: I think Drake is crucial, because they need that run game element, as well as WR Christian Kirk. Defensively, I think the non-Peterson cornerbacks – UW product Byron Murphy and Chris Jones – have to be able to prevent the big plays down the field.