The Seahawks head to the desert this weekend for their first NFC West clash of the season. The Cardinals have undergone some significant change since these teams last met, bringing in a new head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, and a new quarterback, 2019 No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray. To find out more about this week's opponent, we reached out to AZCardinals.com senior writer Darren Urban with five questions about the Cardinals:
The early win-loss record notwithstanding, how has team responded to the coaching change overall, and what has Kliff Kingsbury brought in his first year as an NFL head coach?
Urban: "I think yes, the team has responded well. Kliff didn't have a long career in the NFL but he did play, and I think it's given him a chance to understand the pulse of the team and the NFL in general. He's got a blunt style, which guys like – meetings aren't long-winded. He says his part and he's done. He's very much a football guy – he loves to be at the facility, he loves to create plays. He also has a style and swag, if you will, that I think the players appreciate. He will have a learning curve coming from college, and long-term, he knows he still has to prove that what he does offensively will work in the pros. But he's smart and he understands he doesn't know everything, which will help him as he evolves."
What are the early reviews on Kyler Murray, and how has he handled all the spotlight and pressure that comes with being the No. 1 overall pick?
Urban: "Second part first – the spotlight and pressure don't really bother him. Part of that is because he's been starting and playing in front of huge crowds since he was a high school sophomore in Texas. He's been raised to be in the spotlight. I think he felt like he should've been the top pick all the time. So that won't faze him. Now, how will he handle it if the losses pile up? He's having to learn that now. He wants to win. He clearly burns to win. That's all he's ever done in football. But you can see the talent and the ability on the field. I don't really have a doubt he can become a great QB. Doesn't mean he will for sure, but the foundation is there."
The numbers show that Larry Fitzgerald is still getting it done on the field, but what do his experience and leadership mean for a young team in transition?
Urban: "It's crucial, especially in a receivers room that doesn't have much experience or resume. Fitz has morphed over the years into a solid leader, especially in his own room. But don't be mistaken – him getting it done on the field remains his most important function. Christian Kirk is primed to have a big year, but Fitz is Murray's security blanket and he's off to a great start after a down year in last year's mess of an offense."
The Cardinals have allowed 16 sacks in three games. Is that a product of concerning offensive line play, a quarterback who extends plays sometimes leading to sacks (something Seahawks fans have seen at times), or of playing from behind and becoming one-dimensional?
"I mean, of course it's all of the above. I actually think the OL has been fine when the Cardinals are in games and doing offensively what they want and not what the score dictates. It's going to get much rougher if you start passing every down. And as Seahawks fans have learned with Russell Wilson, as you mentioned, there is a tradeoff with a QB who can keep a broken play alive – sometimes it'll end badly. But it's a tradeoff you'll take. I think early on, with Murray as a rookie, there might be more bad than say, five years down the road, but you have to allow the kid to learn on the job."
How big of a blow has it been for Arizona's defense to open the season minus starting corners Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford? Is that the main culprit for the big numbers put up by Arizona's opponents thus far or is it more complicated than that?
Urban: "If you take one of the best cornerbacks in the game off the field, it's going to hurt big time. If you also take off the guy who was supposed to be No. 2 and then was supposed to be your temp No. 1, well, that's a serious gut punch. It has impacted them. No way to think otherwise. But the defense has issues otherwise too. Actually, they were OK in the first two weeks – the stats weren't awesome, but they kept the team in the game and, in my opinion, did what they are supposed to. I don't know if there is the personnel to be a great defense at this point. But they absolutely can be better than they were against the Panthers. They are hoping that performance was an outlier."