Who's the Guy: Kyler Murray
The fourth-year pro is on the cusp of joining the ranks of the elite at the position but needs to show more consistency in his play, particularly down the stretch. As a quick-rhythm passer with outstanding arm strength, touch and anticipation, Murray can thread the needle on tight-window throws or drop the ball in on vertical tosses. In addition, he flashes jitterbug-like running skills as he scoots around defenders on designed quarterback runs and impromptu scrambles. If Murray gets it going early, he is more than capable of putting the Cardinals' offense on his back as a one-man show.
Don't Sleep On: James Conner
Despite the Cardinals' pass-happy offensive approach, the 6-foot-1, 233-pound runner is a key contributor as a red zone weapon/workhorse. Conner punched in 15 rushing scores in 2021 while also flashing strong hands and solid receiving skills. Without DeAndre Hopkins on the perimeter, the Cardinals might opt for a little ground and pound this week to control the tempo of the game.
Know His Name: Budda Baker
The all-star safety is not only one of the Cardinals' top defensive players, but he is one of the premier players in the league. Baker's combination of instincts, awareness and playmaking skills enable him to play a variety of positions in the defensive backfield. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will attempt to craft a few blitzes and coverages that put No. 3 in a prime position to make a play on the ball. As the Cardinals' leading tackler and most disruptive defender, the Raiders must be aware of Baker's whereabouts at all times to limit his ability to produce a game-changing splash play in a key moment.
Under Pressure: Marquise Brown
The Cardinals' marquee offseason addition must temporarily fill the WR1 role with DeAndre Hopkins sidelined due to a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder is a proven big play threat with speed to burn, but he lacks the size to win the 50-50 balls that are a Hopkins' specialty. Brown needs to make his mark in other ways that force opponents to focus on him and create opportunities for others to get loose on the perimeter.
Since 2016, seven teams have started 0-2 after making the playoffs the previous seasons, and all seven teams missed the playoffs that season. (2021 Indianapolis, 2020 Minnesota, Philadelphia and Houston, 2018 Buffalo, 2017 New York Giants, and 2016 Washington)
Kliff Kingsbury has utilized an NFL version of the "Air Raid" system that produced gaudy numbers in the college game. While he has tweaked and modified his scheme with the Cardinals, the quarterback-friendly concepts have enabled Murray and Co. to light up scoreboards around the league throughout his tenure. With an athletic triggerman with outstanding arm talent, movement skills and diagnostic ability, the Cardinals' offense has big play potential when No.1 finds his rhythm in the pocket. If Murray and his receivers get into a groove early in the game, it could be a long day for a defense tasked with defending an offense that stretches the field horizontally and vertically with unique concepts.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph believes in solving all of the Cardinals' defensive problems with high-pressure tactics. The former head coach is not afraid to bring a blitz in any situation from a variety of personnel packages and defensive fronts. The ultra-aggressive approach will lead to some splash plays for the Cardinals, but the "boom-or-bust" approach has consequences when opponents are able to handle the pressure at the line of scrimmage. If the Raiders' offensive line is able to sort through the myriad of twists, games and blitzes that await them, the wideouts could have a field day against an overmatched secondary.
Matchup to Watch: DJ Humphries and Kelvin Beachum vs. Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones
The Cardinals must make this game a track meet to enhance their odds of winning games, particularly against a Raiders' squad that leans heavily on their high-powered offense. To move the ball against a talented Raiders' frontline, the Cardinals will have to slow down Crosby and Jones off the edges. Humphries and Beachum must match the energy and effort that the Raiders' disruptive tandem will throw at them on obvious passing downs. In addition, the Cardinals' edge blockers will need to stymie the signature moves and counters utilized by Crosby and Jones to get to the quarterback. How well Humphries and Beachum fare against the Raiders' pass-rushing tandem will ultimately determine whether the Cardinals' offense lights up the scoreboard.
Head inside Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center to view the best photos from the Silver and Black's Wednesday practice.