The Arizona Cardinals enjoyed the best start in the league this past season, as they were the final remaining undefeated team up until a Thursday Night Football loss that dropped them to 7-1. From there, the season unraveled, ultimately ending in a playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the division rival Los Angeles Rams.
A season that began with so much promise ended in disappointment. However, there is much to be excited about for the 2022 NFL season. The Cardinals still have star quarterback Kyler Murray, who has improved each year, under center. While the team will be without superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games of the season due to a drug suspension, Murray still has a ton of capable pass-catchers.
On the defensive side of the ball, Arizona has big-time difference-makers in JJ Watt and Budda Baker. However, if the Cardinals are going to make a run at the Super Bowl, they will need other playmakers to step up on the roster. With Hopkins gone, which pass-catcher is going to be the guy until he returns to field?
Watt is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line, but can anyone else be disruptive? These are some questions that will need to be answered in the 2022 NFL season.
That said, here are some players who could breakout and answer those questions for the Cardinals in the 2022 NFL season.
Cardinals Breakout Players For 2022 NFL Season
3. Rashard Lawrence
A former fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of LSU, Lawrence has appeared in just 20 games in two seasons for the Cardinals. Health has been an issue, as leg injuries have kept him on the sidelines in each of his first two seasons.
The 315-pound nose tackle has been in a competition for snaps with the likes of Corey Peters, Jordan Phillips and Leki Fotu, though Peters and Phillips both departed the team for free agency in the offseason.
Barring another move, Lawrence could find himself as the starting nose tackle, meaning he is very likely to play more than the 31 percent of the snaps he saw in 2021.
The LSU product has said that he worked on his body this offseason to ensure that he’s available. That should be music to the Cardinals coaches’ ears.
Arizona ranked just 20th against the run this past season and could use a presence like Lawrence in the middle of their defense. While he won’t be the type of player to rack up statistics, a big year from Lawrence could make everyone else on the Cardinals defense a whole lot better.
*Watch NFL games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*
2. Jalen Thompson
Jalen Thompson, a former supplemental draft pick, is entering his fourth year in the NFL. Thompson, 23, enjoyed a career year in 2021 alongside fellow safety Budda Baker. Thompson started every game for the first time in his career, recording career-best marks in tackles, interceptions and passes defensed.
He was overshadowed by Baker, a four-time Pro Bowler, but perhaps he shouldn’t have been. Thompson is an excellent communicator, helping to hold things together on the back end of the defense. He’s also the finest tackler on the Cardinals.
A perfectionist, the young Cardinals safety is seemingly always setting higher goals. The next step for Thompson is a Pro Bowl or All-Pro berth in 2022. Given his work ethic and his improvement each year in the NFL, it’s not hard to see Thompson achieving those goals.
The Cardinals acquired wide receiver Marquise Brown from the Baltimore Ravens at the NFL Draft, sending pick no. 23 in the first round to Baltimore in exchange for Brown and a third-round selection. Brown was going to step into a large role anyway, given the draft capital Arizona spent to land him.
However, with superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins set to miss the first six games of the season, Brown is poised to step into the role of alpha wideout. It’s one he’s familiar with, having been that guy for the Ravens the past few seasons.
However, 2021 was a big step forward for the 25-year-old, who tallied career-highs in targets, receptions and receiving yards. Brown proved he could handle a large workload in an offense, something that should serve him well in 2022 with the Cardinals.
Brown and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray have “dreamed” of being teammates in the NFL. In 2022, it will no longer be a dream, but a reality.
The friendship that the two have should only serve to make them more productive on the field. That could result in a breakout year for Brown.