Predicting Arizona Cardinals season leaders heading into Week 2
The Arizona Cardinals may have several surprise players lead the team in distinctive categories in 2022. Here are my five favorite before Week 2.
You aren’t going to see the most logical predictions below, but bold ones based on what we saw in training camp, the preseason, and Week 1 from the following players. Of course, anything can happen over the next 17 weeks of what will be an exciting season for the Arizona Cardinals, or at least more exciting than what we saw in Week 1.
Despite the potential surprises, the players listed are either cutting another’s playing time or they are starting and putting up respectable numbers at their position. Other players listed are well into their primes and have already shown a knack for producing in their respective statistical category.
Who will lead the Arizona Cardinals in the following categories where there is no clear-cut winner after Week 1? Let’s meet them.
1 – Eno Benjamin leads the Arizona Cardinals in rushing yards
While the Cardinals look to have a committee of backs, I’m looking for Benjamin to emerge as the key guy as the season progresses. In Week 1, he led all Cardinals running backs in rushing yards with 28 on just four carries. And with James Conner struggling with injuries throughout his career and putting up a paltry performance in Week 1, Benjamin has a chance to take over starting in Week 2.
While the offensive line can shoulder some of the blame for Conner’s performance, Benjamin showed otherwise with a long of 16 yards in the Week 1 loss to Kansas City while he gained 12 yards on three additional carries. If Benjamin enjoys a solid Week 2, look for him to continue to cut into Conner’s carries.
2 – Zaven Collins paces the team in combined tackles
Collins still made a ton of mistakes in Week 1, but he still put up a decent stat line with seven combined tackles and two for loss. While safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson logged more, Collins’ performance shows me that he is at least developing a knack for finding ball carriers.
If he keeps up this pace, he will hit the 115-plus mark in Year 2. But if he continues to develop, I can see him going way over that number.
3 – Greg Dortch edges out Zach Ertz in receptions
Dortch had seven receptions in Week 1 and he is the kind of player you want lining up on offense at all times. While he should play slot receiver more than anywhere else, Dortch’s versatility and route-running ability make him a dangerous player.
I’m not going to get so bold and claim he is a faster version of Wes Welker, but he shows the ability to get open and enough surehandedness to be a security blanket on underneath routes for Kyler Murray. Look for Dortch to have a few more decent outings this season.
4 – Dennis Gardeck regains his form and leads the Cards in sacks
Gardeck hasn’t found the quarterback since the 2020 season, though he came close on multiple occasions in Week 1. Of his seven blitzes, he knocked down Patrick Mahomes once while applying three hurries. Last year, Gardeck logged just two hurries all season and four knockdowns. He will get to the quarterback often in 2022 and look more like that edge rusher we saw in 2020.
5 – Budda Baker wins the interception battle
While I feel Baker will fall just shy of Collins in leading the team in tackles, he will claim the lead in interceptions with five. If there is one defensive player next to J.J. Watt I can see showing a sense of urgency this week, it’s Baker, and he will show that urgency with sound defensive performances week in and week out.
While these my look like some bold projections, it’s important to remember that in the early stages of each NFL season, the best thing to do is to expect the unexpected. And that’s exactly why in most cases, I didn’t go with the most logical or intuitive pick.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)