Continuing this year's offseason opponent breakdowns on theRams.com, up next is Los Angeles' Week 13 and Week 17 divisional opponent, the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals embarked on the 2019 season with a new head coach and a new quarterback. Former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired after the team parted ways with Steve Wilks after one season. Arizona then chose former Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and dealt 2018 No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen to the Dolphins the next night for the 62nd overall pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick.
Compared to 2018, the Cardinals scored 136 more points under Kingsbury's Air Raid offense and went from last to 16th in the league in scoring offense (14.1 to 22.6 points per game). However, they regressed defensively, finishing last in total defense after being 20th in 2018. Opponents scored at least 30 points in 7 of their 16 games.
In that context, it made sense that Arizona elected to use its highest draft pick in 2020 on Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who was widely regarded as the most versatile defensive prospect in this year's class. While Simmons will primarily play linebacker, Cardinals second-year defensive coordinator Vance Joseph envisions an all-encompassing role for the rookie this upcoming season.
Other defensive reinforcements included signing former Bills defensive lineman Jordan Phillips and Giants outside linebacker Devon Kennard to three-year deals, and former Falcons inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell to a one-year deal.
The biggest move, though, was on offense, acquiring four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick from the Houston Texans in exchange for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and the Cardinals' 2021 fourth-round pick. Hopkins' 104 receptions for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns last year earned him his third consecutive AP First Team All-Pro selection, and he's had at least 1,100 receiving yards in five of his seven NFL seasons.
Kingsbury enters his second season as head coach of the Cardinals, compiling a 5-10-1 record in his first season.
What to watch for
Hopkins vs. Jalen Ramsey
The two faced off often in the AFC South when they were with the Texans and Jaguars respectively, and now they're back in the same division again as members of NFC West teams.
Ramsey in a video conference with reporters last month said Hopkins is one of the toughest receiver matchups he's had since entering the league.
"We've had some very, very good battles," Ramsey said. "I think he's the only receiver maybe that's gone over 100 yards on me in my career, and I've also had some success against him, holding him to his lowest totals he's ever had each year. So I'm excited. I'm excited for that challenge."
The respect is mutual, as Hopkins last year said that Ramsey is his favorite cornerback to play against. It should make for a pair of exciting matchups this upcoming season.