Continuing our series of offseason opponent breakdowns following the 2021 schedule release, theRams.com examines Los Angeles' Week 4 home opponent and Week 14 road opponent, the Arizona Cardinals.
After adding three-time First Team All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to quarterback Kyler Murray's arsenal of targets via a trade with the Texans, and also signing outside linebacker Devon Kennard and inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell in free agency, the Cardinals had the makings of a team positioned to improve on its 5-10-1 finish in 2019.
Indeed, Arizona started off strong, arriving at a 5-2 record by their bye week. However, in part due to injuries to key contributors like edge rusher Chandler Jones and Phillips and members of their secondary, the other side of the bye week saw uneven results. Murray also sustained a shoulder injury in Week 11, then an ankle injury in Week 17 that sidelined him for the majority of the Cardinals' must-win regular season finale against the Rams to keep their playoff hopes alive.
While Murray returned early in the fourth quarter, the Rams still won 18-7 to clinch the No. 7 seed in the NFC West. The Cardinals' season ended with an 8-8 overall record.
Like many teams with a talented quarterback still on his rookie contract, the Cardinals made moves to surround theirs with as much talent as possible on both sides of the ball.
They used their first-round pick this year (No. 16 overall) on Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins, then added Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore with their second second-round pick (No. 49 overall).
Prior to the draft, the Cardinals signed former Texans defensive end J.J. Watt to a two-year deal in free agency. They also later signed former Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and former Steelers running back James Conner each to one-year deals.
Arizona also acquired center Rodney Hudson and a 2021 seventh-round pick from Las Vegas in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick.
Kliff Kingsbury is in his third season as head coach of the Cardinals, compiling an 13-18-1 record through his first two years with the franchise.
What to watch for
Rams defense vs. Murray and Cardinals receivers
Games like this are why the Rams have Jalen Ramsey and retained Darious Williams and Leonard Floyd.
With Hopkins, Green and Moore in the fold for Arizona, Los Angeles will be counting on Ramsey and Williams to contain an already-explosive passing attack. Additionally, mobile quarterbacks like Murray are exactly why the Rams brought back a long edge rusher like Floyd.
Each of the two regular-season matchups could very well be decided by how well that Rams trio contains the Cardinals' pass game.