If you ask old school scouts what is required to field a championship contender, they will quickly tell you that it takes eight to twelve blue-chip players to compete for a title. This premise has been the standard for general managers around the league and I rely on it to help me identify the players to watch on game day.
With that in mind, I thought I would take a little time to identify the players to watch on the Cowboys' next opponent. Here the top players for an Arizona team that has seen many injuries along the way, but still have some elite guys on the roster.
Kyler Murray, QB: The ultra-athletic quarterback is an explosive dual-threat playmaker with the potential to torch defenses with his arm or legs. Murray ranks third in the NFL in completion rate (69.1%) and is one of just seven quarterbacks with a passer rating of 100.0 or better. If the streaky passer gets into a rhythm early, he is more than capable of carving up the Cowboys' secondary with surgical precision.
James Conner, RB: The NFL's second-leading touchdown scorer has given the Cardinals' offense a physical element with his hard-charging running style between the tackles. Despite battling through an ankle injury, the veteran could steady an offense that has lost its way in recent weeks.
Christian Kirk, WR: The shifty pass-catcher is more than a slot receiver. Kirk is the team's leading receiver in Deandre Hopkins' absence, and his crafty route-running skills make him a difficult match-up in one-on-one situations. If the Cardinals need a play on a money down, the ball is probably heading to No.13 to move the chains.
Zach Ertz, TE: The Cardinals' midseason acquisition is a dependable weapon over the middle of the field. Ertz ranks in the top 10 among tight ends in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, while settling into a role as the team's top red-zone weapon.
Chandler Jones, EDGE: The veteran remains one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the game with a repertoire of moves that makes him nearly impossible to slow down off the edges. Jones leads the Cardinals with 23 QB hits while adding 9.5 sacks to set the tone for a Cardinals' pass rush that has the potential to take over games. With the Cowboys potentially playing a backup at left tackle, Jones could move around to take advantage of a favorable matchup.
Markus Golden, EDGE: With all of the attention focused on Jones, the energetic pass rusher has emerged as the team's leading sack artist. Golden utilizes a combination of speed rushes and power maneuvers to whip blockers ill-equipped to deal with his hustle-hard tactics off the edges.
Budda Baker, S: The Cardinals' Swiss Army knife is a dynamic box area defender with impressive skills as a hit, run, and cover specialist. The Pro Bowler is an instinctive defender with a knack for finding the ball and his stat sheet (91 tackles, 3 INTs, 1.0 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss) reveals his impact as a playmaker.
Isaiah Simmons, LB: The second-year pro has enjoyed a breakout campaign with his instincts taking over as the game slows down for him. As a long, rangy athlete with outstanding awareness and diagnostic skills, Simmons is one of the weapons defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will deploy to slow down an explosive Cowboys' offense.