TEMPE – The Arizona Cardinals open their 2022 season Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium in a reunion of sorts.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be on opposite sidelines for the first time — a stark contrast to their days of running the Air Raid offense at Texas Tech from 2014 to 2016.
“It’ll be a little surreal going up against him, but it’ll be fun for Texas Tech people as well,” Kingsbury said.
In Lubbock, under Kingsbury’s play-calling, Mahomes threw for 5,052 yards and 41 touchdowns (10 interceptions) during the 2016 season. He was drafted by the Chiefs with the 10th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Mahomes took no time to cement himself as a top quarterback in the league, winning the NFL Most Valuable Player award in 2018 and Super Bowl LIV.
However, despite the 26-year-old’s immense success, Kingsbury finds more joy in qualities sometimes overshadowed by Mahomes’ list of accolades.
“Just really proud of the person more than anything, just watching how he’s grown up and the leadership qualities he shows on and off the field,” Kingsbury said. “He runs the gamut of what you want a sports star to be like and carry himself, so that’s been really fun to watch that development.”
Kingsbury and Mahomes won’t be the only two looking forward to Sunday’s clash. Cardinals running back Darrel Williams, who spent the past four seasons in Kansas City after joining the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent, in June signed a one-year $1.19 million contract to aid Arizona’s depth. He’s coming off his most productive season, with 558 rushing yards and six touchdowns in seven starts.
Week 1 will certainly be an adjustment, but familiarity with the opposing playbook won’t hurt.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting, I get to face my former teammates,” Williams said. “It’s going to be different, but I think it’s gonna be a great feeling. … The defensive coordinator has been asking me a couple of questions, and I have been giving them some tips on the offensive side since I was there for four years so I know the inside and outside.”
Williams, who won a Super Bowl ring and appeared in three AFC Championship games, attributed much of Kansas City’s sustained success to coach Andy Reid and the team’s overall work ethic.
“You the guru back there, Andy Reid. He does a great job of getting those guys prepared and all the players how they practice, just how they go about their business,” Williams said.
Cardinals free safety Jalen Thompson hopes to shut down the Chiefs business after he signed a three-year, $40 million contract extension last Friday. New deal aside, Thompson has only had one thing on his mind.
“My mindset was too focused on Kansas City and what he had to do for this week,” said Thompson, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 Supplemental Draft.
The Cardinals secondary is banged up with injuries to cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton (burns) and Trayvon Mullen (toe), but Thompson says the defense welcomes the challenege against an explosive Chiefs offense, even with the offseason loss of All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
“We go to stay on our toes and make sure we are doing the right stuff against Mahomes,” Thompson said.
“I feel like they’ll go a little more to Kelce now just because Tyreek (Hill) isn’t there but they have playmakers as well other than Tyreek. They have Mecole Hardman and a couple guys on the edge that can do the same things Tyreek did.”