The Arizona Cardinals have hit the reset button for the second time in two years. Last year’s first-round pick was spent on Josh Rosen, who started 13 games and led the Cardinals to their only three victories. That wasn’t good enough, as “The Rosen One” turned out not to be the Chosen One for Arizona.
As it turns out, Steve Wilks wasn’t either. The Cardinals have a new head coach in Kliff Kingsbury and a new starting quarterback in Kyler Murray, unless, of course, the Cardinals bring the Texas A&M and Oklahoma product along slowly by using…Mike Glennon? Brett Hundley?
Okay, so it is already Murray’s team. The cupboard isn’t bare for the Heisman Trophy winner, but a lot of work needs to be done in the desert and that work is expected to be done by a first-year head coach that will call his own plays, a first-year quarterback, and an experienced defensive coordinator without much to work with.
Surely expectations are low, so Kingsbury has time to figure this all out, but the rest of the NFC West doesn’t appear to be getting weaker anytime soon.
Super Bowl Odds: LOL
Odds to Win the NFC: LMAO
Odds to Win the NFC West: ROFL
Season Win Total: 5
(lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
|7||@ NY Giants||+4.5||.33|
|8||@ New Orleans||+14.5||.05|
|9||San Francisco (TNF)||+3||.41|
|10||@ Tampa Bay||+4.5||.33|
|11||@ San Francisco||+8.5||.20|
|17||@ LA Rams||+14 (est)||.08|
Total Expected Wins: 4.64
As mentioned above, it was a busy offseason for the Cardinals, who basically tore the house down to the studs. The defensive is littered with veteran free agents, as Jordan Hicks, Robert Alford, Darius Philon, and Terrell Suggs were brought in to provide leadership, depth, and push for starting roles. Leading tackler Antoine Bethea left town in free agency to sign with the Giants. So, too, did Markus Golden. Arizona also acquired Marcus Gilbert in late March.
The Cardinals did fall short of wholesale changes on offense because they still have Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, but the offensive line will look different with JR Sweezy and Max Garcia on the interior. Murray will have a new weapon with Charles Clay at tight end, giving the Cardinals one of the better options that they’ve had there in a couple of years, assuming he stays healthy.
Kyler Murray went first overall, as Kliff Kingsbury got his guy. Josh Rosen was shipped off to Miami for dimes on the dollar after the Cardinals took away any and all leverage that they had with the sophomore quarterback. With Kingsbury’s offense, skill guys were needed, so Arizona plucked Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and Keesean Johnson, who all stood out at their respective universities.
Byron Murphy went 33rd overall and could be an immediate starter in the secondary with Patrick Peterson’s six-game suspension. The Cardinals are also likely to start athletic DE Zach Allen with a 3-4 base defense under Vance Joseph.
Kyler Murray is set up for immediate success. Kliff Kingsbury’s system worked well in college and Murray goes from Lincoln Riley’s up-tempo, spread-it-around scheme to something that will seem very similar. He’s got David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and three really high-upside pass catchers from the Draft in Isabella, Butler, and Johnson. Burner Christian Kirk is familiar with Murray during his own Texas A&M days. There are a lot of weapons here.
Murray’s mobility should help an offensive line that was putrid last season. Say what you will about Josh Rosen’s numbers, but the UCLA product was sacked 45 times. The Cardinals only managed 3.8 yards per play. Overall, the offensive line served up 52 sacks to the defense. Kingsbury’s offense will allow the OL to hold blocks for a shorter amount of time and Murray’s escapability should help. Still, this is an offense that will have to grow up together.
Vance Joseph is a good hire. He wasn’t much as a head coach, but he’s a strong defensive coordinator and his expertise will allow Kingsbury to focus solely on the offense. The Patrick Peterson suspension is a real bummer, as it will force Byron Murphy to take on a huge role early in the season. He’ll see Matt Stafford, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, and Matt Ryan in those first six weeks.
We’ll have to see if Joseph’s 3-4 works better than Al Holcomb’s did. The Cardinals have had some defensive coaches poached in recent years and the defense fell apart last season, allowing 4.9 yards per carry. A more competent offense should help, as the Arizona O was 32nd in third-down conversion rate. That didn’t help a beleaguered defense that only forced 16 turnovers, five of which came in one game.
Notes & Nuggets
As of now, the Cardinals are an underdog in all 16 games and will face spreads of a touchdown or more at least six times. Three home games after the bye week means a lot of time at home late in the season, which should provide a boost late in the year, especially if Kingsbury’s schemes have taken hold by then.
The schedule just doesn’t have any soft patches with the competitive AFC North and NFC South in non-division play. Even the last-place games against the Giants and Lions are tricky.
I expected this to be fairly cut and dry with a look at the under. There are a lot of really exciting pieces on offense, but there will be a plethora of growing pains, from Murray to Kingsbury to the rookie wideouts. Fitzgerald is really the only reliable pass-catching option right now and we’ve never really seen Kingsbury able to implement a running back correctly in any of his offenses.
The obvious lean here is to the under, seeing as how the Cardinals would need to pull off five outright upset wins to go over this win total, but this could be a really exciting team to watch as the year goes along.