Cardinals Roster Named 2nd-Worst in NFC West

Kyler Murray

Getty Cardinals QB Kyler Murray walks off the field in Los Angeles.

The Arizona Cardinals are coming off an 11-6 season and still have All-Pro QB1 Kyler Murrary under center. However, Pro Football Focus has ranked the NFL’s rosters and the Cardinals come in 23rd overall, second-worst in the NFC West. PFF’s ranking rests on a foundation of unproved depth, the DeAndre Hopkins suspension and Murray’s playoff debut.

Players with PFF grades over 80-100 are good to great, 70-79.9 marks the league average and scores 69 or lower are considered below average. A grade below 60 suggests practice squad talents. Most of the Arizona roster falls well short of being irreplaceable on the PFF scale.

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Murray Keeping Cards Competitive

The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner had an MVP-level first half of the 2021 season but Kliff Kingsbury’s squad faded down the stretch. Murray (PFF Grade: 82.9) had to carry a Cardinals team lacking depth behind Rodney Hudson, J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins once they went on the injured list. Still, he finished with 3787 yards, 24 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

The “Kyler and Kliff” duo got off to a scorching 7-1 start. The pairing had their first shot at a title since linking up in college but the Super Bowl run ended in shambles.

“Losing is one thing, but when you don’t even make it competitive it’s another thing,” Murray said after his playoff debut in January 2022.

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The Wild Card round loss exposed an incomplete squad, one that will be missing Hopkins to start the season. Murray’s favorite target must serve a six-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in violation of NFL policy. The front office added wide receivers Hollywood Brown (68.6) and G Will Hernandez (55.9) to shore up the offensive line and give Murray another option out wide.

RB James Connor (81.9) is the second-highest ranked offensive player on the roster per PFF but he will have to run behind five of the lowest-ranked linemen. Murray will need TE Maxx Williams (77.9), TE Zach Ertz (65.5), and WR A.J. Green (67.8) to create early separation to get the ball out quickly. If they cannot, Murray might not make it through the season.

Defending the Red Sea

DL J.J. Watt (78.6) will lead a defense looking to make amends for the 34-11 NFC Wild Card loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.

Arizona’s issues lie on the perimeter though. DL Markus Golden (75.2) and Devon Kennard (77.0) will free up Watt to roam. Unfortunately for the coaching staff, a soft middle and a lack of pressure on the perimeter points to more shootouts than shutouts in the immediate future.

2021 first-round pick LB Zaven Collins (66.5) needs a bounce-back year to avoid the “bust” label. The Tulsa alum had only 25 tackles, 1 pressure and 1 hurry all year while allowing 8 completions on 14 targets when dropping back into coverage. The hope is the game is slowing down and Collins will put it all together in year three.

LB Isaiah Simmons (49.7), 2020’s 8th overall selection, showed limited promise as a rookie but regressed last season. The former Clemson star was opportunistic, forcing four fumbles and snagging one interception. The Cardinals will need unproven players to step up and create their own luck to stay in the playoff race.

Cornerbacks Marco Wilson (48.6), Antonio Hamilton (65.4), and Byron Murphy Jr. (58.5) will be under the spotlight all season. Their Week 1 test is Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Then they have to find a way to stop Matthew Stafford twice and go to visit old rival Russell Wilson’s Denver Broncos before facing Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A disappointing season might mean a split between Kyler and Kliff. Murray wants a new contract and ownership wants Kingsbury to reach some more impressive playoff milestones. Even if this team has more talent than being given credit, a losing record would not be a surprise facing this schedule.

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