Cardinals Look Forward

Arizona welcomes the spread as Vegas under values the Murray effect.

Season total wins: Over/Under 5.  Take the OVER 5 -130.

Steve Keim showed a lack of patience and made a few poor FA additions this offseason but you have to acknowledge that he has accomplished a great deal.   It’s obvious that he lacks the polish of a great GM, but he did not fail his franchise this time around. That’s strange to say, because he’s been on a milk carton since 2015’s draft class.  Keim, who was highly regarded in 2013 and 2014, entered 2019 in a three year slump. Three draft classes netted a total of Budda Baker, Christian Kirk, and a still developing and position-less Hassan Reddick.  2018 as a whole was a disaster. Bradford/Glennon/Rosen, a horrible coaching hire and a wishful thinking FA addition in Justin Pugh that has not worked out. The most impressive thing Keim managed to do in 2018 was to avoid being fired.   2019, call it a bounce back year. Keim is the GM who hired Wilks and drafted Rosen. He deserves the blame for that. He also deserves some credit for abandoning both the very next year. Again, it’s amazing he kept his job but after seeing the 2019 offseason, he deserved to keep his job.

Hiring Kliff Kingbury was a bold move.  It makes Arizona relevant and interesting.  The public responds to high octane spread offenses and KK will do everything in his power to bring that to the desert.  On one hand, you can see how KK will benefit from coaching in a league where he will not be at a recruiting disadvantage.  On the other hand, this is quite a leap of faith. Young offensive coaches are in vogue but no one has the slightest clue how this will go.  The great news for KK is that he was hired by a team that was gifted Kyler Murray. Regardless of the version of spread KK’s air raid resembles at the pro level, a highly mobile QB is a necessity.  In part due to the offenses demands, in part due to the mediocre OL of Arizona. I expect to see an offense that gets vertical quickly and most closely mirrors the Texans offense. Houston is also lacking on the OL.  Houston has less talent at RB. Houston’s TEs make no impact. Houston is Watson, Hopkins and Fuller or Coutee or DT. Last year Houston outscored Arizona by 10 points a week. If Arizona scored 24.1 points per week last year, Arizona would have went 7-9.

However, that’s not the whole story.  Fitzgerald, Kirk, and Johnson are a formidable trio.  When Houston had 3 of their WRs healthy, they scored 25.5 points a week.  Arizona would have went 8-8 if they added 11.4 points a week. Why stop there?  The spread offenses around the league have made an obvious push to add vertical weapons to their WR cores.  KC added Watkins and Hardman in the last 2 years. The Rams traded a 1st round pick for Cooks when they knew they were going to lose Watkins.  The Bears snatched up Gabriel and utilized Cohen when Nagy came aboard.  Houston drafted Coutee last year to add to Fuller and Hopkins. Arizona wasted no time in drafting Isabella and Butler.  Isabella is critical to this offense and is one of the most likely rookie WRs to make an instant fantasy impact. Think healthy Will Fuller with Watson.  You now have an Arizona offense that has pieced together a functional OL, but can put five weapons on the field. Houston never topped 3. There might be growing pains but the weapons required for this offense to function are at KK’s disposal.  With Butler, Arizona is even prepared for life after Fitzgerald.

Last year, Arizona’s offense was brutal.  The scheme was brutal but the QB was an anchor that dragged them down.  Many talk about how the OL and scheme hurt Rosen. He was a big part of the problem as well.  Frankly, the OL wasn’t as bad as it looked last year. It was injured. AQ Shipley missed the season and is light years ahead of Mason Cole.  Humphries missed 7 games. The only starting offensive lineman who played more than 10 games last year was the backup center. If Arizona gets a healthy year out of Humphries, Shipley and Gilbert their offensive line will be much improved from the injury ward lineup they played last year.

KK tabbed Vance Joseph as his DC and that was a wise decision.  This is not to say Vance Joseph is a good defensive coordinator but he is the right coach to pair with a brand new NFL coach.  However, there is a silver lining to Joseph as a DC. Last year Joseph was one of the few coaches who clued in on the spread offense.  KC scored 28.5 points versus Denver. 6.3 points low of their season average. The Rams scored 23 versus Denver. 7.8 low of their season average.  Why? Vance blitzed them mercilessly. Goff went 14-28 for 201 yards and an interception. Denver sacked Goff 5 times. If Vance can hold the Rams to 23 points, Arizona will steal a game from the Rams this season.  The 3-4 defense, and addition of Hicks, finally lets Reddick play the Buck role that he was always meant to play.

The 3-13 season that Arizona put on the books last year was no representation of the talent they have on their roster.  The 3-13 season came due to an injury decimated OL, a miserable OC, and an overmatched and shell-shocked rookie QB. I look back at Cleveland in 2017.  0-16 despite being a team talented enough to go 6-10. They didn’t win a game because their HC and OC was Hue Jackson, and their QB was a million pound anchor named Kizer.  Insert a HC, half way through 2018, who ran a functional offense with Baker Mayfield and Cleveland is a 7-8-1 club. Murray is better than Baker. Arizona lost nothing this offseason.  Bethea is upgraded to Swearinger. Golden, 1 year removed from a knee injury, was upgraded to Suggs. Bucannon upgraded by Hicks. They’ve added Murphy opposite Peterson and depth to the DL.  The offense is flush with vertical weapons and the OL is better equipped than it was at this time last year.

Seattle is vulnerable.  SF needs to prove they can live up to their potential.  The matchup with the Rams could allow for a game to be stolen.  Arizona plays the Lions, Giants, Bucs and Bengals this season. Vegas has them winning only 5.  They hit 5 wins by December if Kyler Murray simply stays healthy.

Cleveland went from 0-16 pathetic to 7-8-1 relevancy.  Arizona is next.