Arizona Cardinals NFL Kick-Off Preview

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Arizona Cardinals NFL Kick-Off Preview

The Arizona Cardinals saw massive turnover this past season and offseason. General Manager Steve Keim took an indefinite leave of absence from the team in December 2022, eventually stepping down entirely the following month. With the Cardinals struggling to a 4-13 record under then-head coach Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona’s leadership decided to blow everything up, bringing in general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon to kickstart a rebuild for the team.

Arizona sits in an interesting spot, though, as the Cardinals have the hardest part of any rebuild already completed. They believe that quarterback Kyler Murray is the future of the franchise and, while he struggled with inconsistency under Kingsbury’s lenient regime, the hope is that Gannon’s disciplined leadership can help him finally unlock his potential as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

We’ve seen flashes of that potential out of Murray before, but as he enters his fifth season in the NFL (and with a massive contract extension kicking in next season), it’s time to see him put it all together.

Not Yet…

While the early reports on the Gannon regime are promising, the simple fact of the matter is that the Cardinals aren’t ready to contend (or even make the playoffs) yet. The team lost more than half of last season’s roster to free agency this year. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing (turnover was certainly needed for a team that went 4-13), that’s still a massive chunk of the 53-man roster to replace.

As a result, the Cardinals have their win total set at or around 4.5 games this season: odds can vary a bit depending on the sportsbook you look at, though, so you could get favorable odds if one betting app is overly pessimistic (or optimistic) on the team’s chances.

They’re wildly expected to finish fourth in the NFC West (at or around -270 to do so), with extreme long-shot odds (+2500) of claiming the division throne: needless to say, their Super Bowl odds are even worse (at or around +20000), tied with the Houston Texans for the worst in the entire league. Arizona sports betting promos have you covered this NFL season as sportsbooks are sure to see a lot of action on the NFC West.

…Most Likely

We’ve seen teams go from worst to first before and, again, the Cardinals have a weapon that most other last-place teams don’t have in quarterback Kyler Murray. He missed the last month of the 2022 season after suffering an ACL tear and damage to his meniscus, both of which required surgery in early January. The long layoff between his injury and actually going under the knife means that he may not be ready by the time the season starts, but Murray remains adamant that he’s going to recover in time to start Week 1.

I’m as pessimistic as any about the Cardinals’ chances (they’ve always seemed to struggle with leadership issues from the top down), but I’m liking what I’m hearing out of Ossenfort and Gannon so far. Gannon has the locker room energized after bringing a breath of fresh air that the Cardinals desperately needed. Many of the team veterans (Murray included) frequently clashed with Kingsbury over the years, and they’ve been vocal about the changes Gannon has brought to the team.

Murray mentioned how Gannon motivates his players to play and succeed for him, a type of praise that he never heaped upon his former head coach. If Gannon can help Murray focus on and off the field (a point of concern for the young quarterback in the past, particularly regarding film study) he could be the one to unlock his full potential.

Other Offseason Moves

Murray has struggled to stay on the field during his last few seasons in Arizona, seeing a 7-0 start derailed by injury in 2021 before his season-ending knee injury last season.

As such, Ossenfort and the Cardinals have made keeping him upright a major point of focus going into this season. For one, they traded up to select hulking offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. sixth overall in the draft. For another, sometimes the best additions one can make is the return of a player from injury (as getting Murray back into the fold should prove soon enough), and that’s what’ll happen when they get D.J. Humphries back on the o-line after a back injury hampered him in 2022.

The Cardinals had a major hole to fill on the other side of the trenches when outside linebacker Markus Golden jumped ship for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They did their best to replace him through the draft with B.J. Ojulari, a second-round pick out of LSU who’s an athletic phenomenon. He could go through some growing pains at just 21 years old and you can expect there will be a learning curve to get him adjusted to the NFL. The Cardinals may not contend this year, but they’re putting the pieces in place for future success, an exciting situation to be in for any fan of the team.

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