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Op-Ed on the 2019 Lindy’s Pro Football Preview

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Lindy’s Pro Football Preview is my favorite pre-season magazine for the following reasons:

1. Position Rankings

2. Draft Section---comments on every draftee.

3. Ratings on each position group for every team.

4. One line comments and measurables for every player on the roster, except UCFAs.

5. 2020 NFL Draft preview---early rankings at each position.

Lindy’s hires a sports writer or radio commentator to do the write-ups of each team.

For the Cardinals in 2016 it was Bob McManaman. 2017 & 2018 Mike Jurecki. And this year it is Vince Marotta (but they misspelled his name as Vince Marottai).

Overall, Vince Marotta did a respectable job on this assignment. Whether he had help from Dan Bickley and others with regard to the 70+ players he provided comments for---he was a mix between solid and vague in his descriptions.

Some of the solid descriptions:

10 Chad Williams: “Third-year receiver is facing a pivotal season in his career. Only 20 career catches.”

74 D.J. Humphries: “Decent when healthy, which hasn’t been often. Missed 21 games over last three years.”

98 Corey Peters: “Vastly underrated. Contributed a career high 51 tackles to go along with 2.5 sacks.”

36 D.J. Swearinger: “Hard-hitting safety back for second Arizona stint after getting waived by Washington.”

Some of the vague ones:

14 Damiere Byrd: “Might find it difficult to make the roster in suddenly crowded receivers room.”

79 Korey Cunningham: “Seventh-rounder pressed into starting duty for six games near-end of season.”

94 Cameron Malveaux: “Saw action over final four games after being plucked off Miami’s practice squad.”

26 Brandon Williams: “Former third-round pick has played only 86 defensive snaps in the last two years.”

All true, but what could have been mentioned:

Byrd’s 4.2 speed

Cunningham’s surprisingly solid grades (upside)

Malveaux’s flashes of talent as pass rusher

Williams’ primary work on STs (which is why he is still on the roster)---plus, does anyone remember him getting 84 snaps on defense the last 2 years?

The Tone of Marotta’s Critique:

Marotta questions the Cardinals’ decision making---from the hiring of Steve Wilks, to the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury, to the drafting of Kyler Murray and to the trading of Josh Rosen. His title for the Cardinals’ section is “Kingsbury and Murray Mere Neophytes”. He questions how and why Steve Keim was retained and lists Keim as the man in the 2019 “Hot Seat.”

Marotta’s Position Ratings for 2019 Cardinals (scale of 1 to 10)

QBs: 6 (understandable with rookie starter)

RBs: 8 (reflects lack of proven depth behind Johnson)

WRs: 7.5 (fair grade considering Fitz, Kirk and the youth of the group)

OL: 6.5 (until we see improvement it’s hard to grade them any higher)

DL: 7.5 (he’s including Chandler Jones in this group, otherwise the grade should be lower)

LB: 7 (he’s including Suggs and Reed in this group with Hicks and Reddick, with Jones the grade should be higher)

DBs: 8 (this was prior to Peterson’s suspension)

Special Teams: 6.5 (seems low for the #12 rated unit last year and everyone returning)

Coaching: 6 (“the move to hire Kliff Kingsbury was met with many raised eyebrows”---Marotta)

How would you rate these groups?

I would go: QB: 8; RB: 7; WRs: 8; OL: 7; DL: 7; LB: 9; DBs: 8.0 (CBs: 7.5, Ss: 8.5); STs: 8; Coaching: 8.

I believe the talent on this roster is far stronger than the pundits realize. I also believe that the current coaching staff is very well suited to make the best use of the talent. The Cardinals are now more focused than ever before in creating personnel matches for the coaching philosophies and styles.

Couple of Mistakes by Marotta:

* Stating in his intro that all that the Cardinals got for Josh Rosen was “a third round pick and a 2020 fifth rounder.” While it may have seemed like a 3rd round pick, it was actually a 2nd round pick (#62).

* Listing Chandler Jones as 34 DE---not only in the position groups on the team, but in the NFL position rankings where he is the #6 rated 34 DE/T. Jones is now a 34 OLB.

Cardinals listed in NFL’s Best (Top 10 by positions and groups):

Possession WRs: #5---Larry Fitzgerald

All-Purpose RBs: #4---David Johnson

Right Tackles: #10---Marcus Gilbert

3-4 DE/DT: #6---Chandler Jones

3-4 Inside LBs: #7---Jordan Hicks

3-4 Outside LBs: #5---Terrell Suggs

CBs---#3 Patrick Peterson

FSs---#7 D.J. Swearinger

SSs---#10 (tie) Budda Baker

Not too shabby! At least to start with, considering the Cardinals’ dismal 2018 season.

The Cardinals did not make any of the top rated position groups or top 10s in offense, defense and special teams.

The One Exception!

The one and only group the Cardinals were ranked in was---get this---#4 best “Running Game Team” in the NFC.

How ironic, in light of the Cardinals going to the spread offense---but this rating has to be a testament to the thought of RB David Johnson getting improved numbers to take advantage of in the box and the scrambling ability of rookie QB Kyler Murray. But---think about this---obviously the evaluators at Lindy’s are not only expecting a significant improvement from the Cardinals’ offense in terms of play calling and creativity on offense, they believe the changes in coaching and at QB will have a very positive effect on the offensive line.

Draft Section (by Barry Wilner): (some snippets of Wilner’s descriptors for the Cardinals’ picks)

1---QB Kyler Murray: “Resourceful and explosive, sort of like Russell Wilson, only faster.”

33---CB Byron Murphy: “Dwayne Haskins called Byron Murphy his toughest opponent last season.”

62---WR Andy Isabella: “A bit undersized, but smart and aggressive.”

65---DE Zach Allen: “A solid 6-4, 280 and uses it all, will run through wall to make a play.”

103---WR Hakeem Butler: “A work in progress with tremendous upside.”

139---S Deionte Thompson: “Tracks ball well and can make plays, but also gambles too much.”

174---WR KeeSean Johnson: “No burner, but runs smart routes to get open, smart pick here.”

179---C Lamont Gaillard: “Has the body to intimidate at 6-2, 298.”

248---T Joshua Miles: “Seems destined to move inside to guard, had a good showing at East-West Shrine game.”

249---DT Michael Dogbe---”Senior year was up and he made all-conference, can get to the QB.”

254---TE Caleb Wilson---”Does he best work finding open spots in zones, effective on 3rd downs and in red zone.”

Marotta and the 2019 NFL Draft:

Having listened very carefully to Vince Marotta and Dan Bickley on the afternoon of the draft, Marotta was convinced that the Cardinals were going to trade the #1 pick or draft DE Nick Bosa or DT Quinnen Williams---so much so that by the time their show ended just a couple of hours before the draft, Dan Bickley, who for weeks had been urging the Cardinals to draft QB Kyler Murray, concurred with Marotta and predicted that the Cardinals would not have the guts to take Murray.

From Nashville that day, Marotta wrote:

”Could this many people be wrong?”

”Murray is dynamic, there’s no two ways about it. But even hours before the draft, I can’t help but snicker at the confident prognosticators who claim ‘this is a no-brainer’ or ‘Murray is the perfect fit for the Kliff Kingsbury offense.’ “

Marotta concluded: “It’s tempting to roll the dice in hopes of a quick turnaround. If I’m Steve Keim, I’m holding out hope that another team (looking at you, Oakland) is tantalized enough to trade up to number one to get Murray, and I’m rolling with Rosen.”

Here is the article.

Therefore, it’s understandable why Marotta’s section on the Cardinals is titled “Klngsbury and Murray Mere Neophytes.”

Sure, Kingsbury and Murray are new to the NFL, but Marotta is undermining the whole point of the Kingsbury/Murray Connection when he calls them “mere” (“trifling, meager, minimal”) ”neophytes” (“a person who is new to a subject, skill or belief”).

Kliff Kingsbury’s greatest skills are in designing, coordinating and calling the plays for his highly aggressive, quick tempo spread offense and for developing NFL caliber QBs in the process---

Kyler Murray has all of the QB skills Kingsbury covets---the arm strength, the pinpoint accuracy, the leadership, the poise, the touch, the energy, the imagination, the creativity and the quick, rocket-booster feet.

If you share in Vince Marotta’s skepticism--can you at least concede to what Dan Bickley learned in Nashville, that the Cardinals---your Cardinals---suddenly have impressive direction and guts?

Isn’t the Cardinals’ innovative and gutsy plan just a little exciting?