The Arizona Cardinals are off to a slow start with a record of 0-2-1 but it was expected to say the least.
To say the Cardinals would improve from worst to first was more of a leap of faith than anything else. With the new coaching staff and learning a new system schematically, there was always going to be an adjustment period.
Currently the Cardinals are dealing with all sorts of problems on both the offense and defense. But, let’s just start with the leaky protection from the offensive line.
During the off-season, the Cardinals acquired Marcus Gilbert from the Steelers to start at right tackle. Although the initial move looked good, his stay in the starting lineup did not last long after he suffered a torn ACL before the beginning of the regular season. His injury history should be well-noted, considering he missed a total of 23 games the past three seasons with the Steelers before joining the Cardinals.
The Cardinals should have learned from last year that relying on injury-prone players is a big mistake. Justin Pugh dealt with multiple injuries in his career with the New York Giants. Since joining the Cardinals on a lucrative five-year deal last season, he has missed nine games. He missed some time during the preseason with a shoulder injury and, at any moment, is at risk of getting hurt. As of now, he just isn’t wasn’t the Cardinals expected him to be.
After Gilbert was placed on injury reserve, this left the Cardinals scrambling to find answers to shore up the protection on the right side. Steve Keim initially claimed former Browns’ OT Desmond Harrison off of waivers, but his off-field troubles sent him packing. At the conclusion of the preseason, the Cardinals claimed Brett Toth from the Eagles and Justin Murray from the Raiders.
Murray was considered to be an upgrade over Korey Cunningham, who was traded to the Patriots, due to his ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line. Just because a player is versatile does not mean they are any good at it. One of the first things you will notice when watching Justin Murray’s tape is his slow movements. He is not very agile, which is why he constantly gets beat by pass rushers with speed. So far, Murray has been a complete liability on the offensive line and the Cunningham trade looks like a big mistake.
There is nothing the Cardinals can do right now to improve Kyler Murray’s protection. Justin Murray and Jordan Mills are not all-of-a-sudden going to be solid pass protectors. I would not be surprised to see the Cardinals force rookies Brett Toth and Josh Miles into action, even when they should are not NFL ready. J.R. Sweezy and A.Q. Shipley have held up their end of the bargain, being the best of the mediocre offensive line.
My point is that the Cardinals are constantly taking too many risks and banking on projects to work out. Justin Pugh signed a five-year $45 million deal with the Cardinals but is not playing any better than J.R. Sweezy, who is making a lot less. The Justin Murray project has been a bust so far. Projects extend beyond the offensive line as well with all of the failed draft picks over the years.
Every year, Keim would always say that he evaluates players on the heart and the mind. I am pretty sure it is easier to find players that love football than those that don’t. After that, these players should still be strong enough, fast enough, and have the production to back up the hype.
Next season, D.J. Humphries, Marcus Gilbert, and A.Q. Shipley will be free agents. If I were the Cardinals’ general manager, I would be doing my homework on potential 2020 draft prospects in Georgia’s OT Andrew Thomas and Iowa’s OT Tristan Wirfs right now. The Cardinals need to find a way to acquire Trent Williams from the Redskins, considering he likely won’t ever play a down for that team ever again.
Kyler Murray has already been sacked 16 times in three games this season. Both the right and left side of the offensive line needs a makeover. The franchise quarterback needs to be protected at all costs and all of Keim’s effort has led to Murray scrambling for his life on the football field.