Preparing for the 2021 season, there was warranted optimism from everyone associated with the Arizona Cardinals. Everything rested on the development and growth of Kyler Murray. In addition, adding talent to his support cast was pivotal to the improvement of the offense.
Since selecting Murray first overall of the 2019 draft, the Cardinals' wins have increased each year. His rookie season added two wins from 2018, three more in 2019, and currently sitting atop of the standings with nine wins. Albeit, Murray has missed three straight games with a sprained ankle. The team had a 7-1 record with him as the starter and were one of the best offenses in football. His impact is undeniable.
Murray has improved his game as a passer while lessening his rushing attempts. As a result, he was a top MVP candidate prior to the injury. When starting, Murray was leading the NFL in Expected Points Added (EPA) and Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) with +47.2 and +17.1%. The added explosive plays have made this offense more difficult to defend.
Murray’s ability to spread the ball to his diverse receiving arsenal removes the defense’s tendencies to double one weapon and stifle the offense’s production. Kyler Murray is set to return after the team’s bye week. I am thankful for his great play and consistent growth throughout his career.
There are more teams searching for their franchise quarterback, our Cardinals have their guy and the future is bright because of it.
This year it’s been one that personally...I might prefer to forget. But when it comes to the Cardinals fandom...one that I probably won’t want to.
There’s plenty of things to be thankful for as the Cardinals go this season.
Kyler Murray’s emergence as a star and one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL this season might be the headliner, alongside a 3rd round pick for Rodney Hudson stabilizing some of the offensive line issues. He’s probably the MVP if he can bring his early season success with him the rest of the way home, 3 games missed aside.
Adding J.J. Watt seemed to galvanize the team on defense, and with a returning Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, the Cards’ defense is legit now that Isaiah Simmons and Byron Murphy have stepped forward.
Matt Prater’s clutch ability to hit field goals in some of the close games deserves a mention.
I could mention the hit on picks in Marco Wilson (solidifying corner) and Rondale Moore (the guy who seems to make the offensive scheme tick with his speed right now). Both were Steve Keim's picks, of course.
Colt McCoy might even be THE biggest item as far as players go, to say nothing of Vance Joseph’s defense and leadership and how Kliff Kingsbury seems to have come into his own not simply as a clone of Sean McVay but as a fiery, creative, and centered veteran coach whose game-planning thus far has put Arizona ahead of all other teams through their bye week.
The thing I’m most thankful for though...is the gift of second chances.
Not merely coming off of the 2020 season, a season in which some wondered if the Cards had peaked and this year would be the start of the end for Keim and Kingsbury. But in terms of each of the main architects, both were essentially at rock bottom.
Keim was coming off of not just the terrible 2018 season but also a widely covered incident in July that revealed a tumultuous personal life.
Kingsbury had just been fired from his alma mater, no less (imagine playing college football and setting records to get to go to the NFL and in your first job you do your best and...get fired from everyone you’ve known for like 15+ years).
He was essentially ridiculed by the national media
Vance Joseph was fired from his job as the Broncos head coach a year after he was nearly one and done and was handed:
-Mike McCoy, Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, and Paxton Lynch in the year 2017
-Case Keenum & Bill Musgrave in the year 2018
Basically, you could argue that he was given no shot on offense and wasn’t able to win more than 11 games in 2 seasons as a defensive coach.
They’re all looking forward to well-deserved contract extensions and it’s clear that with wins that did NOT have Kingsbury present, did NOT have Kyler Murray or DeAndre Hopkins, and did NOT have J.J. Watt or even Chandler Jones for a few games...
They all are at the peak of the NFL. And that’s something to be thankful for as I look at getting a second chance started in my own life...in a lot of ways this year.