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2021 Cardinals’ QB Competition

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Now that the 2021 NFL Draft weekend has been completed, let’s take a good, close look at the Cardinals’ roster, starting with a discussion of the team’s QB candidates.

QB

Starter: Kyler Murray

2020 Stats:

  • 67.2% passing, for 3,971 yds. (13th in NFL), 26 TDs (12th), 12 ints., QB rating: 94.3
  • 819 yards rushing (17th) at an average of 5.8 yards per carry and 11 TDs (7th)
  • PFF grades: overall 82.8 (12th), passing 77.2 (17th), running 86.5 (4th), fumbles 83.1 (9th)

In his third year as the starting QB, Kyler Murray is poised and ready to take his game to the next level in his third year. To be named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in his rookie year and then be named to the Pro Bowl in his second year is a tribute to Kyler’s prodigious talent as a passer and a runner.

In his third year, Kyler could elevate his game to an elite, possibly even MVP level if he:

  • Solves the stacked boxes that defenses threw at him during the second half of the season last year.
  • Establishes better rhythm and sync with his WRs and TEs.
  • Improves his ability to throw strikes down field when on the run.
  • Improves his passing up the seams and over the middle.
  • Hits more big passing plays on the intermediate to deep levels of the field.
  • Accentuate his outstanding mobility by running bootlegs, waggles and sprint-outs, which would add enormous pressure on the defense.

Backup candidates: Colt McCoy, Chris Streveler

With three pre-season games this summer, Cardinals fans are going to get a good look at what Chris Streveler brings to the table as a QB2. His performance versus the Rams was pretty respectable considering the kind of pressure he was getting from the Rams’ outstanding defense. He should have been aided by an obvious neutral zone infraction by the Rams that the referees missed, because it’s highly unlikely that he would have taken the kind of down field shot that he threw with the Cardinals ahead late in the first half if he didn’t think he had a free play—- which alas led to Troy Hill’s momentum changing pick six.

Chris Streveler 2020 stats:

68.8%, 105 yards, 1/1 TD/int ratio, QB rating: 81.5

Colt McCoy is a savvy veteran who won one of his two starts last season, helping the Giants to upset the Seahawks in Seattle. His veteran leadership could be an asset. But, his roster spot may not be a slam dunk, if Chris Streveler, who is under contract at a minimum salary through 2022, plays very well during the pre-season.

Colt McCoy 2020 stats:

60.6%, 375 yards, 1/1 TD/int. ratio, QB rating: 75.0

Could the Cardinals keep both McCoy and Streveler on the 56 man roster?

That could be a tough decision, but, a decision that could be made easier if Streveler shows he can be an asset on special teams and that he could help the offense more often this year being the designated QB sneak converter in short yardage situations.

It might be interesting to see what Chris Streveler can do as a backup RB in the Taysom Hill type of role. Streveler often went into “beast mode” when he was running the ball in the CFL. In fact, he was the CFL’s co-rushing TD leader in 2019, while helping the Winnipeg Blue Bombers win the Grey Cup. He was a fan favorite of the Blue Bombers in particular because of his aggressive style of running.

Note: This off-season Colt McCoy has been at the center of a controversy at his alma mater, the University of Texas, where McCoy has been siding with old-time donors of the program who are threatening to pull their donations if the university replaces its traditional “Eyes of Texas” rally song because the lyrics of the song have historical ties to the writings of Robert E. Lee and years ago, the song was sung and acted out, at times, in blackface.

A committee was formed by the university to analyze the lyrics of the song and it concluded that while the song was composed and sometimes acted out in what was back then a racial setting, the lyrics, in their opinion, are not overtly racist.

However, there remains some unrest among some of the black players in the Texas program who have felt pressured to stand during the song and who feel that the nostalgic aspects of the song are a painful reminder of the highly troubled past for black citizens of Texas.

Interestingly, a wealthy UT-Austin donor, Robert Reeves, the CTO of Liquibase, has offered to make up for any pulled donations by other donors because in Reeves’ view, “The Eyes of Texas” is not an apt representation of the university’s commitment to “diversity and inclusion.”

Practice Squad candidate: Cole McDonald

Cole McDonald had an outstanding career at the University of Hawaii running an Air Raid attack. In 2019, his final season at Hawaii, McDonald threw for 4,135 yards, 33 TDs and 14 interceptions. He also rushed for 383 yards and 7 TDs. His 4.58 40 at the Combine in 2020 was the fastest time for a QB. One of McDonald’s favorite targets was WR JoJo “Go-Go” Ward who spent the 2020 season on the Cardinals’ practice squad. You can see Cole hook up with Go-Go for a sweet TD “9 route” on the first play of Cole’s highlight video:

Cole McDonald (6-3, 215) reminds me quite a bit of Ryan Tannehill, which could be a reason why the Titans drafted him in the 7th round last year. He was beaten out for the Titans’ backup QB job by Logan Woodside, was subsequently waived, and then the Titans elected to sign DeShone Kizer to their practice squad.

Prediction:

QB1: Kyler Murray

QB2: Chris Streveler

PS: Cole McDonald

Very excited to see Kyler Murray move around more to put added pressure on defenses and to create a variety of clear passing and running lanes.

I feel confident that Chris Streveler will win the QB2 job by virtue of his play in the pre-season games and that Cardinals fans will become more understanding (and impressed) as to why Streveler surprisingly beat out Brett Hundley for the QB2 role last year.

Colt McCoy is no longer the athlete that Chris Streveler is and McCoy has only started 5 games in the last 6 years, going 1-4 in those games, making his career record as a starter 8-22, with a 32/30 TD/int ratio and a QB rating of 78.1.

In many ways Cole McDonald is an ideal scout team QB because of his good length, arm strength and wheels. Plus, McDonald is a nifty system fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. I can envision McDonald making his way up the ranks and at some point challenging Chris Streveler for the QB2 role.

What are your thoughts about this group?