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The Cardinals are getting next to no contributions from their rookie class

We’re seven games into the season and the Cardinals’ rookie class has yet to make much of an impact. Should we be concerned?

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Keaontay Ingram scored two TDs against the Saints, easily the biggest game a Cardinals rookie has had so far this season.
Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The last time the Cardinals took the field, rookie RB Keaontay Ingram scored two TDs to help lead the team to a potentially season-saving win. It was a great moment for the rookie… but it was also basically the only real contribution the Cardinals have gotten from their rookie class so far in 2022.

Take a look at this table to see what I mean:

2022 Arizona Cardinals Rookies

Player Position Round Snaps Snap % PFF Grade Stats
Player Position Round Snaps Snap % PFF Grade Stats
Trey McBride TE 2 109 21% 43.5 3 rec, 24 yds
Cameron Thomas DE 3 60 13% 66.2 9 tkl, 1 sack
Myjai Sanders DE 3 32 7% 54.4 1 tkl, 1 sack
Keaontay Ingram RB 6 29 6% 65.8 12 rush, 21 yds, 2 rec, 23 yds, 2 TDs
Lecitus Smith G 6 8 2% 54.3
Christian Matthew CB 7 5 1% 54.7 2 tkl
Jesse Luketa LB 7 9 2% 51.0 1 tkl
Marquis Hayes g 7 N/A (on injured reserve)

The word “meager” comes to mind when looking at these numbers. Only one guy is playing more than 20% of the offensive or defensive snaps, with three guys playing here and there, three barely seeing the field, and one on injured reserve. Not encouraging for a 3-4 team that isn’t exactly a bastion of depth.

Let’s briefly check in on each of these guys for a quick temperature check.

Trey McBride

McBride has started to see the field more of late. After barely playing the first three weeks, he’s played at least a quarter of the snaps the past four games, including playing a season-high 51.5% of the snaps against the Saints. His emergence had to contribute to the decision to release Maxx Williams, and you have to think Kliff will start playing more 12 personnel with the injuries and ineffectiveness of the non-Hopkins WRs on the roster. Look for McBride’s box score contributions to increase soon.

Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders

Other than a sack apiece against the Seahawks, these two haven’t really contributed and have had a tough time cracking the edge rotation. Zach Allen, J.J. Watt, and Markus Golden are obviously getting the majority of the pass-rushing snaps, but shouldn’t these guys be able to beat out the likes of Michael Dogbe and his 37.0 PFF grade at DE? I hope Vance finds a way to work these guys into the rotation a bit more, especially now with Devon Kennard gone.

Keaontay Ingram

Ingram had his shining moment against the Saints, helping the team win and frustrating people who played Eno Benjamin in fantasy football. (Including yours truly.) He got two short TDs but did little else, getting just 44 yards on his 14 touches. He was pressed into duty with James Conner and a host of backup RBs hurt, although he delivered serviceable production. Still, the Cardinals should hope he doesn’t need to see the field more—getting our other RBs healthy is more important than getting Ingram snaps.

Christian Matthew and Jesse Luketa

Both of these guys were cut at one point or another but wound up on the back end of the 53-man roster. Neither has seen the field much on defense, and neither should. But they are solid special teams contributors, with Matthew playing 45% of those snaps and Luketa 13%. This is about all you can expect from 7th-round draft picks.

Lecitus Smith and Marquis Hayes

Both of these guys are purely developmental offensive linemen. You don’t want Smith on the field this year, and Hayes won’t be on it as he recovers from a knee injury.

Hollywood Brown

You can’t forget about Hollywood Brown when discussing the Cardinals 2022 draft class. He’s obviously not a rookie, but the Cardinals traded their 1st-rounder for him. He was having a Pro Bowl–type season before he was sidelined with a foot injury. Let’s hope he recovers quickly so we can see him line up opposite Hopkins down the stretch.

Final Thoughts

Is it concerning that the Cardinals have gotten relatively little from their rookie class so far? Not necessarily. We didn’t have a 1st-rounder, and our first pick was, at the time, the third or fourth TE on the depth chart. It is a little discouraging that the two 3rd-round DEs have seen the field so little, but that might be turning around soon. As for the rest, you can’t reasonably expect any contributions from Day Three rookies.

And yet.

And yet if you look around our division, our rivals are getting exactly that. Derion Kendrick (Rams, 6th round), Samuel Womack (49ers, 5th round), and Coby Bryant (Seahawks, 4th round) have all started games for their teams as Day Three rookies. (And at CB no less, a position of need for the Cardinals.) Of course, those teams’ needs and situations are different from ours, but it’s disheartening to see our division rivals finding potential diamonds in the rough while the Cardinals have to suffer through what might wind up being another ineffectual Steve Keim draft class. (I know, I know, it’s too early to say.)

Again, there’s not necessarily much to be concerned about right now—and, as Andy Kwong pointed out yesterday, playing time is on the rise for most of these guys. But Keim’s draft record is spotty at best, so our rookie contributions are something to monitor as the season progresses, especially if/when Keim’s job security becomes a topic of conversation, as it usually does.