We have discussed the Cardinals’ approach to this off-season sufficiently enough. Some like the approach. Some are ambivalent. Some don’t like it.
I have argued that the manner in which Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim, Kyler Murray and Erik Burkhardt have handled the off-season has been a PR roller coaster.
A year ago the buzz surrounding the Cardinals was unusually high. This year, the buzz surrounding the Cardinals has diminished like the fizz in a soda can that’s been left on the table for three hours.
Last year, season ticket sales were going like iPhone upgrades. This year, not so much.
About this time every year, ESPN+ and PFF post their rankings of the NFL rosters. This year, it’s a collaborative effort.
So, guess where they rank the Cardinals’ roster?
23. Arizona Cardinals
Biggest strength: Over the past two seasons, Kyler Murray has completed 75% of his passes when targeting DeAndre Hopkins for a 122.5 passer rating. It’s one of the best quarterback-wide receiver duos in the NFL when both players are healthy. However, both players being healthy hasn’t been a given, and Hopkins is scheduled to start the 2022 season on a six-game suspension because he violated the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. If the Cardinals do end up making a run in the NFC, it will be, in part, because that combination is back at full strength down the stretch.
Biggest weakness: For a team that has had some success over the past two seasons, there are a lot of holes on this roster. Cornerback was a concern heading into last season, but the Cardinals managed to get by with a solid season from Robert Alford. He is no longer on the roster, and Arizona’s cornerback concerns remain entering 2022. Marco Wilson and Antonio Hamilton are the favorites to start alongside Byron Murphy Jr. Wilson allowed a 129.8 passer rating on throws into his coverage as a rookie last year, and Hamilton played a career-high 313 defensive snaps with Arizona in 2021.
X factor for 2022: Linebacker Isaiah Simmons hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with being a top-10 overall pick across his first two NFL seasons. He showed some promise in coverage in a limited role as a rookie in 2020 but was ineffective against the run and saw his PFF coverage grade drop over 10 points in an every-down starting role last season. Arizona needs both Simmons and Zaven Collins to become the reliable players that they were drafted to be in Vance Joseph’s defense.
- QB Kyler Murray —- has indicated that he will not play this season without a new contract. The Cardinals insist that they will not trade Murray and that any likely agreement on a new contract would occur “sometime in the summer.”
- WR DeAndre Hopkins —- has recently made a case as to why he believes he should not be suspended for 6 games for an unintentional PED violation that in his opinion, is pardonable and unwarranted.
- C Rodney Hudson —- was the only player to be an unexcused absence at the team’s mandatory mini-camp, It appears that Hudson is pondering his retirement. In the interim, Justin Pugh and rookie Lecitus Smith are being tried in the pivot.
- Veteran CB Addition —- a veteran addition has been warranted the entire off-season, yet the Cardinals have not signed a veteran CB who has solid experience as a starter.
The Cardinals’ roster will look much stronger than the ESPN and PFF pundits think if many of the young players have their best seasons as pros, and if the Cardinals get more out of this year’s rookie class than they have the past couple of years.
Young Players of Note:
- QB Kyler Murray
- RB Eno Benjamin
- RB Jonathan Ward
- RB Deontay Ingram
- WR Marquise Brown
- WR Rondale Moore
- WR Andy Isabella
- WR Antoine Wesley
- TE Trey McBride
- G Will Hernandez
- T Josh Jones
- T Joshua Miles
- G Lecitus Smith
- G Marquis Hayes
- DT Rashard Lawrence
- DE Zach Allen
- DT Leki Fotu
- DE Michael Dogbe
- DE Cameron Thomas
- LB Isaiah Simmons
- LB Zaven Collins
- OLB Dennis Gardeck
- OLB Victor Dimukeje
- OLB Myjai Sanders
- CB Marco Wilson
- CB Byron Murphy
- CB Antonio Hamilton
- S Jalen Thompson
- S Deionte Thompson
ESPN+/PFF 2022 NFL Roster Rankings:
Because the Cardinals have been able to maintain the vast majority of their core players and top playmakers, it’s somewhat confounding to think that the Cardinals are ranked even lower that they were last year (21st) considering they were ranked #1 in the NFL at 10-2 through 12 weeks last season.
It is interesting to note that the Bengals were ranked 24th last year at this time and due to their outstanding second half of the season, they are now ranked 8th this season. Now —- mind you —- the Bengals added some talent to their roster this off-season at their key areas of need, like along the OL.
A shift has occurred in that the Cardinals appear to be relying this season more on their young talent than in previous years.
This year’s roster has many of the same key players the Cardinals were able to win 10 of their first 12 games with last season —- a roster that, despite some impactful injuries was able to win an NFC West division high 4 games (4-2) —- and, in historical fashion, win 8 of the 9 regular season road games.
Therefore, I believe that the Cardinals’ roster is more talented than the current national perception indicates.
ROTB Question: Where would you rank the Cardinals’ 2022 roster?