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What kind of impact could Kyler Murray’s return have on the Cardinals this season?

It looks like Kyler Murray will finally be returning to the field within the next few weeks. What kind of impact can Cardinals fans expect when he does?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray is clearly thinking of getting back on the field soon.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As all Arizona Cardinals fans should be aware by now, the team activated Kyler Murray off the PUP list yesterday. This is obviously great news for a team scuffling at 1-5 with backup Josh Dobbs manning the QB position.

But Dobbs will start at least a handful more games, as it will likely be several weeks before Kyler is ready to play. Per the rules for the PUP list, the Cardinals have 21 days from today to activate Kyler or return him to the list. I very much doubt he’ll see the field in the next two weeks, meaning he’d return to the field either in Week 9 at the Cleveland Browns or in Week 10 at home against the Atlanta Falcons. (Just as I predicted!)

But what can we expect from Kyler when he finally returns to the field? There are obviously a ton of variables here. Will he be 100% healthy? 90% Less? Will he have the same mobility/athleticism? How will he acclimate to Drew Petzing’s system? What will the offense look like around him (i.e., player health, potential roster moves with the upcoming trade deadline)?

There are a lot of unknowns, but I think we can expect a simple baseline: “Better than Josh Dobbs.” Maybe your mileage varies here, but I think it’s reasonable to expect a former OROY and two-time Pro Bowler like Kyler to be at least a moderate upgrade over a journeyman backup like Dobbs (who has also regressed a bit the past few weeks himself).

With that in mind, what does an upgrade at QB look like for the Cardinals for the rest of the season? Before we try to answer that, let’s take quick look back at the first six games and see what might have been had Kyler been ready to play in Week 1.

What if Kyler played the first six games?

Note: For this exercise, let’s assume the games unfolded the exact same way, only with moderately improved QB play from the Cardinals.

Week 1 – Lost @ WAS 20-16: The Cardinals very nearly won this game anyway with Josh Dobbs having been with the team for barely two weeks. I think you could pretty easily say the Cardinals would have won this game with Kyler playing.

Week 2 – Lost vs. NYG 31-28: Do you think Kyler would have been able to lead the team to just one more second-half score to hold off the Giants’ comeback? Yeah, me too. Maybe the Cardinals would have been riding high at 2-0?

Week 3 – Win vs. DAL 28-16: Make it 3-0! If Dobbs could beat the Cowboys, so could Kyler. At least for the purposes of this highly dubious hypothetical exercise.

Week 4 – Loss @ SF 35-16: Yeah, I don’t think even peak Kyler would have been enough against CMC’s four TDs in this game. Maybe it’s a little closer but the outcome would have been the same.

Week 5 – Loss vs. CIN 34-20: With the way Joe Burrow was dealing and the Redbirds’ secondary was failing to contain Ja’Marr Chase, this would have been another L even with Kyler.

Week 6: Loss @ LAR 26-9: If you want to say that the Cardinals could have won this game with Kyler, I wouldn’t argue too much. We were up at the half, after all. But I don’t know if it would have mattered that much with the run defense just collapsing in the second half like it did. I think this is still a loss.

Overall, I think you could very credibly say the Cardinals would be 1-2 games better had Kyler been playing, meaning we’d be 2-4 or even 3-3 instead of 1-5. Good for morale, bad for draft considerations.

What impact will Kyler have moving forward?

Just like we did last week, let’s take a quick look at the upcoming schedule, but this time with Kyler’s imminent return in mind.

Week 7 @ SEA: Kyler almost certainly won’t be playing in this one. No impact.

Week 8 vs. BAL: I doubt Kyler returns for this one either. No impact.

Week 9 @ CLE: I don’t think Kyler plays in this one, but even if he does play, this would likely be his first game back against that nasty defense. No impact.

Week 10 vs. ATL: This is widely projected to be Kyler’s first game back. Not a bad landing spot at home against a middling Falcons team. Maybe we’d even be favored with Kyler playing. This is one where I think he’d have a big impact.

Week 11 @ HOU: Imagine Kyler leading the Redbirds to a victory in this Tank Bowl and making the Texans’ 1st-rounder we own even better. I think Kyler’s presence would have a tangible impact on the line in our favor in this one as well.

Week 12 vs. LAR: Same here. We outplayed the Rams for a half on the road last week. We’d have a decent shot at beating them at home with Kyler under center versus Dobbs.

Week 13 @ PIT: Kyler should have a few games under his belt by now and the offense might be clicking better than it has all season. The Steelers still have a tough D but he Redbirds would have a clear advantage at QB.

Week 15 vs. SF: We’d be coming off our bye week, but I don’t think Kyler’s presence would do much to make up for the huge talent deficiency between these two teams.

Week 16 @ CHI: I don’t think we’d actually be favored on the road with Kyler, but I do think we’d put a dent in the typical -3 for the home team. Maybe -1 or -1.5 Chicago. We’d have a great shot to win this one.

Week 17 @ PHI: I don’t think this is particularly winnable no matter who starts at QB for the Cardinals. Like the Niners, the talent gap is just too wide.

Week 18 vs. SEA: I think we’d have a puncher’s chance even with Dobbs, but you have to think the Seahawks would rather see him than Kyler in this matchup (assuming they have something to play for).

Final Thoughts

Last week’s look at the schedule was mostly doom and gloom (60% of you thought we’d win 3 or fewer games), but I’m feeling a bit more optimistic now that we know Kyler is on his way back. It’ll be rough seas for a few more weeks, but that Week 10-13 stretch is feeling much, much more manageable now. I think we’ll be looking at more like 4-5 wins now…

…which probably takes us out of the running for the #1 pick. And Houston isn’t looking likely to be bad enough for their pick to be #1 either. But, hey, we’ll still have two top-8ish picks to either move around the draft board or add two blue chippers. Plus we’ll get to see what Kyler can do in Petzing’s offense (which will be very good for Michael Wilson’s development as well). I’ll take it.

Time to do your thing, Birdgang: vote and comment. Thanks for reading!


How much impact do you think Kyler Murray will have on the rest of the Cardinals season?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Big impact: We’ll win 2-3 games more than if he wasn’t playing
    (122 votes)
  • 21%
    Small impact: We’ll win at least another game but will still be a bad team
    (38 votes)
  • 6%
    No impact: We’ll win the same amount of games no matter who is playing QB
    (12 votes)
  • 4%
    Negative impact: We’ll actually be worse with Kyler Murray playing
    (8 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now