PFF: Cardinals have the NFL’s worst roster heading into 2019

Jun 26, 2019, 8:26 AM
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, left, and general manager Steve Keim  discusses the u...
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, left, and general manager Steve Keim discusses the upcoming NFL football draft during a news conference, Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

The 3-13 record posted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 might allude to the lack of talent.

Obviously, the problems went beyond that.

Arizona fired head coach Steve Wilks, replacing him with offensive guru Kliff Kingsbury. General manager Steve Keim drafted weaponry starting with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray to negate some of its biggest flaws from a year ago, but leaning on a rickety offensive line and a bunch of rookies won’t boost the on-paper appeal of the Cardinals roster until the team can show the talent upgrade is for real on the field.

That’s why Pro Football Focus, for ESPN, ranked Arizona’s collection of talent as the worst in the NFL.

Pass-blocking was the Cardinals’ biggest weakness a year ago, and though the right side of the offensive line is reset, injury histories across the board lend to red flags. Good health could make up for some of those deficiencies, as could rookie receivers like Andy Isabella, a projected starter.

It’s Murray that is the biggest X-factor, according to Pro Football Focus.

Kyler Murray enters a difficult situation in Arizona, but he has the talent to help remedy the situation. His quickness should help him overcome a bad offensive line, and he can make all the throws. Murray earned an overall grade of 94.6 at Oklahoma last season, leading all quarterbacks and also tying fellow Sooner Baker Mayfield (2017) for the best single-season overall grade for a quarterback in the PFF college era (since 2014). If Murray can make a similar impact as a rookie as Mayfield did last season, the Cardinals could be an interesting team to watch.

On the offensive side of the ball, PFF ranked only three projected starters as average NFL players: receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, plus tight end Maxx Williams, who might not see the majority of snaps in Kingsbury’s offense.

The rest of those starters, Murray and Isabella included, project as below-average players.

The talent on defense isn’t so lacking, but that side of the ball lost players who accounted for 50% of the Cardinals’ snaps from a year ago. Five returning players rated as average last year, while cornerback Patrick Peterson graded out by PFF as good/high quality — yet not elite. Peterson is missing the first six games of 2019 due to his PED suspension.

On a positive note, Arizona did at least tackle well in 2018 under Wilks, who preached technique above all else.

As a team, Arizona earned a tackling grade of 82.5, ranking 10th in the NFL. Led by edge defender Chandler Jones — who missed only three tackles last year — the Cardinals’ defense can at least take pride in excelling at one of the most fundamental aspects of the game. Arizona’s defense missed 113 tackles in 2018. For perspective, a great Texans defense missed 119 tackles, and the Eagles missed 124.

For the sake of the defense, the Cardinals offense had better produce enough to keep it out of bad field position and without tired legs late in games, something that last year’s team couldn’t do.

Arizona was dead last in time of possession last year, possessing the ball 26:33 on average during the regular season, nearly a full minute less than the next-worst team.

In more ways than one, there’s nowhere to go but up.

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