ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals roundtable: Kyler Murray’s expectations for Arizona’s 2023 season

Sep 8, 2023, 12:45 PM

Kyler Murray’s status entering 2023 is this: He is paid like a franchise quarterback, coming off a serious knee injury and rehabbing while on the physically unable to perform list.

While his eventual return likely dictates his Arizona Cardinals future — and maybe his NFL future — the new regime in place by all its public accounts is being careful with his health. General manager Monti Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon are framing it that Murray is the franchise face, even as a potential top pick in the 2024 could land the team a new signal caller.

The Cardinals have maintained Murray will play in 2023 coming off an ACL injury, which gets complicated if the Cardinals are struggling as much as they’re expected to this rebuilding season.

But the potential to land a once-in-a-decade quarterback prospect in Caleb Williams if the Cardinals have a top NFL Draft pick in 2024 looms.

With all that said, we asked our Arizona Sports show hosts, Cardinals Corner podcast hosts and ArizonaSports.com editors what they think will come of Murray’s crucial 2023 season.

They were asked: If you had to guess today, what week will Kyler Murray return this season, if at all? What do you think we’ll see out of him when he does suit up?

When will Kyler Murray return to the Cardinals?

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: He is definitely out the first four weeks and I would tack on two to three more, so my best guess is he returns in Week 8 of the season and that would get him in 10 games and an include a bye week. Now, no one knows for sure, but you have to believe that he wants to play and the Cardinals want him to play. It does no one any good if he sits out all season. The organization needs to know what they have in him to either decide on keeping him or trying to trade him.

Dan Bickley, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: My guess is Kyler Murray returns for the last month of the season, after the bye week, at home against the 49ers on Dec. 17. I don’t believe you will see any running plays called for Murray during the 2023 season, although he’ll surely do his share of scrambling.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: Let’s face it, there’s a lot of weirdness about the QB position heading into this season, from Gannon’s resistance to name a starter for the opener against Washington to all the questions hovering over Murray’s future in Arizona. Is it a big deal that Murray was named one of six team captains by Gannon? Heck, I don’t know. But I do think Murray will suit up and play this season, and I think it’ll be in time for the Week 10 home game against the Atlanta Falcons. I honestly don’t know what to expect from Murray when he’s in there. We all know he has to improve as a pocket passer, but even after a devastating knee injury, his future in Arizona (and maybe the league) is still connected to his ability to demoralize defenses with his running ability. The most fascinating concern with K1 is how comfortable he’ll be letting it rip on plays that break down, especially since that’s how he suffered the injury in the first place.

Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke: I’ll say Week 10 vs. Atlanta. I’m not as optimistic as some people that he’ll be ready to come back in Week 5, but I also don’t really buy the idea that they just don’t want him to play at all. That theory hinges on the notion that they’ve already decided they want to trade Murray no matter what, and I have to think they want to see what they have in him first. Plus, they just named him one of the team captains, and do we really think he’d have much trade value if he missed this entire year after missing the end of last season, too? And right now it doesn’t even sound like there’s any guarantee Caleb Williams would be 100% on board with playing here if they drafted him. They have a franchise-altering decision coming up in April, and they need all the information possible when they’re making that decision. So I think they want Murray to play. They’re just not going to rush him back.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Put me down for Week 10 at home against the Falcons. Home game. Soft landing (at least at this point that looks like a soft landing). But if he’s really way ahead of schedule, another option could be Week 6 against the Rams, though that seems awfully quick. I’ll be watching to see how tentative he is running the ball when things are flying for real. Predicting how well he plays is so tough. I think he’ll do well but it’s hard to know for sure. Even if he plays well the defense is going to make it tough on them to win games when he returns.

Tyler Drake, Cardinals reporter and Cardinals Corner podcast co-host: Before Murray went on the PUP, sidelining him for at least four weeks, my thought was a Week 8 return. I am sticking with that thinking, though I could see it extending longer into the year just based on the unknown still surrounding his rehab process. To me, if he can be taken off PUP by Week 5, he gets a few weeks of practice before a home matchup against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. That would make for some must-watch football just based on the QB battle alone and would give Arizona plenty of games to truly evaluate Murray. Don’t expect him to shock the world right out the gate, though. The rust factor is a real thing and could very well take a few games to get shaken off.

Erik Ruby, Cardinals Corner podcast co-host and afternoon contributor: Week 10 vs. the Falcons. I truly believe Arizona will bide its time until bringing Murray back, ensuring that what the team sees out of him is not at all hindered by lingering problems from that ACL. This gives K1 an easy first game to return before taking on another team expected to be near the bottom of the NFL in the Texans. It is also early enough to make sure you give Murray a sample size that not only the Cardinals, but other teams, can use to truly evaluate the future of the 2019 No. 1 pick.

Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor: I’ll be the one to say it. It will be organizational malpractice if Arizona plays a fully healthy Murray in the last few weeks of the season. Even if the Cardinals deem him as the guy, the value for the No. 1 overall pick will be off the charts. It will either be a tremendous haul of future draft picks or a singular one in drafting USC’s Caleb Williams, a generational QB prospect. Remember when Byron Murphy left and the Cardinals replaced him with no one? And J.J. Watt? And Zach Allen? And DeAndre Hopkins? I’d like to think the reason we call it tanking is because you can’t sneak a freaking war machine down the street while everyone isn’t looking. It’s blatant. Obvious. And you know what, that’s fine! A few meaningless games won’t be the difference in making the correct evaluation on Murray, anyway. They have to know already if he’s the guy. So with all that, Murray’s played his last game for the Cardinals already. I’ll be the one to say it.

Alex Weiner, ArizonaSports.com editor: Murray and the coaching staff have been mum on his targeted return. Former Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer tore his ACL in November 2014 and played all 16 games the following year. Teddy Bridgewater suffered a torn ACL along with further damage to his knee in the preseason of 2016 and didn’t get back on the field until December 2017. Murray is unlike other quarterbacks with his impact to extend plays and scramble. Given the position the Cardinals are in, waiting for him to be 100% is necessary. At the same time, getting him on the field in Drew Petzing’s offense for a large enough sample size for the new regime to evaluate would be beneficial, especially with how much draft ammunition the Cardinals have going into 2024. Week 10 vs. Atlanta? It’s a shot in the dark.

Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor: You don’t assume anything if you are running a team. You don’t assume Murray “is what he is” without putting him under a microscope under a new coaching staff teaching him — hopefully — a true NFL-style offense. Let him get as removed from that ACL injury as you can — I’ll guess Week 10 against Atlanta as well — and put him in relatively important games. Make him compete. See how he grows and develops under the new staff. His stock can’t get much worse if you’re trying to trade him, so it should only help. You also don’t assume Caleb Williams is the next Patrick Mahomes. You don’t assume he leaves USC with another year of eligibility remaining. Ludicrous thing to say, but you shouldn’t assume he is better than Murray by the time both of them are NFL quarterbacks. Holding myself to what I’ve said on the record of this website, but I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing what Murray has and the Cardinals also drafting Williams, then putting both of them in the quarterback room together to trade one later.

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