Experts Rave about Murray’s Start with Cardinals; Can Arizona Make Noise in NFC West?

Tyler Vaysman

Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray’s preseason debut lasted just 10 snaps, but it was certainly a success. The first overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft called his performance “smooth” as he completed six of seven passes for 44 total yards through the air.

Murray’s only drive, which started at the Cardinals’ own 2-yard line, ended in a punt. However, first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense was able to move the ball with a variety of quick passes and run-pass options.

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback took every one of his snaps from the shotgun in the Cardinals’ 17-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Cardinals fans were happy to see Murray avoid contact on his lone sack of the night when he dove forward under pressure. One of the biggest knocks on Murray is the potential for injury due to his relatively small size.

The consensus amongst analysts is that Murray looked good in his first NFL action, albeit in an exhibition game. A mixture of quick decisions and accuracy, coupled with the fact that Murray didn’t run the ball once, earned the approval of the majority of experts.

The Kingsbury-Murray connection looks good at first glance, but there’s a lot of work to be done if the Cardinals have a chance to improve enough from last year’s team to make noise in the NFC West.

The New-Look Cardinals

Quarterback Josh Rosen, who’s since been traded to the Dolphins, led the 2018 Arizona Cardinals to a 3-13 record that landed them last in the division, even behind the 4-12 49ers without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

The Cardinals only have Murray on the roster now because their NFL-worst three wins landed them the first overall pick in the draft. Last season, Arizona scored just 225 points while giving up 425, earning them a league-worst -200 point differential.

Now, the two main pieces of the team have changed. Obviously, Murray will replace Rosen at the quarterback position while Kingsbury replaces head coach Steve Wilks, who lasted just one year in charge.

Rosen, who played behind a weak offensive line, struggled throughout his 14 games. He threw for 2,278 yards with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while being sacked 45 times and completing just 55 percent of his passes.

If the offensive line improves, Murray should be a surefire upgrade under center. And if the Cardinals can get more production out of that position, the Arizona offense could be poised for a huge leap forward with the likes of running back David Johnson and receiver Larry Fitzgerald returning.

So, how much noise can the new Arizona Cardinals make?

Arizona’s Odds in 2019

As previously mentioned, the Cardinals finished behind San Francisco to come in dead last in the NFC West a season ago. The two other teams in the division earned playoff football, with the 10-6 Seahawks claiming a Wild Card berth and the 13-3 Rams winning the division.

As you’d expect, the Rams come into 2019 as the favorites in the NFC West once again after representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. At -180 odds to win the division, the Rams are projected to make the playoffs yet again.

Oddsmakers don’t seem to expect much change within the NFC West. At +2500 odds, the Cardinals are behind both the 49ers (+550) and Seahawks (+275) by a significant margin.

And with Russell Wilson continuing to lead Seattle while San Francisco should have Garoppolo back at quarterback, you can see why even an improved Cardinals roster is facing an uphill battle.

As far as odds to win the Super Bowl go, Arizona’s 300-1 odds put them ahead of only Miami, which owns 500-1 odds. And considering Vegas has predicted the Cardinals to win five games, it’s hard to see Arizona making much noise in a strong NFC West without injury problems for the other three teams.

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