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Updates from Week 4
Two trades have reunited University of Oklahoma teammates Kyler Murray, Marquise Brown, and Cody Ford. The Cardinals hope Ford can rejuvenate his career by keeping Murray upright and fill in any voids left if Justin Pugh misses significant time with a shoulder injury. The Cardinals will likely keep three quarterbacks on the roster, but Kyler Murray has the only short- and long-term value if he stays healthy. Murray has never been surrounded by more skilled player talent and could take another step in his level of performance this year.
With James Conner sitting out, we were able to see extended touches from the three backup backs. Eno Benjamin only had five total touches, but he had the highlight of the night with an acrobatic adjustment on a wheel route. Darrel Williams scored a touchdown, but he only had two touches on the night. Keaontay Ingram had an extensive look with 17 touches and looks like he’ll make the roster. Ingram’s intriguing because he’s talented enough to be a starter, whereas Benjamin and Williams aren’t built to be starters over a long period of time. Rumors are floating out there that Williams may not make the roster. He doesn’t play special teams, but his contract has $895k of guaranteed money. Use caution when drafting Williams until after roster cuts to see if he makes the team.
Lightning quick out of the break, Greg Dortch created separation to catch a touchdown against the Titans. One of the stars of camp, Dortch will likely make the roster as the No. 4 WR and could be a sneaky play in fantasy early in the season during the Deandre Hopkins suspension. This was a very important camp for Andy Isabella, and he’s stepped up to consistently make plays like this long one against Tennessee. He’s either a trade target for a WR hungry team or will latch on as the WR5 for this offense, but it’s tough to see much fantasy football relevance. A potential last roster spot could go to either Victor Bolden Jr, who has an interesting football story, or Antoine Wesley, but they would hold low fantasy potential.
While Zach Ertz hasn’t been seen publicly practicing due to a calf injury, the mood around Arizona is he will suit up for week 1. He has a huge opportunity to be the top target in the offense until Hopkins comes back and still has TE1 potential the whole season. Great hands here by Trey McBride, but he’ll have a supporting role this year along with Maxx Williams to complete a good TE group in Arizona.
The need for cornerback help continues to be glaring in Arizona. Look for them to trade or bring in some new talent prior to the season starting. The edge spot opposite of Markus Golden is also a concern and appears to be a committee approach with Dennis Gardeck, Myjai Sanders, and Cam Thomas, who had two sacks in the last preseason game. They could also use Isaiah Simmons off the edge, which would add value in IDP leagues.
Greg Dortch has impressed all August and appears locked in as the team’s top returner.
Updates from Week 3
Kyler Murray called plays as the offensive coordinator in the 4th quarter again this game and orchestrated two touchdown drives compared to zero for Kliff Kingsbury. Murray is ready to focus on football after all of the contract talk and said, “...all the outside noise isn’t a distraction to me.” Despite all this drip, Trace McSorley’s revenge game against his former Ravens teammates had a 49.8 QB rating and multiple interceptions.
Respect was shown James Conner’s way as he was ranked number 80 in the NFL’s top 100 for 2022. The battle for the No 2 RB job is crowded, and it's a tight contest between Darrel Williams and Eno Benjamin. Williams has been held out of preseason games in the way other running backs have who should expect a solid workload during the season. Meanwhile, Benjamin has performed well in camp and been talked up often by Kingsbury all offseason. Jonathan Ward started the game by breaking multiple tackles on a kick return but left the game with a shoulder injury. The Cardinals may keep four or five running backs on the roster due to the talented depth of the group, but that may decrease the overall fantasy ceiling for Conner.
Marquise Brown declared his hamstring back to 100% as he practiced this past week for the first time with Kyler Murray this training camp. Both are confident in their connection and aren’t worried about the lost time. Murray said, “I think (chemistry) is already built.” Brown added, “Me and him can be apart for months, (then) get together in the summer going against DBs and we’re clicking like never before.” Kingsbury said Antoine Wesley should return in one to two weeks but didn’t rule out surgery on his injured hip. If Wesley continues to miss time, Greg Dortch and Andy Isabella might make the Cardinals roster, especially because DeAndre Hopkins doesn’t count while serving his suspension. Another day and another big play for Dortch in the preseason game against the Ravens. Kingsbury said of Dortch, “I couldn’t be more impressed with how he’s attacked camp.” Isabella made a diving reception and drew a 37-yard pass interference call. Isabella was reflective after the game “I’m very happy and thankful for my struggles and ups and downs. This is the best football I’ve been playing. I have complete confidence I can play out there. Whatever happens, I’m excited for the future.” Despite leading the Cardinals with 66 receiving yards, Victor Bolden Jr is on the outside looking in for a roster spot.
Trey McBride didn’t bring in either of his two targets, but the positive sign is he was playing after battling back issues throughout camp. With Zach Ertz still sidelined with a calf injury, McBride has a big opportunity to see snaps and targets in this offense.
Matt Prater missed two extra points last week and then followed that up with a missed 54-yard field goal attempt on Sunday night. His job isn’t in danger - the Cardinals don’t even have another kicker on the roster - but if the misses continue into the regular season, it could become an issue. There are so many kickers to choose from in a typical league. This could be a reason to take one other than Prater despite his distance leg and playing his home games indoors.
J.J. Watt tested positive for COVID and will miss the rest of the preseason. Antonio Hamilton looks to have earned the No. 2 cornerback job ahead of Marco Wilson. However, the concerns in the secondary aren’t going away after Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely looked unstoppable. The Cardinals may be adding a cornerback via signing or a trade. Zaven Collins’ struggles have been noted, but he took a step in the positive direction against the Ravens with a tackle for loss and almost got a sack.
There's not much drama in the Cardinals' camp regarding the starting lineup. Left tackle D.J. Humphries signed a three-year contract extension, serving as his own agent. Guards Justin Pugh and Will Hernandez reunited from their time together on the Giants. Center Rodney Hudson briefly considered retirement but returned full-go. Right tackle Kelvin Beachum is also getting older, but the team has Josh Jones developing behind him. This group is older but underrated.
Updates from Week 2
Neither starting quarterback Kyler Murray nor backup Colt McCoy played in the preseason opener, as Trace McSorley played the entire first half. McSorley used his athleticism to buy time to extend plays and scramble for extra yardage. He finished 13-of-22 for 163 yards with a touchdown, a healthy 97.3 QB rating, and affirmed his grasp on the No. 3 job. Jarrett Guarantano played well, completing 7-of-10 for 54 yards, with a touchdown and a 116.3 QB rating in the second half. Arizona used the athletic strengths of their quarterbacks well on rollouts to create good angles on both touchdown passes. Perhaps the most entertaining angle of the opener was that Murray called the plays in the fourth quarter. Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “He called a couple of really nice plays that just didn’t work out. Had some guys open. He does a good job with it. I’ve been impressed.” This is a positive for Murray and Kingsbury as they continue building their relationship and see things through the same play-calling lens.
The positive Eno Benjamin vibes continue to flow out of Cardinals camp, and his confidence is through the roof: “It’s year 3; I felt like a lot more has slowed down for me.” Coach Kingsbury added, “Each year he has gotten progressively better and always upbeat and always into it, knowing his assignments. He’s just really come a long way.” Benjamin only saw a handful of touches in the opener with 5 carries for 14 yards and 1 target. Starter James Conner and veteran Darrel Williams didn’t play. Jonathan Ward converted two goal-line carries into touchdowns and had 6 total carries for 15 yards, adding a pair of receptions for 26 yards. Keaontay Ingram finished the day with 7 carries for 27 yards, a touchdown, and 2 receptions for 18. The two are battling for a roster spot. Bo Brack gave the edge to Ingram in the first game. The team has five talented running backs, and there’s a chance they could keep all five (including the practice squad).
Greg Dortch transitioned from making plays in camp to making plays against the Bengals. Dortch made a very good adjustment on a slot fade to gain 30 yards in the first quarter. He finished the game with four receptions for 53 yards on a team-leading eight targets and a 55-yard punt return! Dortch is a playmaker who should make the team and could see some opportunities in the six games that Deandre Hopkins misses to begin the year. Andy Isabella led the team with 57 receiving yards and was the beneficiary of a McSorley scramble to have the biggest offensive play of the day. Isabella is in a battle for one of the final roster spots.
All’s quiet on the tight end front. Starter Zach Ertz has been sidelined with a calf injury since August 4th. He’s making progress per Kingsbury, but it’s concerning that it has lingered this long. Rookie Trey McBride is also sidelined with back soreness. Neither player played in the preseason game. Roster longshot Bernhard Seikovits had a decent catch and run representing the group against the Bengals.
The Cardinals defense didn’t let the Bengals score a touchdown until the fourth quarter - a great sign for the starters, backups, and even some of the third-string defenders. Victor Dimunkeje, normally a third-string OLB, had two sacks, including one on the game's opening drive, helping his chances for a roster spot. Nick Virgil is inching closer to a starting spot at ILB as Zaven Collins continues to have a disappointing camp and preseason. Marco Wilson’s underachieving performance thus far put his starting job in jeopardy, too.
Rondale Moore led the Cardinals in returns in 2021, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury suggests that won't be the case again this year, saying, "We’ll still have times that he’ll be back there, I’m sure, but with his role increasing on offense, it won’t be much". Greg Dortch and Eno Benjamin have experience as a returner, or else Kingsbury suggested one of the team's late-round or undrafted running backs could handle returns (provided they make the final roster).
Updates from Week 1
Eventful is the best way to describe Kyler Murray’s last few weeks. Murray received his contract extension to the tune of five years for $230.5 million with $160 million guaranteed. But a detail of the contract leaked an independent study clause, which caused Murray’s work ethic to be questioned. Murray spoke to the media and felt the clause was “disrespectful.” The Cardinals adjusted the contract to remove the clause a few days later. Then Murray tested positive for Covid, which caused him to miss at least five days. The NFL Covid protocols are very different in 2022, and the league no longer requires mandatory testing. Murray did attend the Red and White practice on Saturday and signed autographs, but didn’t practice. Good sign for Murray that the worst of all his troubles are behind him, and he can start playing football now.
Eno Benjamin took snaps with the first-team offense, with James Conner getting a veteran day off. Benjamin has had a strong camp, which only builds on the off-season quotes from Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury stating “...he could be a starting running back.” Benjamin looks to be the RB2 in this offense and a good stash in PPR leagues with deep rosters. After arriving in Arizona, Darrel Williams complimented Conner by saying, “I didn’t know he had hands like that,” and further said Conner had natural hands. Williams hasn’t made many plays at camp, and even Jonathan Ward has taken some first-team reps over him. Unfortunately for this group, they’ll be without their running back coach James Saxon who will be on administrative leave after two domestic battery charges.
DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for six games to start the season, but he isn’t sweating it and said, “...I’ve been preparing for tough moments like this my whole life. This is just a scratch.” After playing in the Arizona offense with Murray for two years, Hopkins shouldn't miss much of a beat. Marquise Brown had a slow start to camp after injuring his hamstring in private workouts but was activated from the NFI list on August 2, per Ian Rapoport. One day later, Brown was pulled over for “driving nearly 126 MP in a 65 MPH zone.” While unlikely, this incident could lead to jail time and a short suspension from the NFL. Kingsbury said, “We want to make sure we’re getting Rondale (Moore) looks. Inside and outside,” per Bo Brack. Moore lining up all over the field will only increase his snap share and opportunities in 2022. A.J. Green has reduced anxiety this year. He stated, “We’re just more comfortable with each other, and that came with time and being here another year.” Greg Dortch is a smaller player, but his quick twitch ability allows him to keep making plays in camp. Antoine Wesley had an MRI for his groin/hip area, and the Cardinals signed Marcell Ateman to fill the void. Former second-round pick Andy Isabella has been a disappointment three years into his NFL career and might need a good camp to make the team. However, Isabella had a standout practice on Friday with two touchdowns.
What was first reported as a day off for Trey McBride due to fatigue per Bo Brack is now reported as a sore back, and he missed two practices. This is something to monitor as the second-round pick has some serious receiving ability and could contribute as a rookie. Maxx Williams was activated from the PUP this week after tearing his ACL last season. Kingsbury isn’t concerned about Zach Ertz’s calf injury.
Expect Isaiah Simmons to be used all over the defense in 2022 in the star-backer position, which will require snaps at safety. This allows Nick Virgil to take reps with the first team and potentially start. Virgil’s biggest play in camp was an interception of Colt McCoy in the end zone. Zaven Collins has sped up his decision-making and mental processing compared to a year ago. Budda Baker and Byron Murphy had end zone interceptions with Baker running it the length of the field, and DK Metcalf didn’t catch him! Murphy had his own interception for a touchdown on Saturday. Kingsbury didn’t hold back when discussing second-year cornerback Marco Wilson “We want him to step up and be an every-day starter, but we’ll see. I think the jury’s still out, and the rest of the young guys, someone’s got to step up and help us out.” Sounds like the Cardinals aren’t happy with their cornerback play outside of Murphy and may have to sign a veteran if things don’t change soon. Rookie Myjai Sanders has been making noise in training camp and could see some big snaps at edge.