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<p>(Joe Rondone/The Republic)</p>
(Joe Rondone/The Republic)

Arizona Cardinals, is there any hope?

The Arizona Cardinals just experienced one of the most embarrassing losses of the 2023 season. Going into halftime, the Cardinals were winning 20-0 and still leading  28-14 going into the 4th quarter. The Giants, however, scored 17 in the final quarter while simultaneously shutting out the Cardinals on the defensive side.The game ended 31-28 with the Giants coming out victorious. This, although, is not even the worst of the Arizona Cardinals. 

Starting off with their roster, there is only one Pro Bowl-caliber starter on each side of the ball. That would be elite safety Budda Baker, who isn’t even with the team following a trade request. Flipping to the offense, it’s Marquise Brown, who was a pro bowler on the Baltimore Ravens, but with nobody to throw him the ball, his chances look slim to none of making the Pro Bowl again. Kyler Murray is a Pro Bowl-level quarterback, but coming back from an ACL injury and looks like a prime candidate to be traded this offseason. Other than this, Jalen Thompson looks like the only really good player on this defense. However, he was still a 5th round pick. So, what does this team really need? The answer is almost everything. Josh Dobbs is not the future at quarterback, and neither is James Conner in the backfield. Both of these positions need to be addressed. The receiving corps is league average with Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore but could use some more talent. The offensive line is bottom half, but they have the most key piece at left tackle with Paris Johnson Jr., although he is still a rookie. The tight ends are the bright spot in the offense, Zach Ertz is older but still has juice left, and Trey McBride has looked promising since being drafted. 

Moving into the defense, starting with the defensive line, it needs improvement. Losing J.J Watt because of retirement has damaged the line. Without him the cardinals are missing a top tier edge rusher. This leads to the Cardinals having consistently had no pressure on the quarterback. The defensive line has made carving up the defensive backs so much easier and hurting this defense way more than helping. The linebackers are average at best. Zaven Collins looks like a bust, but is testing a different position this year and Cardinals fans are hoping for an increase in quality from him. Kyzir White is a solid pickup from the Eagles in free agency, but he is nothing to be super excited about for the future. As mentioned before, Jalen Thompson is a solid piece for the defense, but other than him there is not a single defensive back with elite upside. This roster desperately needs young talent and a veteran presence everywhere.

Unfortunately, the roster isn’t even the biggest problem for the Cardinals. How can a roster be so bad but not even the biggest issue? To answer that, you have to take a deep dive into the history of the Cardinals transactions. The last move that worked out in their favor was when the Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins for just David Johnson and a second round pick. That was back in 2020.  Since then the Cardinals have not made many good roster moves. Starting in the draft, in 2020 the Cardinals selected athletic freak Isiah Simmons who was a really exciting prospect. Unfortunately the Cardinals didn’t do a great job developing him, moving him all over the field, safety, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, nickel corner, outside corner. Those are all the positions the Cardinals put Simmons, and he couldn’t settle into one position and never looked good for Arizona. Now Simmons is a rotational edge rusher for the New York Giants, and was traded for just a 7th round pick. From 8th overall to a 7th round pick, a kid with unlimited talent who didn’t work out. In 2021 the two notable players drafted by the Cardinals were Zaven Collins in the first round and Rondale Moore Jr. in the second round. Both of these players are still developing. Moore has shown some upside, but is more of a gadget wide receiver, and will most likely never be a pro bowler at least as a receiver, but maybe as a returner. Collins is following the exact same path as Simmons from the year prior, starting to be moved all over the field because of his athletic profile. This hopefully can work better this time, but history tends to repeat itself with the Cardinals. In 2022, the Cardinals didn’t even have a first round pick, instead trading it for Marquise Brown in 2021, which now looks like a mistake. Even then, as previously mentioned the Cardinals drafted Trey Mcbride in the second round. He looks like he could be a solid consistent tight end for the future, but he is not quite there yet. This year's draft looks like it’s going to be the best for the Cardinals in recent years. Although, not because of the selection of left tackle Paris Johnson Jr. who can be a great tackle. Infact, the big move was trading down from the third pick to the twelfth and then trading back up to the sixth to select him. During this they managed to secure the Texans pick for this upcoming draft.  Realistically this move should land the Cardinals two top 10 picks, which as long as they draft smartly, can have two stars for them to rebuild around.

So what is there to be excited about as a Cardinals fan? If Kyler gets traded, Arizona could potentially have three first round picks in this upcoming draft. With college stars coming out like Caleb Williams and Marvin Harrison Jr.. The Cardinals have the potential to have picks one and two there has never been a better QB/WR duo to come out of the draft that they can take with those picks. With a young coach Jonathan Gannon and a young team, the rebuild is just starting. This team will be rebuilding for a couple years, but with high draft picks and better development from this organization, they could be back in the playoffs within the next two to four years.

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