Joshua Dobbs was drafted to be a backup quarterback. He’s had the career of a backup quarterback, and on the Cardinals, he’s played like a backup quarterback. In just about every passing stat imaginable, Dobbs ranks in the bottom third of the league, exactly what you'd expect from a backup quarterback commanding the ship. After a rough stretch this past month where his QBR was never better than eighth-worst, he was benched and then traded to the Vikings. He wasn’t graded lower mainly because he didn’t have high expectations to begin with but also because he did provide real juice to the run game with his legs. Dobbs was third in quarterback rushing yards so far this season, along with three rushing touchdowns. They’ll have a clean slate with rookie Clayton Tune starting in week nine and Kyler Murray likely taking them the rest of the way.
Offensive line: C+
On the surface, they’ve only allowed 17 sacks through eight games, which is good for the top 10 in sacks allowed per game. However, these low numbers can mainly be attributed to Dobb’s mobility rather than a dominant Line. Many of his rushing yards came from escaping the pocket when it collapsed. But the run game has been a true strength for them, as Arizona is third in total rushing yards and second in yards per carry. Even with James Conner’s injury, the running game hasn’t faltered as they’ve notched at least 125 rushing yards in the three games he’s missed. The offensive line will need to play better in pass protection to ensure Kyler’s health, but that’s looking like a tall task.
Running back: B+
Many of the praises that were said for the offensive line can be said by the running backs, as they’ve worked in tandem to be one of the best rushing attacks in the league. James Conner was the reliable workhorse back, as he’s always been rushing for 364 yards on 5.4 yards per carry in the five games he played. Replacing him for the last three games is the undrafted rookie Emari Demercado. He didn’t get much burn in week six, but in the last two games, he rushed for 136 yards on 4.2 yards per carry. It’s a step down from Conner, but he got the job done with the help of Dobb’s rushing presence. With Conner still being out for the short term, their rushing attack will ride on the 5’9 shoulders of Demercado
Wide receiver: B
Marquise Brown’s pedestrian stat line of 416 yards and 4 touchdowns is a bit deceiving as he was wide-open for long touchdowns multiple times throughout the season but was missed by Dobbs. The emergence of third-round pick Michael Wilson has been a welcome surprise to this receiving core as well. He’s sixth in rookie receiving yards despite being the 13th receiver off the board. Despite being given half the targets as Hollywood, Wilson has matched his yards with 406 and looks to be a future star in the making. The third receiver in the slot, Rondale Moore, hasn’t had a very productive season so far, only catching 19 passes for 123 yards. But he hasn’t had an impactless season necessarily. His job as a gadget player is to be versatile in the run game and to spread the defense out horizontally with slants and crossing routes to open up space for his fellow receivers and tight ends. Wilson could look to throw his hat on the OROTY ring once Kyler returns.
Tight End: C+
Zach Ertz’s age is catching up to him this season. He’s lost a step in speed and explosiveness. Despite being dead last in yards per reception among tight ends with at least 25 catches, he was still the third-leading receiver for the Cardinals. Another emergence has come from second-year tight end Trey McBride. He’s already matched his receiving yards from last season and has broken onto the scene as of late, with 186 of his 265 receiving yards coming from the last three games. McBride will carry the torch of TE1 for the rest of the season and beyond.
Defensive Line: A-
Pass-rush-wise, this unit has been outstanding and easily the biggest surprise of the season. The Cardinals have tallied 24 sacks on the year, which is eighth most in the entire league, and their defensive line has accounted for 22 of those sacks. They’re headlined by team captain Dennis Gardeck and third-year breakout Victor Dimukeje, who have four sacks and a forced fumble a piece off the edge. The big guys inside have also found their way to the QB, as Dante Stills, Kevin Strong, and Jonathan Ledbetter have combined for 6.5 sacks. In most cases, their grade would’ve been a resounding A+++, but this D-line has been a double-edged sword this season. While their pass rush has excelled, their run defense is the third worst in rushing yards and touchdowns. The high sack count probably isn’t sustainable, so they will have to tighten up their run defense if they want to stay competitive.
Kyzier white has stepped up as Arizona’s leader and tone-setter in the place of Budda Baker. He’s laid out some vicious hits and has provided much-needed help to run defense, but he doesn’t offer much when it comes to coverage. Josh Woods is more of the same: a hard-hitting thumper who struggles on passing downs. The linebackers will need to step up in coverage more to support this razor-thin corner unit.
The sore spot of this team is its corner room; some teams lack depth, some lack talent, and the Cardinals lack both. Marco Wilson has struggled mightily, as he’s allowed 564 yards in pass coverage, the most by any defender in the league. Sixth-round rookie Kei'Trel Clark received a lot of playing time early in the season but was benched the last two games due to poor play and other pieces returning from injury. One of the players receiving Clark’s minutes was Andre Chachere, who was subsequently torched for 29 yards per reception in the games he played. The three of them all register top 35 in yards per target, with Wilson and Chachere ranked at 14 and 4, respectively, out of 253 defenders. Not much can be said about this unit for the rest of the season besides hoping that Kool-Aid McKinstry is available with the Texans’ pick.
Budda Baker being sidelined after the first game of the season looked to be a disaster for the Cardinals, but K'Von Wallace did a solid job replacing him. He’s obviously no All-Pro and is a far cry from what Baker does in the run game, but he held up alright in coverage, which is puzzling as to why Arizona released him after he was one of the better players in this secondary. Jalen Thompson is the James Conner of the defense, ol’ reliable that’s not elite in any area but good in all of them. He and Baker will have to put on their backpacks and carry the defense the rest of the way, which they are well accustomed to.
All in all, the Arizona Cardinals haven't looked terrible. They’ve looked bad, just not as terrible as the 1-7 record shows. They play extremely hard under Jonathan Gannon and have bought into his system. They’ve kept games competitive and have even led multiple times at halftime, but the talent difference is too much for them to overcome in second halves. Once Kyler comes back in the coming weeks, the offense will receive the spark that they’ve been missing and will most likely win a few games down the stretch. Marvin Harrison Jr. is probably their guy in the draft, but it all depends on how Murray looks in his return.